Shlomo Ne'eman, head of the Gush Etzion Council, has sharply criticized a Defense Ministry decision to apply regulations intended to stem criminal activity in Judea and Samaria to the Jewish heads of local authorities.
The regulations were originally developed in order to curb Palestinian encroachments on Area C. "This is a very serious development, but I can't say I'm surprised," Ne'eman told Israel National News.
"They didn't coordinate anything with us," he added. "And the regulations are not being used for their intended purpose. With regard to Palestinian theft of state lands in Area C, things are only getting worse. But this development actively discriminates against the heads of the local councils in Judea and Samaria. Instead of using the regulations to enforce the law against criminals, it is being abused to punish administrative infractions."
Ne'eman took the opportunity to appeal to the government to make good on its commitments regarding the use of state lands. "Council heads have no interest in breaking the law," he stressed. "But successive governments have abandoned these lands, over the last two decades or more, and once abandoned the land does not lie empty -- it is seized by the enemy.
"Furthermore," he added, "where we were once encouraged to settle the hills, we are now told that if we so much as set up a children's playground on a hilltop, we are liable to be subject to a criminal investigation and put behind bars. They should be first enforcing the law in the Negev with the Bedouin there," Ne'eman said. "And in the Galilee too."
Asked why he says he is not surprised by this latest development, Ne'eman explains that the nature of the current government lends itself admirably to such moves.
"Area C is being abandoned, construction is frozen, settlers are vilified as violent... This is our experience with the current government, which is why I am not surprised," he said, noting that even though the ostensibly right-wing MKs of the New Hope party are in the coalition, this is nothing to celebrate.
"This government is not a unified whole. Each minister does as he pleases in the area under his purview. Even if the Housing Minister is sympathetic, that doesn't mean that the Defense Minister is obligated to authorize construction plans. Each minister seeks only to satisfy his own voter base. That's the situation right now."