Netanyahu Takes Steps to Control Settlement Policy
Policy making for Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria is moving from the Defense Minister's sole responsibility to the Prime Minister's Office.. The move could be the result of an initiative by Coalition Chairman MK Ze'ev Elkin (Likud) and MK Miri Regev (Likud), who demanded that authority over construction be taken away from Barak after they visited Efrat in February.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak had requested a delay in discussing any such action until he was to return from Paris. Nevertheless, on Sunday the government authorized the transfer of responsibility for the Settlement Department of the World Zionist Organization from the Agriculture Ministry, where it was put in the coalition agreement, to the PMO.
The Agriculture Ministry is headed by Atsmaut (Barak's breakaway from Labor party) MK Orit Noked, who followed Barak's policies.The Settlement Department, formed after the Six Day War, includes a budget for construction in Judea and Samaria.
In effect, the action removes from Barak's control chief responsibility and veto power for new settlement and building policies in Judea and Samaria and places it directly under that of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The defense minister's agreement will not be necessary in advance of decisions.
In response to questions from the media, however, a spokesperson said all decisions on construction in the regions would still be taken with the defense minister's cooperation. Moreover, the spokesperson claimed that the changes themselves had been made in cooperation with Barak, who has been in France for the 49th annual Paris Air Show.
The Defense Ministry had no comment on the report.
The government also authorized the addition of rooms to 2000 apartments in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood situated in the part of northern Jerusalem reunited with the city in 1967.