For First Time in 15 Years: Israel to Approve Settler Homes in Hebron

Israeli panel set to okay 3,829 housing units in settlements, report says. White House official: Unrestrained settlement activity does not advance peace

The Jewish settlement in Hebron.
The Jewish settlement in Hebron. Dan Keinan

An Israeli panel is set to approve next week construction in West Bank settlements, a significant portion of which are located outside settlement blocs. For the first time in 15 years, Israel is expected to approve  construction in the Jewish settlement of Hebron.

The number of housing units that will be brought to the top planning council for the West Bank has not been officially published, but a Channel 2 report on Sunday said the panel is expected to approve the construction of a total of 3,829 housing units.

The most contentious construction plans the panel is set to approve are those for the Jewish settlement in Hebron and the isolated settlement of Negohot, located in the Southern Hebron Hills. If indeed approved, this would be the first time since 2002 that Israel approves construction of settler homes in Hebron.

The Hebron municipality and the Committee for Revitalizing Hebron, which fights for Palestinian construction and against Israeli settlements in the Palestinian city, said they might take Israel to court.

Imad Hamdan, the committee's chair, told Haaretz that they are looking into the reports about the plans and are contemplating petitioning the High Court. "We are learning the details and their ramifications and are mulling turning to judicial authorities," Hamdan said. 

The plan for Hebron includes the construction of 31 housing units near the Beit Romano compound. The designated area was seized many years ago for military purposes. The military outpost there is slated to be relocated for the new housing units to be built.

In Negohot, the panel is expected to approve the building of 102 housing units. In other settlements, such as Har Brakha, Rehelim and Ma'ale Mikhmas, the panel is expected to retroactively approve existing homes.
The report on Channel 2 said the panel is also set to approve 453 housing units in Givat Ze'ev, 54 in Har Brakha, 86 in Kokhav Ya'akov, 48 in Ma'ale Mikhmas, 158 in Kfar Etzion, 296 in Beit El, 206 in Tekoa, 129 in Avnei Hefetz and 120 in Nofim.

White House: Unrestrained settlement activity does not advance peace

Responding to the report, a White House official said, "President Trump has publicly and privately expressed his concerns regarding settlements and the administration has made clear that unrestrained settlement activity does not advance the prospect for peace.

"At the same time the administration recognizes that past demands for a settlement freeze have not helped advance peace talks," the official added.
In what is seen as a change in policy, thousands of homes in West bank settlements have been approved since the election of U.S. President Donald Trump.

In a meeting with settler leaders last month, Netanyahu revealed that U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman told him not to go overboard when pushing for new construction in the settlements. Netanyahu quoted Friedman by using the Hebrew equivalent of "grasp all, lose all."

One of the participants, who asked to remain anonymous because it was a closed-door meeting, noted that Netanyahu tried to demonstrate the amount of American pressure he endured by quoting what senior Trump administration officials had told him and his advisers regarding the settlement building issue.

"Tell them what the Americans told you," Netanyahu said to his chief of staff, Yoav Horowitz. "You can be a pig but don't be a chazer,'" using a Yiddish term for pig which also refers to a person who is acting selfish.

Netanyahu boasted at the meeting that he had convinced the Americans to take the distinction between settlement blocs and isolated settlements off the table, participants in the meeting said.