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Despite pledge, outposts’ approval in limbo as officials trade barbs

In February, the government announced that nine communities in Judea and Samaria would get official status.

A new neighborhood under construction in Ma’ale Hever, Judea and Samaria, on Dec. 28, 2022. Photo by Gershon Elinson/Flash90.
A new neighborhood under construction in Ma’ale Hever, Judea and Samaria, on Dec. 28, 2022. Photo by Gershon Elinson/Flash90.

Six months after Israel’s government announced that nine outposts built by young families in Judea and Samaria would be officially recognized, delays are occurring in the implementation of the regulation effort, with no end currently in sight.

In February, the Diplomatic-Security Cabinet unanimously voted to finalize the official status of nine new settlements throughout Judea and Samaria that were actually established decades ago, but which had never been registered. The government had announced following the Jan. 27 terrorist attack in the north Jerusalem neighborhood of Neve Yaakov that it would approve the communities, which for many years had been forced to contend with a severe lack of the most basic infrastructure, such as electricity and water. The outposts’ residents wasted no time celebrating their victory in this protracted struggle, that has gone on for years.

Following the decision, dramatic steps were adopted on the ground, of the kind not implemented for years. For one, both the IDF Central Command and the Settlements and National Missions moved to establish badly needed security components in these settlements. Yet, in tandem, there has been a significant delay in the actual, practical implementation of their regulation, in other words, in their official definition as regular, fully-fledged settlements, a process that should be completed by the official signing of the relevant paperwork by the head of IDF Central Command, Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs.

Officials are busy pointing fingers at each other with regard to who is to blame for the delay.

“The IDF could have acted much more expeditiously in order to cut the red tape and thus reach the requisite regulation”, claimed one official who is familiar with the details of the matter. On the other hand, IDF officials have claimed that the delays are occurring in the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria, while a third official claims that the delays are actually the fault of the regional councils, which have not completed the planning procedures as quickly as required.

“At the end of the day, it is necessary to complete all the planning processes of the settlements in order to authorize them, and this is not yet happening. This might take three or six months or even a year, but it depends on them,” said one of the officials pointing the finger at the regional councils.

Whatever the case may be, it appears that the festive declaration back in February was only an additional step on the “Via Dolorosa” the settlements’ residents have had to walk. It is important to point out that besides these nine settlements, there are dozens of other settlements and neighborhoods still awaiting state approval.

Several months ago, the Settlement Directorate in the Civil Administration promised that within a matter of weeks they would announce an additional 70 settlements to be regulated, but this announcement has not yet materialized.

“A historical wrong”

Approval of the settlements has been on the agenda for a long time now. Two decades after they were founded, residents began to engage in a public struggle, that has intensified in recent years. During recent election campaigns, they even got lawmakers, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to sign undertakings to regulate the settlements. It was this very commitment that was firmly introduced as a core coalition demand by the Religious Zionist Party and Otzma Yehudit following the November elections.

Last April, a semi-classified conference was held, attended by the leaders of the Judea and Samaria settlements. “We stand here today, following a delay of more than 20 years, but better late than never,” were the opening words of the meeting from Yishai Merling, a key member of the group that ran the conference. “Though long overdue, we are now righting a historical wrong,” he said.

“As far as I am concerned, this conference is in a way a dream come true,” stated Settlements and National Missions Minister Orit Struck, a former key activist in the Young Settlements Forum. “When we set out and established the Young Settlements Forum, we prayed for this moment, when we would not only engage in hunger strikes, generate debates in the Knesset or various types of crazy actions, but would actually begin to work on the regulation of the settlements. It is thanks to these persistent ‘nudgers,’ the trailblazing pioneers who constantly moved ahead, contending with all sorts of issues, living off generators and traveling on rough roads and dirt tracks, that we have the Land of Israel.

“For years on end, these pioneers were forced to exit via the window because the door was blocked. We are now opening the door and leaving it wide open. We are now firmly back on track,” said the minister.

“Despite the delays, it is evident that all the relevant stakeholders in the field are working hard to pursue the implementation of the regulation effort. This is one of the overarching goals of the current government, and considerable efforts are being dedicated to this end. The delays, which as we know are due to bureaucracy, might not be enabling this issue to proceed as fast as we might wish, but having said that, they do not indicate that the plan will not be put into practice,” she added.

“The claims are incorrect”

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said in response that: “The claim is incorrect. When the proceedings are completed and they reach the major general [Maj. Gen. Fuchs] for approval, they will be examined accordingly. Following the decision to establish the nine new settlements in the Judea and Samaria region, the IDF Central Command and the Civil Administration began to engage in extensive staff work with a view to implementing this decision. The staff work is currently underway, pursuant to the requisite statutory processes being conducted at the Civil Administration.

“In relation to some of the settlements, regarding which the staff work components are shorter, all the findings are expected to be obtained in the near future. Once the staff work has been completed in relation to each of the settlements, the orders will be signed as is customary.”

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

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