Over 1,000 new housing units in Judea and Samaria get government go-ahead

The units — the first approved under Bennett’s premiership — draw criticism from across the political spectrum. 

By Donna Rachel Edmunds, World Israel News

The Israel Land Authority issued a tender on Sunday to market in excess of 1,000 new housing units in Judea and Samaria, the first to be given the go-ahead under the current government. The tenders were issued under the direction of Housing and Construction Minister Ze’ev Elkin

Among the new units planned are 729 to be built in Ariel, 346 units in Beit El, 102 in Elkana, 90 in Geva Binyamin, 57 in Emanuel, 22 in Karnei Shomoron and one in Beitar Illit, according to the Israeli press.

The head of the Beit El Regional Council, Shai Alon, said Sunday: “This is a day of celebration for Beit El… Together with expansive commercial areas that will be built, we will soon be able to see in Beit El pictures we haven’t seen before on our way to making it a city and the capital of the [Binyamin region]. With the release of the plan to build 346 additional housing units in Beit El, we are bringing to fruition the ‘1,000 housing unit plan in Beit El’ that we promised.”

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He added: “I would like to thank Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Housing and Construction Minister Ze’ev Elkin, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, [and] our friends in the opposition who helped get this plan validated.”

Housing Minister Ze’ev Elkin also praised the decision, announcing: “As we promised, we delivered.”

He continued: “Strengthening and expanding Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria is a necessary and very important thing in the vision of the Zionist enterprise. After a long period of stagnation in construction in Judea and Samaria, I welcome the marketing of over 1,000 housing units. I will continue to maintain Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria.”

However, the plan does not have universal approval. Washington has indicated it’s opposition to construction in the West Bank, with US State Department spokesman Ned Price stating on Friday that he was “concerned” about the previously trailed plans.

Price called on both Israel and the Palestinian Authority to “refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tension and undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution.”

Jordanian Foreign Ministry spokesman Haitham Abu al-Foul also “warned against building new settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories,” according to Jordan’s news agency Petra, describing the Israeli move in a statement as “a violation of international law and relevant Security Council resolutions.”

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And Meretz MK Mossi Raz voiced outrage, stating: “Construction in settlements outside Israel harms Israel.”

Although Meretz, a left wing party, is part of the governing coalition  along with the Labor and Arab Ra’am parties, Raz accused the leadership of being further to the right than Netanyahu’s, saying “the right-wing government does not count Meretz” and is “10 degrees to the right of the previous government.”

Criticism also came from the right, over plans to also build 1,000 new units for Palestinians living in Area C of Judea and Samaria, where Israel has both security and administrative control.

MK Itamar Ben-Gvir, the chairman of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, slammed the plan on Twitter, writing:” Bennett, wake up, you are once again bowing to the demands of the Muslim Brotherhood and giving land to the Palestinians where they will raise the Palestinian flag. This will be a disaster for generations. You’ve sold everything to [Ra’am chairman MK Mansour] Abbas!”