Defense Minister Naftali Bennett asked the High Court for 45 days to formulate a policy on the open areas in Judea and Samaria and the attempts by the Palestinian Authority to take control of them.
In a hearing held last week, the High Court granted the request and rejected the petition by attorney Michael Sefard which seeks to allow a Palestinian Arab company to undertake massive development work near the new town of Amichai in Binyamin under the TABO project.
An extension was issued following the State announcement that "the defense minister wants to examine the issue in depth and discuss it with all relevant parties, since this is a complex issue that must also be examined in aspects and implications that deviate from the specific case."
The petition was filed by the Union Construction and Investment, which promotes and builds new neighborhoods and towns for the Palestinian Authority. Since 2011 the company has operated in open areas of Judea and Samaria.
Attorney Boaz Arazi, who represents the residents of Amichai and Shiloh, asked to participate in the hearing as the residents have a major stake in the outcome. He stated that this is not an innocent entrepreneurial-economic company but a company, one of many, that writes on its Facebook page that its mission is "to challenge settlement expansion Israeli through ownership by the Palestinian people."
Arazi also added that the company has been working "for the Palestinian Authority as of 2011," quoting from the controlling shareholder of the company attached to the petition. In response, attorney Sefard sought to amend the affidavit, to delete the word "for the Palestinian Authority" and to substitute "in the Palestinian Authority." Chief Justice Yitzhak Amit smirked at the request, saying that the requested change was not a minor change.
Sources involved in the issue said that the defense minister's decision to examine the issue in principle was based on new data presented to the minister and his bureau, indicating that the PA is conducting an accelerated process of seizing open spaces that threatens Israeli assets such as Israeli towns and major centers.
"TABO is just a case study," the officials stated. "There are many instances of fact-finding, accelerated development and construction by other developers, all related to the authority. In some cases, the Palestinian construction trend is to confine settlements and settlement blocs, such as in the Ofra area, in the area of Ma'ale Levona or in the Ariel area, and subsequently create real enclaves, hurting the sense of security of Israeli residents and creating a sense of a 'tightening ring' around the communities."
The residents of Amichai and Shiloh welcomed the defense minister's position: "We are strengthening the defense minister's hands and are very happy for his principled and controlled approach. It is impossible to close your eyes in the face of the PA's uninhibited construction and its envoys in all open spaces. It is impossible to hide behind the arbitrary division into Areas A, B, and C."
"The authority is building entire neighborhoods and new villages where it wants and when it wants, even when it is close to us and strangles us. We must not allow it and must not give it a hand. The Palestinians themselves have repeatedly stated that the division into Areas A, B, and C and the Oslo Accords are null and void. Israel must protect residents in Judea and Samaria even if it violates the Oslo Accords," the residents added.