Defense Minister Naftali Bennett on Thursday appointed Kobi Eliraz to head Israel’s campaign against illegal Arab construction in Area C in Judea and Samaria and head off the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) efforts to claim it.
The appointment came a day after Bennett launched the campaign to reclaim land in Judea and Samaria that is under full Israeli control, which is being taken over by the PA through illegal Arab construction.
Speaking at the Kohelet Forum in Jerusalem on Wednesday, Bennett announced that “we are embarking on a real campaign for the future of the Israeli territory,” adding that Israel “will do everything to make these territories the territory of Israel.”
Eliraz, a resident of the Eli community in the Binyamin region, has served as an aide to the Minister of Defense on Settlement Affairs for over four years, under Defense Ministers Moshe Ya’alon, Avigdor Liberman and Benjamin Netanyahu.
Bennett hired Eliraz after he was fired by his predecessor Netanyahu only a few months ago.
Eliraz will coordinate the Israeli efforts to curb illegal Arab construction in Area C, an issue that has been neglected for many years by Israeli authorities.
PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayeh recently announced that the PA would disregard the boundaries between Area C and Areas A and B, which are controlled by the PA, and would build freely in Area C.
He is acting on the Fayyad Plan, formulated in 2009 by then-PA prime minister Salaam Fayyad who laid out the Plan for the Creation of the State of Palestine, a methodical program for seizing control of territory in Area C to form a broad and viable basis for a Palestinian state, specifically in the areas under Israeli control.
Bennett recently threatened to demolish any illegal Arab construction in Area C, even if it was funded by the European Union.
Bennett said the campaign is a turning point for Israel’s strategy in Judea and Samaria and that Eliraz is the right man to head the historic move.
“The future of the Land of Israel is at stake. Unfortunately, while the Palestinians take over our land almost uninterruptedly, the State of Israel has simply done nothing. We are now changing direction and starting the campaign. Israel must win. The security system will fight for the land, and it is essential that there is someone to lead the campaign. Kobi Elirez is the right person at the right time. He is an expert in the field and a true bulldozer. Kobi, good luck,” he stated.
Eliraz said he “gladly” accepts “this important and significant challenge. During my years of work in the Ministry of Defense, I gained considerable experience with the various systems and I hope to fulfill this important task successfully.”
Regavim, which monitors and pursues legal action against illegal Arab construction, commended Eliraz’s appointment saying that “the decision to appoint an administrator to coordinate Israel’s response to this severe phenomenon is an important and positive move.”
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.