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Coalition Crisis Brewing Over  Limited Settlement Building



Settlement leaders warned Sunday that the Jewish Home faction could “make trouble” for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu if the government refuses to increase building tenders in Judea and Samaria, but stopped short of saying the party would leave the coalition over the issue.

Speaking to the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel said that given the limited building plans in Judea and Samaria, “it is very hard to support this government. Every [building] plan requires five approvals from the prime minister and the defense minister…. We demand normal, reasonable [planning and approval] procedures.

“The National Union [faction of the Jewish Home party] decided a month and a half ago that it would allow its MKs the freedom to act according to their understanding of each individual issue, even to the point of creating a coalition crisis. We are planning to carry out our policies. There are planning committees, there is work to do in the Knesset all the time… we must deal with this crisis while it is still small and not allow it to grow. This is the way Netanyahu operates,” Ariel said.

The disagreement stems from news reports that the Civil Administration’s High Planning Committee will approve up to 2,600 housing units at a hearing on June 7, but a large percentage of the permits will retroactively legalize homes that have already been partly or completely built. In addition, settlement leaders said they were “disappointed” that with the notable exception of approximately 50 homes in Amichai, a new settlement for former residents of Amona, the new permits will be limited to settlement blocs, rather than outlying areas of Judea and Samaria.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement that “nobody cares more about the settlement enterprise than the prime minister,” and added that there is no building freeze in Judea and Samaria.

“Repeating a lie won’t turn it into the truth,” the prime minister’s bureau said. “There is no building freeze. The opposite is true. In the last few months, thousands of homes have been authorized in Judea and Samaria and for the first time in scores of years a new settlement was approved.”

But Netanyahu’s statement did not sway settlement leaders. Gush Etzion Mayor Shlomo Ne’eman called on right-wing government ministers to boycott a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the area south of Jerusalem, while Mount Hebron Regional Council Head Yochai Damari told the Hebrew-language NRG website that the current round of approvals were little more than a “mockery” of people who voted for right-wing parties.

“The approval of 2000 housing units is [nothing more than] throwing sand in the eyes of right-wing voters, who voted for developing settlements. The time has come to tell the truth: Half of the homes that are about to be approved have already been built, and out of 2000 permits approved there will be just 800 new ones. This makes a mockery [of right-wing policy] and is nothing more than a continuation of former President Obama’s policy,” Damari said. 

By: Andrew Friedman

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