The construction plan to expand Qalqiliya has created a political uproar among right-wing officials. Government ministers have joined the leaders of the settler community in protest, arguing that the approval process did not follow the necessary protocol.
Palestinian city of Qalqiliya | Archive Photo Credit: Yossi Zamir, Flash 90/ Channel 2 News
The construction plan to expand the Palestinian city Qalqiliya, at the expense of parts of Area C under Israeli control, has sparked an uproar in the political system in Israel. In response to the harsh criticism from the political right, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu argued that the plan was initiated by the Defense Minister last year and was subsequently approved by the cabinet.
Tonight, a letter sent by MK Ze’ev Elkin- Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and of Environmental Protection- to the Prime Minister and to the Defense Minister was publicized, in which Elkin claimed that the process of approval by the Cabinet was neither valid nor transparent.
“The plan, to this extent and to the best of my recollection, was not discussed in the cabinet,” wrote Elkin. “Proceeding with the plan, without first holding an exhaustive discussion within the cabinet, is an attempt by the senior echelons of the IDF to shape a new reality…and I can not agree with it.” The Minister of Environmental Protection added that he was making an urgent request of Netanyahu and Lieberman to halt the proceedings and to bring the plan before the Cabinet for a comprehensive discussion.
Minister of Environmental Protection Ze’ev Elkin Photo Credit: Channel 2 News
Elkin criticized the double standards to which the government was holding Palestinian and Israeli construction plans and wrote that “every 200 housing units in the settlements are debated at the level of the prime minister and the defense minister,” while simultaneously “tens of thousands of housing units for Palestinians in Area C are approved.” This, according to Elkin, is a case of “severe discrimination against the needs of the Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria. A government of the [right wing] national camp can not accept such a reality.”
In closed conversations, Netanyahu said that the figures that were publicized are inaccurate. “It is strange that Cabinet ministers- who were partners in making the decisions- renounced them at the first signs of criticism and pressure,” he said. Netanyahu added that “there does not exist, nor will there ever, a government that is more concerned about the settlement movement than this government.”
According to the plan in question, up to 14,000 new apartments are expected to be built in Area C, which will house a potential 60,000 Palestinians. This will more than double the number of residents in the city. In practice, it is estimated that only half of the plan will be realized. The contraversial plan will apparently ease up on restrictions that hitherto had prohibited construction from a distance of up to 200 meters from the separation fence- now allowing for a distance of up to 50 meters.
Security sources claim that the matter has been examined and approved by the IDF’s Central Command, but the IDF Spokesperson has refused to comment on the grounds that it is a political, and not military, issue.