The government on Sunday voted to put a ministerial committee headed by the Prime Minister in charge of Jewish development in Judea and Samaria , the first time in 16 years that the establishment and expansion of Jewish communities in the biblical heartland will not come under the purview of the full government.
In 1996, then-and-current Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu established Decision 150, making the establishment of new communities contingent on full governmental approval. The rescinding of that decision in 2012 makes the establishment of those communities the responsibility of an 11-member ministerial committee, with the approval of the defense minister.
The committee will be responsible for formulating policy pertaining to unauthorized construction in Judea and Samaria, as well as authorizing construction and demolitions, and it would formulate policies and principles pertaining to state responses to petitions to the High Court of Justice on Judea and Samaria land issues.
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar called the creation of the committee significant.
Political analyst and Knesset insider Jeremy Man Saltan said the new arrangement has more to do with political maneuvering than the establishment of Jewish communities. “This new committee strips Defense Minister Barak of some but not all of his authority over settlers and settlements,” Saltan told the Jewish Press. “Most ministerial committees don’t meet that often and I don’t see the Chairman Prime Minister Netanyahu conducting weekly or even monthly meetings. It is a known Bibi trick to create a committee that rarely meets and buys him time. In reality this will mean very little to the settlement enterprise.”
Vice Premier Shaul Mofaz, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Shalom Simhon and Government Services Minister Michael Eitan opposed the decision, with Vice Premier and Regional Development Minister Silvan Shalom, immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver, Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, and Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau abstaining.
The new committee will be headed by the prime minister, and will include Barak, Mofaz, Saar, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein, Interior Minister Eli Yishai, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, Minister-without-Portfolio Bennie Begin and Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz.
Peace Now executive director Yariv Oppenheimer warned that the committee would authorize additional communities in Judea and Samaria.