The Supreme Planning Council of the Civil Administration will approve next week the promotion of planning and construction of about 3,100 new housing units in settlements in the West Bank and about 1,300 housing units in Palestinian villages in Area C. This will be the first time that settlement construction has been approved since the Biden administration took office and the first time since 2007 that Israel has approved extensive construction for the Palestinians.
The planning council was scheduled to convene in August ahead of Prime Minister Bennett’s trip to Washington for his first meeting with President Biden. But, a few days before the council convened, Civil Administration employees declared a strike, postponing the move. Following the meeting with Biden, the reunion of the council was postponed due to the political sensitivity towards the United States.
The number of housing units to be brought in for approval next week will be larger than the original plan. The number of housing units in the settlements increased by about 900 housing units and the number of housing units for Palestinians increased by about 350 housing units. A large part of the housing units that are planned and built will be in the isolated settlements deep in the West Bank outside the large settlement blocs.
The construction plan for about 50 housing units in the Palestinian village of Khirbet Zakaria in Gush Etzion has been removed from the agenda, after fierce opposition from settler leaders. Khirbet Zakaria is a small Palestinian village located in an enclave between the localities of Alon Shvut and Rosh Tzurim in Gush Etzion, which managed to forge good neighborly relations with its neighbors. However, the Civil Administration’s intention to approve construction plans for the Palestinian village last month has sparked controversy among Gush Etzion residents, some of whom supported the move and some who opposed it.
The leader of the opposition to the construction plans in the Palestinian village is the head of the Gush Etzion Council, Shlomo Ne’eman, who said that “this is a severe precedent of Arab construction in the heart of Jewish settlement. And what makes matters worse is the fact that the Palestinian Authority is behind these plans.”
ISRAELIS WALK with flags in the Bat Ayin settlement in Gush Etzion on the West Bank, last month. (credit: GERSHON ELINSON/FLASH90)
According to Ne’eman, the Gush Etzion Council is the one that should take Khirbet Zakaria, and similar places, into its jurisdiction, and promote planning solutions for its residents. “The Gush Etzion Council must dispose of garbage and ensure the proper flow of sewage in the village, ensure business licensing, traffic arrangements and parking on the site. Similarly, it must issue building permits, maintain supervision and enforcement in the field of planning and construction according to all rules. We will not agree to be bystanders when people enter our living room. We are not guests in our own home.”