According to a report from Israel Hayom, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has placed a “de facto” freeze on settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank by not allowing a council that advances construction plans to meet.
Israel Hayom cited sources from settler communities in the West Bank who said Bennett has not allowed the Civil Administration Zoning Committee, known as the High Planning Council, to hold a meeting to approve construction due to US pressure. “This is tantamount to complete capitulation to US dictates,” one source said.
The council normally meets every three months but has not convened since January. The report said former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wanted to schedule a meeting, but the move was prevented by Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who thought the new government should set the date.
While Bennett hasn’t allowed the High Planning Council to convene, he is not against settlements and advocates the annexation of the Jordan Valley and other parts of the West Bank. If he is delaying major construction, it is likely just an effort not to butt heads too much with the Biden administration right out of the gate.
A smaller subcommittee of Israel’s Civil Administration met in June to approve 31 zoning plans in the West Bank settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim. The subcommittee that met in June approves smaller projects, while the High Council handles larger construction.
Israel advanced a record number of settlements under the Trump administration. According to the Israeli NGO Peace Now, Israel advanced plans for over 12,000 settlement homes in 2020, the highest number since the group started keeping track in 2012.