Netanyahu government preparing to fast-track settlement construction in move critics dub ‘mini-annexation’

Netanyahu working with Ministers Galant and Smotrich to drastically reduce red-tape limiting settlement construction, expand application of Israeli law in Judea and Samaria.

By World Israel News Staff

Israel’s new government is drawing up plans to significantly reduce the barriers to settlement expansion in Judea and Samaria, in a move that could lead to a dramatic increase in the Jewish population beyond the Green Line.

According to a report by Israel Hayom Wednesday morning, Defense Minister Yoav Galant (Likud) discussed some of the planned reforms with a group of settlement leaders at a recent meeting.

The proposed changes would streamline the process for approving planned construction and reduce both the amount of bureaucratic red tape and the time needed to complete the approval process.

Currently, construction projects in Judea and Samaria must receive approval from five different bodies before building can begin. The proposed reforms would remove three of the five steps to receiving building permits, requiring approval from just the municipal authority and the Civil Administration’s Higher Planning Committee.

An additional measure planned as part of the reforms would fast-track the Higher Planning Committee’s approval process.

While the committee met only four times a year during the previous Netanyahu government and twice a year under the Bennett-Lapid government, it would be required under the new plan to convene for approving housing-permit requests every month.

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Furthermore, a secondary committee is set to be established, which will deal with all non-housing construction permits.

There are currently plans for approximately 18,000 housing units waiting for approval by the Higher Planning Committee, which is expected to green light the projects in the next few months.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met earlier this week with Defense Minister Galant and Minister within the Defense Ministry Bezalel Smotrich (Religious Zionist Party) to expedite the planned transfer of authority over settlement affairs from Galant to Smotrich, in keeping with the Likud’s coalition deal with the Religious Zionist Party.

As part of the restructuring, Area C – amounting to roughly 60% of Judea and Samaria and spanning the entire area of Jewish settlement – would see more direct application of Israeli law.

Under the present system, laws passed by the Knesset do not automatically become relevant in Judea and Samaria, which is administered by a combination of directives by the IDF military commander over Judea and Samaria, and the Judea and Samaria Regulation Law – a measure passed every five years which ensures that Israeli residents of the area are treated as residents of Israel for the purposes of taxation, voting, and other basic rights and responsibilities.

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Most state services, however, are provided under the authority of the Defense Ministry.

Once authority for settlement affairs has been transferred, however, Smotrich is expected to enable state agencies to operate directly in Judea and Samaria, a move critics have dubbed “mini-annexation.”

This would, for instance, enable the Environmental Protection Ministry to more easily police Palestinian Arab violations of environmental regulations in Area C, including air pollution via the burning of trash or the dumping of raw sewage.

The reforms would also enable the Transportation Ministry to more readily expand infrastructure in the area, allowing it to calculate traffic needs based on the entire population of the area – including Palestinian Arabs already using Israeli-built roads – rather than just the Israeli population in Judea and Samaria for such calculations.