Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman took opponents of a plan to expand the West Bank Palestinian city of Qalqilyah to task on Wednesday. The defense minister hinted that the plan's opponents, which include right-wing cabinet ministers, are members of the "Messianic right."
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He cautioned opponents of the plan, which was approved by the security cabinet nine months ago, to "stick to the facts," and said the plan calls for the construction of roughly 5,000 housing units, or at most 6,100, and not the 14,000 that some opponents claim. The security cabinet was due to consider the plan again on Wednesday.
Lieberman made his comments on a visit to the Samaria regional council of northern West Bank settlements in the presence of council head Yossi Dagan, who is one of the most vocal critics of the expansion plans in Qalqilyah. The defense minister called the opposition to the plan "populist" and hinted that Dagan, along with opponents within the Israeli cabinet, were from the "Messianic right."
In a tour of the northern West Bank, Lieberman said that Qalqilyah, a town on the western edge of the West Bank opposite the Sharon-region city of Kfar Sava, was contained within Israel's security fence, adding that the area slated for expansion of the Palestinian town is "private Palestinian land the no Jew comes to."
About 1,000 of the units have already been built, Lieberman said. (They will be approved retroactively). The remaining housing will be built in stages until 2035, at 300 to 400 units a year, he added.
For his part, Dagan, the Samaria regional council head, called for the plan to be reconsidered in light of the proximity of the expansion site to the 1967 border. The plan, he said would "replicate the terror city of Qalqilyah and endanger the residents of the Sharon and Samaria."