Israeli Cabinet Delays Discussion on Expansion of Palestinian City

The plan includes approvals for the construction of 6,000 housing units for Palestinians in Area C near Qalqilyah by 2035. Next discussion set to take place in 10 days

The West Bank Palestinian city of Qalqilyah.
Ezra Levi

The security cabinet convened on Wednesday evening to discuss the "Qalqilyah plan" following protests by Habayit Hayehudi ministers and a number of Likud ministers against the plan expand the West Bank Palestinian city, which was already approved last September.

No renewed vote was held on the matter and the ministers left the three-hour meeting without reaching significant decisions.

In attendance were IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, Central Command head Maj. Gen. Roni Numa and Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, who presented details of the plan to the ministers.

The Prime Minister's Bureau said that at the end of the meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu concluded that another discussion will take place in 10 days' time about comprehensive policy regarding enforcement of illegal Palestinian construction and the approval of master plans for construction for Palestinians in Area C, over which Israel maintains complete security and civil control.

Netanyahu said at the end of the meeting that in the 10 days leading up to the next discussion, the National Security Council at the Prime Minister's Office and the Defense Ministry will conduct in-depth reviews of the details of the Qalqilyah plan for the cabinet members. Netanyahu added that the plan will not be advanced until the next meeting, which is set to take place after he returns from a trip to Paris and Budapest.

The cabinet also instructed the attorney general to formulate a position regarding the division of powers in the West Bank between the government and the military. A senior official said that there was lack of clarity during the meeting as to which approval of construction plans for the Palestinians in the West Bank can be carried out by the Central Command chief or the defense minister and which plans need to be discussed by the government.

The Qalqilyah plan that was approved by the cabinet in September 2016 became the subject of internal political conflict between Habayit Hayehudi ministers and a large number of Likud ministers and Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. The plan included approvals for the construction of 6,000 housing units for Palestinians in Area C near Qalqilyah by 2035.

However, in a bid to thwart the plan, a number of people in the settlers' lobby in the Knesset, the government and the media presented it a few weeks ago as comprising approvals for 14,000 housing units. Following pressure from Minister Ze'ev Elkin and a number of other Likud and Habayit Hayehudi, Netanyahu decided to convene a renewed discussion of the plan.