(February 15, 2023 / JNS) The Israeli government appears to be on a collision course with the United States and other world powers, including the United Nations, surrounding the announcement on Tuesday of the advancement of nearly 10,000 housing units for Jews in Judea and Samaria.
The Civil Administration’s Higher Planning Council said it would meet next week, for the first time in nine months, to issue the next phase of approvals for the homes.
At the same time, the Palestinian Authority is seeking a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s decision this week to authorize nine outposts in Judea and Samaria in response to a series of terrorist attacks in Jerusalem, which claimed the lives of 10 Israelis over the past several weeks, including young children.
Another Israeli, Border Police St.-Sgt. Asil Sawaed, 22, was killed in a Jerusalem bus stabbing attack on Monday, by a 13-year-old Arab terrorist.
In a rare move, Israel’s Security Cabinet on Sunday intervened, announcing it would move forward in regularizing the legal status of the communities of Avigil, Bet Hogla, Givat Harel/Haroeh, Givat Arnon, Mitzpe Yehuda, Malachei Hashalom, Ashael, Sde Boaz and Shaharit.
The United States Department of State released a joint press release on Tuesday along with the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Italy and the U.K. condemning the move, stating:
“We… are deeply troubled by the Israeli government’s announcement that it is advancing nearly 10,000 settlement units and intends to begin a process to normalize nine outposts that were previously deemed illegal under Israeli law. We strongly oppose these unilateral actions which will only serve to exacerbate tensions between Israelis and Palestinians and undermine efforts to achieve a negotiated two-state solution.”
The statement continued: “We continue to support a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, which must be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties. Israelis and Palestinians both deserve to live in peace, with equal measures of freedom, security and prosperity. We reaffirm our commitment to helping Israelis and Palestinians fulfill the vision of an Israel fully integrated into the Middle East living alongside a sovereign, viable Palestinian state. We continue to closely monitor developments on the ground which impact the viability of the two-state solution and stability in the region at large.”
However, Shlomo Ne’eman, chairman of the Gush Etzion Regional Council and head of the Yesha Council of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, was overjoyed upon getting wind of the Civil Administration’s planned approvals, reciting the Shehecheyanu prayer signifying the arrival of a momentous occasion.
“After a difficult nine-month [building] freeze, in which the Higher Planning Council didn’t meet, more than 9,000 units are set for approval including the legalization of 400 units in Elazar’s Netiv Ha’avot neighborhood. That is part of a plan which was put together following the demolition [of 15 units] in that neighborhood several years ago,” he said.
“We will continue to work with great power along with members of the government and the planning authorities so that the construction surge in Judea and Samaria will return, as was the case in previous years,” Ne’eman said.
When asked about the possibility of the Higher Planning Council meeting being canceled or postponed next week due to outside pressures, a spokesperson for the Yesha Council explained to JNS, “It would be unprecedented. Once the council publishes its planned approvals, they go through.”
Uria Loberbom, one of the founding members of Sde Boaz, has lived with his family in the outpost in Gush Etzion for more than 20 years. He told JNS that the legalization of his community “is a good start” but more needs to be done.
“There are 25,000 Israelis who are in a similar situation, waiting for their homes to be legalized. But even more so, these are people lacking the basic resources such as water, electricity, security, etc,” said Loberbom, who heads the Forum for Young Communities in Judea and Samaria. “These are people on the frontlines protecting the Land of Israel.”
When asked about those who view his presence in Sde Boaz as illegal, he said, “Israel is the State of the Jews. This is our land and we didn’t take it from anyone. I’m proud to be on the frontlines, here in this country where we are still fighting for our existence. The War of Independence has not yet finished.”
Loberbom added that the decision to legalize the nine outposts should have been taken years ago, but the current move represents “the next step towards sovereignty [in Judea and Samaria].”
On Tuesday, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who is also a minister in the Defense Ministry, led a symbolic meeting of his Religious Zionism Party faction at Givat Harel in the Binyamin region to express support for the legalization of the outposts and to call for the legalization of the other “young communities” in Judea and Samaria.
“Thank God we introduced an unprecedented achievement in advancing settlement in Judea and Samaria… The Israeli government supports building in all of Israel, and God willing we have made a historic decision. There is still a lot of work going forward, and of course we wanted to take even broader steps, but this is definitely a good start,” he said.
“I hear the condemnation from our good friends from overseas, which makes us sad, but our grip on the reins of our homeland, and the development of Judea and Samaria, deserve to be praised, and are seen as a miracle that shouldn’t be condemned. There is no enterprise more just and moral than the Zionist enterprise and its continued advancement including in Judea and Samaria, the cradle of our homeland,” Smotrich said.
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