Contradictions abound over whether building will continue in Judea and Samaria

While Shaked assures settlement leaders that the region’s planning council will meet regularly to approve construction, Gantz denies that the coalition agreement includes such a deal.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The official planning board for Judea and Samaria will continue to meet regularly to advance construction in the region, the interior minister told settlement leaders last week, Israel Hayom reported Sunday.

Ayelet Shaked assured the Yesha Council that the Higher Planning Council of the Civil Administration will gather every quarter to approve building plans, thanks to a verbal agreement between Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party and Defense Minister Benny Gantz of Blue and White to continue the “status quo” from the previous government.

However, Gantz’s office denied the existence of such a deal to the Hebrew daily.

“There never was such a thing,” the defense ministry’s statement said. “There was no agreement on the issue in the coalition negotiations. The whole issue of settlement will continue to be managed within the defense system under the leadership of the Minister of Defense. We recommend that every minister deal with the issues of his office.”

The status quo was a contentious issue last year as well, as Yesha Council head David Elhayani made clear in August 2020. He complained publicly that there had been no Planning Council meeting since the forum met in both January and February to approve some 7,500 buildings when Bennett was defense minister for a short time. The feeling, he said then, was that a de facto freeze had been put in place by then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In a statement put out by the Yesha Council after this meeting, Elhayani now expressed optimism to Shaked.

“I rely on you and very much hope that this will be a good government for settlement,” he said. “I wish you and all your office staff good luck, and we see in you a very good address in the government for all issues related to our [regional and municipal] authorities and residents. I hope that the issue of building permits will be resolved soon for the sake of the future of the region. ”

The last time the council met was in mid-January, when almost 800 units were approved at various stages of the permission process. Right wing leaders have been fearful that the new government would freeze construction, both because it includes parties that are vehemently opposed to expanding Jewish life in Judea and Samaria, and because the Biden administration has made it very clear that it is not in favor of it.