Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan will not be responsible for approving construction in the territories, a Likud source said Sunday. Such a decision would gut one of Habayit Hayehudi’s key achievements in the coalition negotiations.
Ben-Dahan’s powers haven’t yet been defined; he is supposed to meet with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to settle this issue in the coming days. But the Likud source said the power to approve construction in Jewish settlements would remain in Ya’alon’s hands.
Habayit Hayehudi has few achievements to show on the issue of settlements. The party lost the Housing Ministry to Kulanu; the coalition agreements don’t call for construction in the West Bank or Jerusalem; and last week, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein ruled that the agreements’ promise to increase state funding for the World Zionist Organization’s Settlement Division couldn’t be implemented.
But as the deadline for forming the coalition neared, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered the party the post of deputy defense minister, with responsibility for the Civil Administration in the West Bank. The administration has authority over planning and construction in both the settlements and Palestinian towns in Area C, the part of the West Bank under full Israeli control. It’s also responsible for coordination with the Palestinian Authority.
If approving new construction will still require Ya’alon’s approval, however, the post will be much less valuable to Habayit Hayehudi.
MK Omer Bar-Lev (Zionist Union) on Sunday wrote Ya’alon urging him not to transfer any powers to Ben-Dahan, in light of the latter’s avowed support for expanding settlements and annexing territory. The appointment, he said, is a “substantive, diplomatic and public relations catastrophe.”