Netanyahu cabinet approves Palestinian housing in Judea and Samaria

Minister Bezalel Smotrich says the decision actually asserts Israeli sovereignty in the area.

By World Israel News Staff 

Israel’s Security Cabinet has approved 700 housing units for Palestinians in Area C of Judea and Samaria, according to media reports. Rumors of the decision were first reported on Monday.

Area C consists of a large undeveloped territory which remains contentious as Israel and the Palestinians lay claim to it.

While Israel maintains control and some 400,000 Israelis live in the area, Palestinians have been building tens of thousands of illegal buildings and constructing roads in Area C in an attempt to create a de facto state.

Regavim, an NGO focused on land issues, has been beating the drums on the issue for some time, taking Israel’s government to task for not enforcing sovereignty in the region and stopping the Palestinian land grab. It released a statement on Monday condemning the plan to build Palestinian apartment units, saying it plays into the hands of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

However, right-wing members of the government, such as Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich (National Union), who co-founded Regavim, voiced approval of the construction plan.

Smotrich argued that the decision in fact “thwarts the establishment of a Palestinian state” in Judea and Samaria by asserting that “in Area C, construction for Arabs will be carried out only for those who are original residents of the area [C] since 1994,” a reference to the time of the establishment of Palestinian self-rule, “and not for Arabs who arrived afterward from Areas A and B.”

In addition, said Smotrich in a Facebook post, the Israeli government was making it clear that Palestinian construction would be carried out in places which “do not pose a threat to Israeli settlement and security, do not advance contiguity [of land], and do not establish a de facto Palestinian state.”

Israel maintains full control over Area C under the terms of the Oslo Accords, as opposed to Area A which is under Palestinian Authority (PA) control, and where Israeli civilians are generally barred from entering. Area B is under mixed Israeli-Palestinian control.

The PA provides various services such as medical care and education to the Palestinians living in Area C, but construction policy, considered a sensitive issue regarding the future of the territory, is determined by Israel. Granting permits for Palestinians is seen as rare.

The Security Cabinet decision on Palestinian construction in Area C comes as Jared Kushner, adviser to President Donald Trump, arrives in the region. Anticipation is growing that the U.S. could soon announce its political plan for Israel and the Palestinians.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman signaled American approval of the decision to build for Palestinians. In a CNN interview, he welcomed the Security Cabinet’s move as “good for Israel and good for the Palestinians.”