Labor leader warns party will oppose minister’s plan to build in Jordan Valley

Police minister says settler provocations and attacks on Palestinians rising at a worrying rate, soldiers’ inaction unacceptable

Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli leads a Labor party faction meeting at the Knesset on October 4, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli leads a Labor party faction meeting at the Knesset on October 4, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Labor party leader Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli joined MKs from fellow left-wing party Meretz on Monday in warning her faction would oppose Housing Minister Ze’ev Elkin’s plan to build new settlement homes in the Jordan Valley.

During Labor’s weekly faction meeting in the Knesset, Michaeli said: “We will oppose any initiative that will prevent a diplomatic [peace] agreement in the future.”

Meanwhile, Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, who oversees the police, said settler violence and provocations had recently reached worrying new levels, after several cases were documented in which soldiers stood by and did not act to stop them.

“The sights we’ve seen, of settler youth doing things and troops standing around doing nothing — such sights cannot be tolerated in a democratic country,” said Barlev, also of Labor.

Housing Minister Elkin, of the New Right party, intends to seek government approval for a plan to increase Israel’s presence in the strategic valley, the part of the West Bank that runs along the border with Jordan. He hopes to double the number of homes in the Jordan Valley and to have 3,000 families living in the area by 2026. Elkin said in October that his ministry plans to invest NIS 224 million ($70 million) to build 1,500 new homes in 21 settlements in the area. Those homes have yet to be approved by the relevant authorities.

On Sunday Channel 13 reported that two Meretz lawmakers have warned Elkin that his plan will rupture the fragile government coalition.

MKs Mossi Raz and Gaby Lasky wrote to Elkin that “we can no longer remain silent… The strength of this government is the advancement of issues we can all agree on. This decision is far from that.” They called on Elkin to “immediately stop the plan” and not put it up for government approval.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett leads a diverse coalition of left-wing, centrist and right-wing parties with deep ideological differences on some key issues, including Israel’s settlements in the West Bank. The parties agreed to work on matters all parties can agree on, and leave ideological matters of left and right aside as much as possible.

Housing Minister Ze’ev Elkin speaks during a press conference, presenting new reform on housing, at the Finance Ministry, Jerusalem, October 31, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Also at Monday’s faction meeting, Michaeli said Labor would seek to advance plans to open a Western Wall egalitarian plaza frozen by former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“We’re on it, while maintaining coalition stability,” she said.

The coalition gained a measure of stability last week when it passed the budget ahead of a crucial deadline. However, with just 61 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, it has only the slimmest of majorities that can be upended by even a single MK.

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