De facto building freeze in Judea and Samaria under Bennett?

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said the Biden administration was maintaining an anti-settlement expansion policy.

By World Israel News Staff

When Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s new government was sworn in this June, the Yamina party chair promised that he’d make decisions “to the right of [former prime minister] Netanyahu.”

A longtime advocate for settlements, Bennett repeatedly criticized Netanyahu for dragging his feet when it came to issuing building permits and approving plans for Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.”

But after a press conference on Wednesday in which the U.S. government said it had told Israel to halt all settlement activity, some settler leaders are reporting that there is a de facto freeze on Jewish building in Judea and Samaria.

During a press conference on Wednesday, State Department spokesman Ned Price said the Biden administration was maintaining an anti-settlement expansion policy.

“When it comes to settlement activity we have been clear and consistent,” he said. “We believe it’s critical to refrain from unilateral steps that increase tension and make it difficult to advance a negotiated two-state solution.

“This is a message we have conveyed in public, as I have just now, but also in private.”

Efrat Council head Oded Revivi told The Jerusalem Post that “there is definitely a de facto freeze.”

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He cited the fact that the last time the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria approved building plans was in January 2021, just before Biden’s inauguration.

Usually, Revivi said, the Council meets four times a year.

According to the Jerusalem Post, the Council has approved plans for 780 homes so far this year, compared to 12,159 in 2020 and 8,457 in 2019 within the same time frame.

On Thursday, the Yesha Council demanded that Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz immediately convene the Higher Planning Council to push forward building approvals.

However, the head of the Yesha Council, David Elhayani, told the Post that he didn’t believe there is a building freeze.

“If there is a freeze, this government would not survive,” he said.