Israel Set to Approve Plans for 2,100 New Settlement Housing Units in West Bank

Settlers had hoped for approval of thousands more homes, but Prime Minister’s Office reduced the number; around 600 outside of settlement blocs

New construction in Ma'ale Adumim in the West Bank, January 2017.
Gil Cohen-Magen

Some 2,100 new housing units all over the West Bank will be on the agenda of the planning and building committee of the Israel Defense Forces' Civil Administration next week. Most of the units – around 1,500 – are to be constructed inside the settlement blocs.

The top planning council for the West Bank announced the agenda for the meeting on Friday morning. This is the first significant meeting of the council since U.S. President Donald Trump took office in January.

While some of the plans to be examined relate to final approval before construction, the vast majority still have some way to go before reaching that stage.

Many of the projects are not actually new, but their progress has been delayed for bureaucratic reasons, a source told Haaretz. Some of the housing units already exist and their approval by the planning council will just authorize their status retroactively, he added.

Despite the seemingly large number of homes under consideration, the settler leadership was disappointed because it had hoped for thousands more units to be discussed by the planning council.

On Friday, several settlement leaders released statements accusing Netanyahu of freezing construction.

Yossi Dagan, the head of the Samaria Regional Council, said in a statement to the press that "Netanyahu is trying to create a voluntary construction freeze. After eight years of Obama, a new freeze won't pass."

Knesset Member Bezalel Smotrich said on Twitter that the agenda is "very disappointing," and added: "I don't think we will be able to live with it."

The Yesha council, an umbrella organization for all local authorities in the territories, said that while it welcomes the renewed planning and construction, dozens of plans are missing from the agenda. 

The prime minister's bureau reacted angrily to the statements.

"Contrary to the claims, there is no construction freeze," it said. "In recent months, thousands of housing units have been approved across Judea and Samaria, and a new town has been approved for the first time in decades.

"Repeating the lie doesn't make it true. The policy set by the cabinet is very clear: planning will be advanced next to the settlements' built-up area, and plans are to be approved every three months. No one takes care of the settlements more than Prime Minister Netanyahu, while also maintaining the national and international interests of the State of Israel in an informed manner." 

Settlers' dashed hopes

The planning council will meet to issue permits to advance a number of different projects in various settlements. Some of the plans are outside the large settlement blocs and will be for construction in Susya, in the South Hebron Hills; Beit El, north of Jerusalem; and Revava in the northern West Bank. However, a large amount of the construction expected to be approved is in Ma’aleh Adumim, east of Jerusalem, and Ariel.

The publication of the agenda of the Civil Administration’s top planning council came after a meeting Thursday evening in the Prime Minister’s Office.

The settlers have been waiting for the meeting for weeks, and the regional councils in the West Bank and the Yesha Council of Settlements in Judea and Samaria had been hoping the meeting would lead to the legalization of unauthorized outposts and the approval of thousands of new homes.

The settler leadership had hoped understandings with the Trump administration would enable the advancement of numerous projects that were frozen during the Obama administration.

Settler leaders have said recently they expected five-digit numbers of new housing units to be approved all over the West Bank, both inside and outside the settlement blocs.

At Thursday's meeting in the PMO, it was decided to limit the number of units to be discussed by the planning council, two people involved in the process told Haaretz.

Now the settlers are hoping for approval of at least 5,000 new housing units, and not the tens of thousands they had hoped for.

Thousands of units were taken off the agenda at the meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said one of those involved. 

The retroactive legalization of the unauthorized outpost of Kerem Re’im in the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council will be on the agenda, and its expansion may even be discussed.