Photo Credit: Kobi Gideon / Flash 90
A Jewish settler holds her little girl at the outpost of Ramat Gilad outside the Karnei Shomron settlement in Samaria. Dec 13, 2011.

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett announced Thursday following a meeting of the IDF Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria that he has authorized the advance of plans for 1,800 new housing units in Jewish communities in the territories.

“We are no longer in the discussion of evacuation and a freeze, but in the mode of expansion and construction,” Bennett said. “Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria is one of the building blocks of Zionism in the State of Israel. It is our pride. Instead of stopping it, we will continue to advance it.”

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Gush Etzion Regional Council head Shlomo Ne’eman said the council was “pleased” to announce that two new building projects were among those approved by the Civil Administration Planning Committee.

“A plan for 105 housing units in Kfar Eldad’s “Mishkafim” neighborhood was approved, which will become a new neighborhood at the entrance to the community,” Ne’eman said.

At the same time, 110 units were approved in Alon Shvut, which are the first of their kind in Judea and Samaria, Ne’eman said, calling them “a game changer” in part because 40 of the units will be designated for retirees, “who will be able to remain in their community and receive appropriate services to fit their needs.” Another 70 units will be designated for young families. “All of this in addition to recreational and commercial space,” Ne’eman said, “is part of the plan.”

The approvals come in addition to the current construction of 60 units in Alon Shvut and the construction of other privately designed homes in Kfar Eldad.

Also on the list of projects advanced on Thursday was the approval of a master plan for 620 homes in the community of Eli, which allows for the retroactive legalization of homes in the town. Those that are currently being contested in court due to claims they are built on private Palestinian Authority property are not included.

“This is a day of celebration,” said Binyamin Regional Council head Israel Ganz. “The settlement of Eli can now develop, grow and prosper. The plan’s approval restores justice after many years of injustice to the hundreds of residents who legally purchased their homes.

“We expect the government to advance the regulation of additional neighborhoods in Eli that are not included in the approved master plan.”

Plans approved for deposit included construction of 620 homes in Eli, 48 in Har Bracha, 73 in Givat Ze’ev, 534 in the Shvut Rachel neighborhood in Shiloh, 156 in Tzofim, 106 in Maale Shomron, 24 in Karnei Shomron and 105 for Nokdim.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.