Israel green-lights 1,126 West Bank settlement homes

Israel green-lights 1,126 West Bank settlement homes

As settler leaders call to avenge Raziel Shevach’s murder with more construction, Civil Administration approves fewer than half the amount of homes it authorized last meeting

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

Construction in the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Beitar Illit, with the Arab village of Wadi Fukin in the foreground, on June 17, 2015. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Construction in the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Beitar Illit, with the Arab village of Wadi Fukin in the foreground, on June 17, 2015. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

The Defense Ministry committee responsible for authorizing settlement construction advanced plans for over 1,000 homes in the West Bank on Wednesday.

Of the 1,126 homes green-lighted, 352 of them gained final approval for construction while 774 were advanced through an earlier planning stage known as a “deposit.”

Among the plans that gained intermediate authorization is a package of building permits for 7 of the 15 homes sanctioned for demolition in the illegal Netiv Ha’avot outpost next March.

The plan represents a last-ditch attempt by the Defense Ministry to save a majority of the homes after the High Court rejected a compromise proposed by the residents to cut off the “problematic parts” of six homes that only jut onto private Palestinian land by a matter of meters.

Below is a map pinpointing the settlements where building plans are set to be advanced.  

The Netiv Ha’avot residents praised the plan’s inclusion in the Civil Administration committee’s agenda last week, but expressed frustration that the government did not consult with them on the idea.

The largest plan approved was for 204 homes in the settlement of Oranit that straddles the Green Line east of Kfar Saba.

Roughly a third of the expansion plans on Wednesday’s agenda are additions to already-existing ones.

But over half of the homes sit outside the so-called settlement blocs which Israel insists it would retain in any peace deal with the Palestinians.

In a statement responding to the authorizations, the Peace Now settlement watchdog called them “a dangerous security and diplomatic move on the road to the emergence of apartheid in Israel.”

Education Minister Naftali Bennett attends the funeral of Rabbi Raziel Shevah, 35, in the West Bank outpost of Havat Gilad on January 10, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

On Tuesday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman released a statement saying that the Civil Administration committee — which falls under his auspices — would advance 3,775 homes through various planning stages, with 1,285 of those houses gaining final approval for construction.

His figures were more than three times less than what was actually authorized on Wednesday. The Defense Minister appeared to inflate the numbers in his statement in order to appeal to pro-settler constituencies.

For example, to reach 1,285 housing units that he said were slated for final building authorization, the defense minister appeared to factor in over 900 homes that are set to go through an additional “marketing” stage. In this extra step in the planning process, homes are marketed by the Housing Ministry to private contractors, who are then responsible for carrying out the construction.

However, the government already counted those 900 homes as having received final approval when the Civil Administration committee met last year. Liberman appears to have counted those homes again to reach the high figure he publicized on Tuesday. Moreover, none of those homes gained marketing approval on Wednesday.

Wednesday’s approvals came as Raziel Shevach was laid to rest in the West Bank outpost of Havat Maon. Both during and before the funeral of the rabbi who was slain Tuesday by Palestinian terrorists in a drive-by shooting, settler leaders and right-wing lawmakers called for substantial settlement building in response to the murder.

Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan called on the government to recognize the illegal Havat Maon outpost where Shevach was from, in addition to approving the construction for hundreds of homes there.

When Education Minister Naftali Bennett was heckled by mourners chanting “revenge,” the Jewish Home party leader attempted to calm the crowd by saying that “the only revenge is to keep building.”

However, Wednesday’s approvals marked a considerable decrease from the last time the The Civil Administration High Planning subcommittee last met in October. Then, it advanced 2,646 Israeli housing units with 1,323 earning final approval for construction.

Under unofficial settlement guidelines coordinated with the White House when US President Donald Trump took office, Israel agreed that the Civil Administration committee would meet once every three months instead of once every month. In addition, Israel was told it could add an unlimited number of housing units to any settlement in the West Bank as long as it does not dramatically expand the community’s existing “footprint.”

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