Netanyahu Approves Building New Classrooms in Settlements

Despite settlement construction freeze and Defense Ministry opposition, 23 new structures to be erected in violation of law to meet settlers' educational needs.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday approved the erection of 23 mobile classrooms in West Bank settlements, even though there is no official construction plan that would allow this move.

New caravans in a West Bank settlement
Tess Scheflan / Jini

Netanyahu declared a 10-month freeze on construction in West Bank settlements in November of last year in efforts to relaunch stalled peace talks with the Palestinians. The Palestinian leadership has demanded a complete halt to Israeli construction on land slated for a future Palestinian state.

The prime minister's decision comes in the wake of an aggressive debate between the Ministry of Justice and the Defense and Education ministries.

The Education Ministry has announced that there is a need for 23 new buildings, in 12 different West Bank settlements, to cater to the needs of the local education authorities. The Defense Ministry has confirmed these needs, but the deputy attorney general ultimately rejected the request due to the absence of proper construction authorization. He explained that even the most dire of educational needs mustn't circumvent the law.

Consequently, Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar approached the prime minister in his office on Saturday in a meeting with Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, and the three decided that 23 caravans will be dispatched to the settlements and that the prime minister will simultaneously push for legal authorization.

The Defense Ministry opposed the erection of the classrooms, saying that the educational needs of the settlers could not trump the law. Defense Minister Ehud Barak's stance was taken into consideration, as it was decided that in the smaller illegal outposts no classrooms would by built, regardless of the education needs of the settlers there.

The heads of the Eretz Yisrael lobby, MKs Ze'ev Elkin and Aryeh Eldad, lauded the prime minister for "stepping in to solve the problem." In a statement they released, the lobby wrote that "we're glad that common sense overpowered bureaucracy and dullness and the students of Judea and Samaria will get to study under the same conditions as the rest of Israel's students."