Construction at Har Homa
Construction at Har HomaIsrael news photo: Flash 90

A Knesset ministerial committee is discussing on Sunday a new bill to grant Jews in Judea and Samaria the same rights that other citizens enjoy by extending Israeli civil sovereignty, instead of the present military civil administration, to the area.

It would also, in effect, remove the authority of Defense Minister Ehud Barak to impose a de facto building freeze on construction for Jews.

The proposed legislation is sponsored by National Union party chairman Yaakov (Ketzaleh) Katz along with more than two dozen other MKs. A similar bill in the previous government was backed by 12 legislators who now are Cabinet ministers or deputies and not allowed to sponsor a ministerial committee bill. Also backing the former attempt was Binyamin Netanyahu, who now is Prime Minister.

MK Katz said that he expects the Likud officials to support the new legislation, just as they did previously. The former backers include Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz of Likud, Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov of the National Union, and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, a veteran Likud member.

“The time has come to begin to bring the 350,000 Jews in Judea and Samaria under Israeli government law” and not under military rule, MK Katz said. “It is not reasonable that they should be Class B citizens who are dependent on the whims of the Defense Minister, who decides the fate of building for Jews in Judea and Samaria.”

Passage of the bill would virtually block a freeze on building for Jews in Judea and Samaria, a policy officially rejected by Israel but in partial effect due to Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s refusal to approve hundreds of building requests. The bill removes his authority and transfers it to the Housing Ministry.

However, the proposed law would not officially annex Jewish communities as part of Israel, as has been done in the past for United Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.