Photo Credit: Jewish Press

To receive a building permit in Judea and Samaria, the High Planning subcommittee of Israel’s Civil Administration must approve the building plans. The committee hadn’t met in more than six months, and during that time no permits were issued. Last week the committee met and issued permits for 31 projects, including a mall in Mishor Adumim, a special needs school in Elkana, and synagogues and yeshivot in Karnei Shomron and Kfar Adumim. Hundreds of building permits are normally approved at each meeting.

The low amount of approvals in this week’s committee meeting caused consternation among settler leaders. Binyamin Regional head Yisrael Ganz wrote, “Don’t be confused. There are not really building permits. Construction in Judea and Samaria is not progressing, all at the expense of young couples who need homes.”


Israelis in favor of building in Judea and Samaria fear there’s been an unofficial freeze placed on permits. President Biden has been opposed to Israeli building over the green line during his entire 40-year political career. There is a suspicion that the American government is pressuring Israel not to issue permits. In his outgoing speech as prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu claimed the Biden administration had pressured him not to issue permits.

Secretary of State Tony Blinken said, “[If] either side risk sparking violence or – over time – ultimately undermines the prospect for returning to the pursuit of two states, we oppose [it]. That includes settlement activity, it includes demolitions, it includes evictions, it includes incitement to violence, it includes payment to terrorists. All of those things would, I think, on the one hand potentially be catalysts for renewed tension and potentially violence, and certainly undermine the prospects of achieving two states. And that’s something that we’ve been very clear about in our conversations with Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

Even if the fears of a permit freeze are accurate there will still be plenty of building in Judea and Samaria. In the first few months of 2021, housing projects increased by 46% and completed homes improved by 87% over the past year. The large increase can largely be attributed to the decreased number of projects in 2020 due to Covid. The large number of permits issued during the four years of the Trump administration, when no pressure was applied to Israel to freeze building, should ensure construction over the green line continues for the next few years.

The Biden administration isn’t the only source of fear for advocates of more Israeli building in Judea and Samaria. During the current government’s coalition negotiations a few issues became sticking points in the talks. One of those issues was development in Judea and Samaria. At least three of the coalition parties oppose and three aren’t in favor of building in Judea and Samaria. While Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was once the director of the Yesha Council and is a promoter of robust building over the green line, it seems that his position in the coalition has inhibited his previous support of expanding Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria. Advocates of more building are facing the irony of having one of their own leading the country only to watch him turn his back on his base’s aspirations.

While the official American position for the time being is “the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not, per se, inconsistent with international law,” most of the international community considers settlement construction a violation of international law. Building in Judea and Samaria is essential to Israel’s future. Israel’s housing market is at the top of its 73-year bubble, with houses unaffordable for newly married families. Houses in Judea and Samaria are more affordable and affect the entire Israeli housing market. A building freeze would exacerbate Israel’s housing problem.

The demand that Israel not build in Judea and Samaria is based on the notion that this area – “The West Bank” – will eventually be a Palestinian state and every Jewish home takes away from that future Palestinian state. Yet, ask Palestinians if they think their state will be limited to the West Bank and they’ll respond, “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free.” The only people who think a potential Palestinian state will be confined to the West Bank are Americans who aren’t familiar with actual Palestinians and assume their opinions are considered in a corner of the world that largely ignores outsiders.

Stopping to build in the West Bank as an appeasement to the Palestinian desire for a state will start in the West Bank but won’t stop until it ends in Haifa, Jaffa and Jerusalem. Only by continuing to build in Judea and Samaria will a Jewish state keep Jerusalem, Jaffa and Haifa as well.

I’m very happy that these 31 projects were approved. With a coalition composed of left and right wing parties, plus the pressure from Biden not to build, I was worried there wouldn’t be any permits issued for years. At the same time by the nature of these permits being issued – no private homes and the limited number of permits – it’s clear a compromise was reached between the right wing and left wing parties to build only public buildings. I also assume the lack of condemnation from the Biden administration and the State Department in response to the announcement of the 31 projects means the approvals were made in conjunction with the Americans. I must assume an agreement was worked out for no American criticism as long as the permits were limited in scope and quantity.

While I recognize it’s unlikely, the hesitancy shown by the new government to build over the green line demonstrates the necessity of Israel to finally annex Judea and Samaria. It is time to stop the absurd permit process that goes through the Ministry of Defense (the Civil Administration is under its auspices) instead of local municipalities, as it does everywhere else in Israel. Residents of Tel Aviv don’t have to wait years for the Minister of Defense to approve the building of a home for his children. There’s no reason a resident of Mitzpe Yericho should have to wait either.


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Rabbi Uri Pilichowski is an educator who teaches in high schools across the world. He teaches Torah and Israel political advocacy to teenagers and college students. He lives with his wife and six children in Mitzpe Yericho, Israel. You can follow him on Facebook, and on twitter @rationalsettler.