Lawmaker claims Netanyahu misled public on Judea and Samaria construction

PM “not telling the truth – not to the cabinet, not to his coalition partners, and not to the public” on construction in Judea and Samaria, lawmaker alleges.

Member of Knesset Bezalel Smotrich launched a furious attack on Netanyahu the next day, saying the Jewish Home Party would move to reverse some of Netanyahu’s policies governing settlement building when the Knesset returns to work for the winter session next month.

Writing on Facebook, Smotrich accused Netanyahu of deliberately deceiving Israelis about building permits to be issued in Judea and Samaria and said the “practical aspects” of Israel’s building policies in the region must change.

“I do not want to bore you with numbers and calculations – you will get lost, and that’s exactly what the prime minister’s office is trying to do by floating all kinds of false numbers,” Smotrich wrote..

“[But in contrast to reports that Netanyahu would approve thousands of building permits in Judea and Samaria next week, the real number is] something around 580 units to be built immediately. The rest is a double counting, counting existing buildings that now only regulate their planning status, the evacuation of buildings, plans that are approved for advancement only in the initial stages,” he added.

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Lawmaker Blasts ‘Total Dependence’ on US Approval

Smotrich, who heads the National Union faction of the Jewish Home Party, also blasted the prime minister for maintaining “total dependence on American approval for every home.” Here, too, he accused Netanyahu of deliberate falsification.

“Unfortunately, the prime minister is not telling the truth in this matter – not to the cabinet, not to his coalition partners, and not to the public. In stark contrast to his repeated promises, there is also an Israeli commitment not to promote construction without the approval of the Americans. The Israeli team dealing with this on behalf of the prime minister is conducting real negotiations with the Americans on every plan, down to the smallest of details. Anything the Americans do not OK is simply out… The prime minister’s agreement to this relationship is a dangerous failure. We are definitely allies of the Americans but in no way their patron state, ” he said.

‘Homes Were Approved All Over Judea and Samaria’

Neither Netanyahu nor Jewish Home Party Chairman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett responded immediately to requests for comment. Responding to Smotrich, an unnamed member of Israel’s political echelon told the Israel Broadcast Corporation (Kan) that four times more building permits were issued in 2017 than in the previous year.

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“Homes were approved all over Judea and Samaria, including in Hebron, Migron and Bet El – places that haven’t had building plans approved for many years,” the source said.

“Some 12,000 construction plans, at various stages of completion, have been approved so far in 2017. Anybody saying that there has not been a significant improvement is simply misleading the public. Anyone who thinks we don’t have to take diplomatic considerations into account is making a big mistake. No one is working harder for the settlement movement than Netanyahu.”

Coalition Crisis?

But should Smotrich follow through on his threat to challenge Netanyahu by proposing reversing a cabinet decision allowing the planning council in Judea and Samaria to meet only every three months in favor of daily or weekly meetings, the move could trigger not only a coalition crisis, but also an internal rift in the Jewish Home party. Tensions have been rising in the Jewish Home for months, with Smotrich and Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel having criticized Bennett for being too willing to compromise with Netanyahu on building issues.

By: Andrew Friedman/TPS