Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Defense Minister Benny Gantz, November 4, 2021.

The Regavim Movement issued a scathing rebuttal of Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s statement on Wednesday comparing the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) illegal takeover of land in Judea and Samaria to Israeli land grabs, accusing him of being the “silver platter on which the State of Palestine is being built.”

The Silver Platter reference (Mgash Hakessef) is to a well-known Hebrew poem by Natan Alterman (check him out on your NIS 200 bill), published in his Davar newspaper column on December 19, 1947. It describes teen boy and girl who sacrificed their lives in the battle for a Jewish state. Its fifth verse reads:

And the two, silent,
Will answer her: We are the silver platter
On which the State of the Jews was given to you.
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Gantz issued an official written reply to a parliamentary query, submitted by MK Keti Shitrit (Likud), requesting clarification of the Defense Ministry’s response to the hostile takeover of the open spaces of Judea and Samaria.

In his response, publicized by Amiel Yarhi, political correspondent for the Kipah news site, the Defense Minister noted “attempts to trespass and to commandeer land in Judea and Samaria by both Palestinians and Israelis.”

Gantz pointed to the renewal of the process of approval of construction permits for the Palestinian sector in Area C as the solution to the problem.

Meir Deutsch, Director General of Regavim, stated in response to the letter that “this document indicates that the present Defense Minister is completely clueless regarding the strategic issues involved. This is nothing less than a revisited ‘Yom Kippur War-style’ implosion for the Defense Ministry.”

Deutsch noted in his letter that Gantz’s equation was erroneous.

On the one hand, the Palestinian Authority has stated that its primary objective was establishing the Palestinian state in Area C, which is under full Israeli control. This objective is funded by European support in the hundreds of millions of dollars each year and has enabled the PA to pave dozens of kilometers of roads, put up thousands of electricity poles, build hundreds of public structures, schools and religious institutions in illegal outposts, supports agricultural work that has already taken over hundreds of thousands of dunams of Israeli state land, and orchestrate the construction of some 3,500 illegal structures each year.

“The Minister of Defense of the State of Israel compares this enormous, organized, systematic program of annexation to illegal construction in the Jewish sector in Judea and Samaria, the sum total of which amounts to some 3,000 structures all told, in the entire territory,” he wrote.

Deutsch added that “the Defense Minister’s utter lack of understanding of this matter is an existential threat to the State of Israel. It is clear to us that this disgraceful document, which reflects a dangerous and reckless approach to the problem, will be a key piece of evidence in the official hearings of the Commission of Inquiry, the updated version of the Agranat Commission [a National Commission of Inquiry set up to investigate failings in the IDF in the prelude to the Yom Kippur War], that will be appointed to investigate and analyze the conceptual failure behind Israel’s acquiescence to the conquest of Israeli territory by the Palestinian Authority without a single shot being fired,” he said.

Israel has rapidly been losing lands in area C to European Union-funded illegal construction projected executed by the PA.

In 2009, then-prime minister of the PA Salaam Fayyad laid out the Plan for the Creation of the State of Palestine, a methodical program for seizing control of territory in Area C, under full Israeli control as prescribed by the Oslo Accords, to form a broad and viable basis for a Palestinian state, specifically in the areas under Israeli control.

Fayyad’s plan essentially bypasses all negotiations or compromises with Israel and creates facts on the ground.

According to data collected by Regavim, in 2009 the number of illegal Arab structures in Area C stood at 29,784, while in 2018 the number surged to 58,435.

The far more worrying statistic is the area covered by illegal Arab construction: In 2009, some 44,538 dunams of land in Area C were being occupied illegally by Arab construction. In 2018, over 78,626 dunams have been overtaken.

While serving as Defense Minister in 2019, Naftali Bennett threatened to demolish any illegal Arab construction in Area C, even if it was funded by the EU.

In response to an inquiry on the issue by TPS, a senior official in the Defense Ministry stated that the “phenomenon of illegal Palestinian construction in Area C is one of the main issues that Defense Minister Bennett is dealing with, and he has already begun to work to eradicate the phenomenon.”

At his meeting with EU ambassadors in December 2019, Bennet told the ambassadors that “illegal construction in their financing would be destroyed by Israel” and made it clear that “his position on the issue was unequivocal.”

However, he has failed to act on his pledges.

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