Defense Minister Benny Gantz is reportedly promoting the construction of almost 5,000 new homes in occupied West Bank settlements, an unnamed source said on Sunday evening, September 7, after more than six months during which such construction has been frozen. The last time the far-right government promoted the construction of settler homes was in February 2020, when it lifted restrictions on the construction of the controversial Givat Hamatos settlement in occupied East Jerusalem, saying that 3,000 homes would be built for Jewish residents there, in addition to another 2,200 housing units for Jews in the nearby Har Homa settlement.
Gantz’s support for the renewed construction is seen as a maneuver by to cement ties with settler leaders who are fuming with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ever since he reneged last month on a longtime promise to annex the settlements and decided instead to normalize ties with the United Arab Emirates under US hegemony.
According to Gantz, apart from the settlements of Ma’ale Adumim, Gush Etzion and Ariel, hundreds of the homes are to be built in Beit El, Shilo, Nokdim, Har Bracha and the South Hebron Hills, according to the unspecified source. Gantz’s office reportedly sent a letter to Netanyahu’s bureau on Sunday, asking him to okay the move. The decision on whether to implement the request lies with Netanyahu, but the premier would likely face a fierce backlash from his right-wing base if he were to refuse Gantz’s initiative, months before national elections are widely expected to be triggered.
On Sunday the racist head of Yisrael Beytenu, MK Avigdor Lieberman, said during a visit to the Har Bracha settlement near Nablus, “The Right must rid itself of Netanyahu if it wants to see West Bank settlements annexed to Israel”. At a press conference with settler leaders Lieberman said, “Nothing will happen unless the Right openly opposes Netanyahu,” adding, “If you want something to happen, you must protest” and get rid of the long-time PM because of his agreement with the US to suspend annexation in favor of a deal with the United Arab Emirates. Lieberman, a resident of the settlement of Nokdim, supports both the Israel-UAE deal and the annexation of the occupied territories.
Lieberman’s Yisrael Beytenu Party is not part of the current far-right coalition. Netanyahu has often spoken of himself as the leader of the Right, but Lieberman disputes that title. “There is no connection between a government led by Netanyahu and a right-wing government. If there will be a right-wing government, I’ll be happy to join it,” Lieberman said.
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