“Walk around Tzion, circle it; count its towers.” Psalms 48:13 (The Israel Bible™)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly given the Civil Administration a green light to approve construction permits for more than 3,800 new housing units in Judea and Samaria, including in isolated settlements and in the Jewish community of Hebron. The approvals will be granted at the next meeting of the Civil Administration’s Supreme Planning Committee, scheduled to be held on October 17.
According to the report in Hebrew-language Yedioth Ahronoth daily, hundreds of homes are scheduled for approval in Bet El, Tekoa, Kfar Etzion, Avnei Hefetz, Negohot, located in the south Mount Hebron region, Rehelim and Maale Michmas.
In Hebron, construction of the 30 homes slated for approval would be the first new Israeli construction in the city in years, as building permits for the Jewish community are rare and real estate purchases are typically challenged by Palestinian and anti-settlement groups and held up for years by court proceedings.
The report follows a series of disappointments for the settlement movement, which had hoped that the inauguration of US President Donald Trump in January would usher in a near-total policy reverse after eight years of friction between Prime Minister Netanyahu and former President Barack Obama, largely over the issue of settlement building. But while the new administration has signaled broad support – Trump’s ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, is a long-time supporter of right-wing and settlement causes, and the president has said he does not view the existence of settlements as an “obstacle to peace.”
Despite the declarations and symbolic moves, however, there have been few concrete indications that US policy in the region has changed. Nine months after Trump’s inauguration, building in Judea and Samaria has been limited, both in scale and location. In addition, Trump has repeatedly pushed off a campaign promise to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, most recently two days ago, when he said he would give Israel-Palestinian peace negotiations a “chance to work” before deciding on the embassy move.
Given the recent and not-so-recent trends, settlement leaders reacted cautiously to the report. A spokesperson for one regional council dismissed the report as little more than an “unofficial leak” from the prime minister’s office, while others offered cautious optimism.
“Approving building projects in Hebron is a correct step, stemming from a decision made by Netanyahu’s first government,” said a spokesperson for the city’s Jewish community. “It is also a basic Zionist step in the face of the murderous and provocative conduct of the Palestinian Authority in Hebron.
“At a time when the Jewish people are voting with their feet on a daily basis in favor of continued Israeli presence in Hebron – approving an expansion of the Jewish community is very much the call of the hour.”