Naftali Bennett
Naftali Bennett Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett (New Right) held a series of discussions with professionals in his office, aiming to enact a far-reaching change in how the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria works, allowing the Justice Ministry to be in charge of land issues in that area.

Bennett told those in his office to examine a legal mechanism that will change the working policies, so that residents of Judea and Samaria will be treated similarly to those in other areas of Israel.

In a discussion last week, he also requested that officials in the Defense Ministry's legal department present him as soon as possible with several options for regulating the matter.

Currently, the Civil Administration's Staff Officer for Land Issues is under the authority of the Justice Ministry, but his daily work is essentially under the authority of the Civil Administration - a military body under the authority of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).

As a result, Jews living in Area C of Judea and Samaria who wish to construct new buildings must submit a request to the Staff Officer and undergo lengthy bureaucratic procedures, which can sometimes take several years. In addition, the process has led to some of the more complicated appeals regarding ownership of the land, such as in the cases of Netiv Ha'avot and Amona.

Under the Oslo Accords, Judea and Samaria were divided into three parts: Area A is under full Palestinian Authority (PA) civil and security control. Area B is under PA civil control, while Israel controls security. Area C is under full Israeli civil and security control. While Arabs live in all three areas, Jews are confined to Area C only, and accidentally entering Area A presents a risk to a Jew's life.

The new policies are expected to significantly shorten the bureaucratic processes, as well as subjugate the process to the Justice Ministry's Land Registry.

"We are in essence discussing applying procedural sovereignty only," Bennett said in closed conversations. "Full sovereignty is under the authority of the political echelon, but this is a step in the right direction."

"There is no reason that residents of Judea and Samaria should continue being discriminated against. We must stop this. Residents of Beit El and Ariel are no less Zionist than residents of Kfar Saba and Tel Aviv. They pay taxes and serve in the army, and they need to receive the same services from the government."