Israel set to green-light newest batch of settlement homes next week

Settler leaders say they’ve been kept in the dark regarding specific plans to be advanced, but have high hopes the list will be extensive

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

A photograph of the construction work being done for a new neighborhood in the Ma'ale Amos settlement on June 18, 2017. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)
A photograph of the construction work being done for a new neighborhood in the Ma'ale Amos settlement on June 18, 2017. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)

The Defense Ministry announced Thursday that its committee responsible for authorizing construction in the West Bank will convene next Wednesday to advance new housing plans for Israeli settlements.

The specific housing plans set to be green-lighted by the Civil Administration’s High Planning Subcommittee have yet to be released, and the Defense Ministry declined to comment further.

Settler leaders, including the heads of West Bank regional and local councils as well as a senior official in the Yesha settlement umbrella council, told The Times of Israel they were unaware of the meeting’s agenda.

One regional council head with close ties to the Prime Minister’s Office acknowledged that the settler leaders were being kept in the dark, but said he had high hopes that the list would be extensive.

Separately on Thursday, the government approved 420 housing units in the cityof Ariel for marketing. These homes have already received approval for construction, but the plan’s location in a larger settlement required it to receive an additional authorization from the Prime Minister’s Office. Ariel Mayor Eli Shaviro thanked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Liberman for their efforts in a video statement.

The Civil Administration High Planning Subcommittee last met in October, when it advanced 2,646 Israeli housing units, 1,323 earned final approval for construction.

A quarter of the houses that gained final approval belong to projects for evacuees of the illegally built outposts of Ulpana (in Beit El), Migron, and Amona, which were demolished — in June 2012, September 2012 and February 2017 respectively  — after the High Court of Justice ruled they had been built on private Palestinian land. Also among the plans advanced were 30 temporary units for the evacuees of the Netiv Ha’avot outpost which is slated to be razed in March 2018 for the same reason.

The High Planning Subcommittee also dedicated over half of its October approvals to settlement homes located far beyond the large built-up areas along the pre-1967 Green Line.

This came after a September meeting with settler leaders where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boasted of having successfully convinced the Trump administration to drop its distinction between settlement blocs and so-called isolated settlements.

However, statistics from the Peace Now settlement watchdog show that despite the final approval granted to over 3,000 West Bank housing units for construction in 2017, just 46 have actually been built.

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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