Israeli media is reporting that Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz is promoting the construction of almost 5,000 new homes in West Bank settlements, which would be the first construction of its kind after a six-month freeze.
Reports say Gantz is expected to bring his plan to a construction committee next week, whose approval is necessary to move forward. Despite the freeze on settlement construction and the coronavirus pandemic, Israel has demolished a record number of Palestinian homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem this year.
Gantz’s move is seen as an effort to gain favor from settler leaders, who are unhappy with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent decision to pause annexation of parts of the West Bank to normalize relations with the UAE. Netanyahu says that despite the deal, annexation is “still on the table,” but the settlers and hard-right members of the Knesset do not seem to have much faith in the prime minister.
Gantz and Netanyahu agreed to a power-sharing deal after three back to back elections gave neither politician a clear victory. Under the agreement, Gantz will serve as the defense minister until November 2021, when he will take over as prime minister.
Another round of elections before the power transfer is expected, as Netanyahu and Gantz are at odds over the state budget. If a budget is not approved, it means another round of elections could be held. The deadline for either a new election or budget approval has been pushed back to December 23rd.