Decision to Build in Settlements Violates Coalition Guidelines, Charges Israeli Minister

Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg insists on returning to original understandings but does not regret decision to join government

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Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg speaking with Netta Ahituv at Haaretz's Israel Democracy Conference in Jaffa on Tuesday.
Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg speaking with Netta Ahituv at Haaretz's Israel Democracy Conference in Jaffa on Tuesday.Credit: Hadas Parush

Israel’s Environmental Protection Minister blasted the government’s decision to continue building in the settlements on Tuesday, calling it “a violation of our fundamental [coalition] agreements.

The minister, Tamar Zandberg of the left-wing Meretz party, told Haaretz journalist Netta Ahituv at Haaretz's Conference on Democracy that “we insist that we return to them.”

Despite this development, she said she did not regret entering the governing coalition and that Meretz knew going in that it would not get everything it wanted. Last month, the Biden administration strongly condemned Israel’s decision to construct additional housing in West Bank settlements after Israel’s Civil Administration advanced plans to build thousands of units.

Asked about Meretz’s attitude to the recent decision to outlaw six Palestinian human rights organizations, Zandberg responded: “We are very unhappy with the designation of human rights organizations as terrorist organizations. So far, it has done more damage to Israel.”

The Defense Ministry said last month that the organizations in question took orders from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and served as a front to secure finances for the group, designated a terrorist organization. The announcement sparked a major backlash in Europe and the United States.

The six civil society organizations are Addameer, Al-Haq, the Bisan Center, Defense for Children International Palestine, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees.

According to a report released by several international organizations on Monday, spyware developed by NSO Group, the Israeli cybersecurity firm, had been used to monitor the cellphones of six Palestinians, three of whom are members of social welfare organizations that were subsequently blacklisted for alleged terrorist ties.

Two employees of the Union of Agricultural Work Committees were charged in connection to the August 2019 murder of 17-year-old Rina Shnerb.

However, there have been allegations that what Israel has presented as proof that the accused NGOs are linked to terror is circumstantial and inadequate – a claim that the government and Shin Bet security service have rejected. European sources who saw the evidence this summer have said that it did not convince them.

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