Strike at Defense Ministry body threatens to freeze settlement approvals
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Strike at Defense Ministry body threatens to freeze settlement approvals

Civil Administration labor action also leaves thousands of Palestinians without entry permits, halts enforcement against illegal building in West Bank

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

Palestinian laborers work at the construction site of a new housing project in the Israeli settlement of Ariel near the West Bank city of Nablus on January 25, 2017. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)
Palestinian laborers work at the construction site of a new housing project in the Israeli settlement of Ariel near the West Bank city of Nablus on January 25, 2017. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)

Settler leaders on Tuesday called on the government to act to bring an end to a strike being carried out by workers of a key Defense Ministry body that is threatening to delay the next batch of settlement home approvals.

The chairman of the Yesha settlement umbrella council Hananel Dorani penned a letter to Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman calling on him to prevent the “technical freeze” to Israeli construction over the Green Line, acknowledging that reasons for it were not political.

Employees of the Civil Administration, which runs daily affairs in the West Bank, launched their strike last Wednesday, demanding improvements to their employment conditions.

The workers are still showing up to work at the Defense Ministry body’s headquarters in the settlement of Beit El, but they are not offering services to the public, namely entry permits for Palestinians and building permits for settlers.

Hananel Dorani attends a press conference at the protest tent of Beit El residents in front of the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on June 25, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Civil Administration’s High Planning Subcommittee is slated to hold its quarterly meeting in April to advance thousands of settlement homes through various planning stages, but the strike has placed that session in jeopardy.

A Defense Ministry official told The Times of Israel that contrary to the statements from several settler leaders, no decision has been made yet to cancel the meeting.

“It will depend on when the strike concludes,” the official said.

She pointed out that the most immediate impact of the strike has been felt by thousands of Palestinians who have been unable to receive permits to enter Israel for work, family and health visits.

Also frozen due to the strike has been the Defense Ministry body’s enforcement of illegal construction in the West Bank. The Haaretz daily reported that right-wing activists were urging the work-stoppage be exploited by establishing new outposts.

In addition to being overworked, the Civil Administration workers claim that the Finance Ministry had promised them improvements to their pension plans nearly three years ago, which have yet to be given.

In his letter to Liberman, Dorani lamented the discrimination that government workers over the Green Line face, earning lower wages than those working within Israel proper.

The Yesha chairman called on the Defense Minister “to act immediately to allow the Civil Administration to function once again and prevent a technical freeze on construction and development in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley.”

Illustrative photo of Palestinian Hamas employees waiting in line to pick up their salaries at a post office in Gaza City in the northern Gaza Strip, on March 12, 2014 (photo credit: AP/Hatem Moussa)

In addition to Dorani’s letter, Jewish Home lawmaker Moti Yogev sent an urgent request Tuesday to the chairman of the Knesset’s Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Avi Dichter (Likud), calling on him to convene an emergency session in order to approve additional government funds for the Civil Administration.

The Finance Ministry blamed the Histadrut labor federation for the crisis, asserting that the union had been encouraging workers to walk away from negotiations.

“It is a shame that the Histadrut is doing its best to harm civil service instead of promoting a fruitful dialogue between the parties,” the Finance Ministry said in a statement.

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