Avraham Shvut, one of the founding planners of the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria, sees the approval of 5400 units as a mockery and as further evidence of the construction halt in Judea and Samaria.
Avraham Shvut, among the first designers of the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria, responds to the celebratory reports on the approval of 5400 residential units throughout Judea and Samaria with deep disappointment. This is both due to the small number of residential units compared to the true needs of the population in Judea and Samaria as well as how the step is treated as some kind of news, while it is actually because of severe bureaucratic procrastination and further evidence of the difference in the situation of Judea and Samaria compared to other parts of the country.
In an interview for the Sovereignty Website, Shvut explains that while the heads of the council “went out of their way to say how wonderful the decision is”, in his words, it is actually too little, too late and in fact, almost nothing. In fact it is further evidence of the diplomatic and political procrastination to prevent the construction of tens of thousands of housing units”.
Shvut speaks of a number of extremely troubling parameters, among which is that it is political directives that dictate even whether the Supreme Planning Council, which is the organ that approves construction in Judea and Samaria, will convene or not.
As long as Israeli sovereignty is not applied over Judea and Samaria, building in these areas is not carried out in accordance with the needs of the population, as logic would demand and as is acceptable throughout the country, rather, it is done in accordance with political and diplomatic directives.
As a result of this dependence on politics and diplomacy, the council meets only once every half year or less frequently, according to political decisions made by the Minister of Defense and Prime Minister.
“This phenomenon is intended to prevent the possibility of building in the Jewish communities”, he states.
Shvut is, as mentioned, one of the first planners of the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria from its inception, and as such, he remembers days when things were totally different. “During the Begin government in the eighties, the council met every time there were plans to be discussed. There were no political directives as to whether to convene or not”.
On the other hand, “After the Oslo Accords in the Rabin government, they determined that every decision should be taken only after the approval of the Ministry of Defense for every single meeting and that every phase would need to be approved anew by the Ministry of Defense”, says Shvut, noting that the path of every residential unit, from the first planning phases until the completion of construction, goes through one committee after another, and each stage is presented by the media as a new approval, while it is really nothing but another phase of the same construction.
Shvut notes that the it is the Defense Minister who makes the decision as to which plans the council will discuss and which will not be brought up for discussion. This causes an accumulation from one council meeting to the next of an increasing number of plans that have already passed every phase of planning in the local authority and the legal investigations of the status of the land, etc., but in reality, do not advance because of the need to receive political approval for every single phase.
“Plans from a professional point of view that could pass within one or two years, as it was in the seventies and the eighties, are dragged out for many years just because of the political question”, he states.
Shvut continues, criticizing the meager number of building units that were approved. And to this, he adds that if the Supreme Planning Council, as is acceptable in other parts of the country, had convened according to the needs of the population and not according to political and diplomatic considerations, there would not be 5400 housing units, but tens of thousands of units for which the various local authorities have already prepared pipelines according to the true pace of the population growth. All of this would have happened if only there had been a decision for Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria and then the regional conditions in these areas would be comparable to the norms throughout the country.
Shvut also relates to the claim made by some people on the Right that the approval of building units has a political advantage, even if the number of housing units is small, which is a de facto removal of the “Deal of the Century” leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state.
This claim is based on the sense that building in Judea and Samaria, even on a small scale, cancels the requirement for the freeze entailed in the “Deal of the Century”. But Shvut doesn’t agree and mentions that the plan allows for building within the communities, so the building of said housing units is included as “permitted” building, even according to the Deal of the Century. This means, he explains, that the limited and restricted construction approvals do not block the American outline to establish a Palestinian state.