Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented on the political crisis brought on by the evacuation of Jewish settlers from two houses in Hebron over the weekend, saying that if “anyone bought an apartment in the Muqata compound in Ramallah (seat of the Palestinian Authority) no one would expect the IDF to protect him so he could live there.” He made the comments at a meeting of Likud ministers on Sunday.
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Netanyahu made the remarks after ministers Yariv Levin, Zeev Elkin, Ofir Akunis and Miri Regev, all Likud members, came out against Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. Levin and Elkin accused him of being “overly motivated” in anything connected with removal of settlers who had purchased the house in question.”
“Is this the top priority now? Is this the most urgent thing to do?” asked Levin. Regev joined in, stating that the ruling on houses in Hebron should be the same as in Tel Aviv.
Ya’alon responded, refuting Regev’s comparison. “Hebron and Tel Aviv are not the same. What if someone wanted to buy a house in the center of Nablus? There’s a difference between settlements in central Israel, where there are no security or diplomatic considerations as there are in Hebron. One can buy property there, but it has to be legal and other considerations have to be taken into account,” he said.
The leaders of the coalition parties agreed on Sunday to establish a ministerial committee in charge of “improving coordination between the government, the security establishment and the settlements’ leadership on construction in the settlements,” said a senior official from Habayit Hayehudi with knowledge of the agreement.
The decision, made during a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office, came amid heightened political tensions over the eviction of Israeli settlers from two houses in Hebron on Friday. The settlers claim they have purchased the properties legally, but Ya’alon said the purchase was not authorized by the proper authorities.
The prime minister’s bureau said it was decided that the three ministers would meet to sort out the problem and try to establish a mechanism that would deal with similar problems in the future. In any case, authority would remain with the defense minister.
Habayit Hayehudi cabinet ministers and several Likud ministers upbraided Ya’alon, with the former even demanding to strip the defense minister of his authority regarding settlement construction and transfer it to a ministerial committee.
The senior official noted that the party leaders agreed on a compromise, according to which the defense minister won’t be stripped of any authority, but a committee would be set up, with Ya’alon, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel as members. The committee would function as an “advisory body” over settlement-related matters. The committee was to meet for the first time later on Sunday to decide on an agenda.
Likud sources confirmed that Ya’alon would meet Shaked and Ariel but said no committee would be formed. It was decided to maintain open channels between the defense minister and the justice and agriculture minister, as is the case now for issues connected to settlements in the West Bank.