Is PM giving up on plan to expand PA cities?

Prime Minister reportedly claimed he 'doesn't recall' approving plan to massively expand PA city close to Green Line and other PA cities.

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David Rosenberg,

Binyamin Netanyahu
Binyamin Netanyahu
Marc Israel Sellem/POOL

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu may be reconsidering support for a controversial decision which would cede Israeli-controlled land in Judea and Samaria to Palestinian Authority towns and allow for massive expansion in Qalqiliya, an Arab city close to the Green Line, Channel 2 reports.

Last week it was revealed that the cabinet had approved a plan backed by the Prime Minister to transfer land in Area C – under full Israeli control – to the Palestinian Authority for the expansion of Qalqiliya, which is close to the Green Line and major Israeli population centers including Kfar Saba.

The plan would enable Qalqiliya to add some 14,000-15,000 housing units, more than doubling the city’s size and bringing it to within just yards of the border with pre-1967 Israel.

According to MK Ahmed Tibi (Joint List), the plan also provides for significant expansion in other PA cities including Ramallah, Hevron, Jenin, Tulkarem, and Shechem.

“The decision which was shown to the Palestinian side more than a week ago talked about expansion not only in Qalqiliya, but also in Shechem, Jenin, Tulkarem, Ramallah, and Hevron,” Tibi told Army Radio.

Right-wing ministers and MKs blasted the decision, with Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) calling it lopsided and unfair to Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria, while Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (Likud) said the move was ‘inherently damaging’.

On Sunday, Culture Minister Miri Regev (Likud) said she and other opponents of the plan had discussed the matter with the Prime Minister.

"In today's meeting, we discussed the issue with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu," Regev said. "I think that when we see what we're seeing, that the Palestinians constantly build in Areas A and B, we see it in Shechem, Ramallah, and other areas - there's no reason for them to build in Area C. For sure, there is no reason to approve 14,000 housing units when Jews are not allowed to build at all."

Following the backlash, Netanyahu appeared to be rethinking his support for the plan, claiming in a meeting of coalition leaders Sunday that he did not recall approving the construction in Qalqiliya.

According to Channel 2, despite his criticism last week of those who attacked the decision, on Sunday Netanyahu said he couldn’t remember the cabinet decision in question.

“I can’t remember the cabinet decision made regarding the expansion of Qalqiliya, either,” Netanyahu reportedly said.

The comment was made after the Prime Minister agreed to reopen the decision for debate, following the firestorm of criticism it ignited over the past few days.