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Meeting to approve West Bank building delayed

View of the Israeli settlement of Ariel, in the West Bank on July 2, 2020. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)
View of the Israeli settlement of Ariel, in the West Bank on July 2, 2020. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)

Despite being announced last week, a rare approval of more than 800 housing units in West Bank Palestinian towns did not take place today as initially planned.

A spokesperson for COGAT, the Defense Ministry body responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs, says the delay is due to a “labor dispute” by civilians working in the ministry’s Higher Planning Committee. The committee is responsible for overseeing construction in the West Bank’s Area C, where Israeli authorities maintain civilian control under their agreements with the Palestinian Authority.

The committee members have imposed sanctions on their employer as they bargain for better employment terms, the spokesperson says.

Israel rarely approves Palestinian construction in Area C, which constitutes around 60% of the West Bank. Most Palestinian towns in the zone are unrecognized; between 2016 and 2018, Israel rejected around 98% of Palestinian applications for permits, according to Defense Ministry figures.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was subjected to harsh criticism from his national-religious constituency for approving the Palestinian construction. His government also pledged to advance over 2,200 units in West Bank Israeli settlements as part of the same announcement. The meeting to approve that construction is also expected to be delayed.

Bennett is expected to fly to Washington later this month and meet with US President Joe Biden, who has spoke out against settlement building.

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