The Israeli government is moving forward with plans which if implemented could lead to a massive increase in the Jewish population in Judea and Samaria, Israel Hayom reported Wednesday morning.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Galant (Likud), and Minister in the Defense Ministry Bezalel Smotrich (Religious Zionist Party) met to finalize the process of transferring much of the Defense Minister’s authority over Israeli civilians in Area C of Judea and Samaria to Smotrich’s office.
The transfer is a key condition of the Religious Zionist Party’s membership in the current government, and was included in the coalition agreement between the RZP and the Likud.
A partial list of the planned reforms were leaked following a recent meeting between Defense Minister Galant and settlement leaders.
Once the transfer of authority over Area C is complete, according to Wednesday’s report, the government will drastically reduce bureaucratic red tape on Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria, but also will take a step towards the direct application of Israeli law in Area C – a move some critics have dubbed “mini-annexation.”
The latter reform would offer two major benefits for residents of Judea and Samaria: first, it would enable the expansion of infrastructure – including roads – in the area by allowing state authorities to gauge demand by the total population of Judea and Samaria, taking into account Palestinian Arab use of infrastructure, rather than estimating infrastructure needs solely based on the Israeli population.
The current limit on traffic infrastructure has led to massive traffic jams on some roads which are heavily used both by Israelis and Palestinian Authority residents.
Secondly, the “mini-annexation” plan would remove the Defense Ministry as a middleman which stands between Israeli residents of Judea and Samaria and other government ministries.
For example, the proposed reform would make it easier for the Environmental Protection Ministry to enforce existing regulations against the dumping of illegal liquid waste, the illegal burning of trash, and the illegal burying of waste – all three of which are common practices in many Arab villages in the area.
Other planned reforms would massively scale back the limits on Israeli construction, enabling rapid expansion of Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria.
At present, all Israeli construction plans for Judea and Samaria must be approved by no less than five different entities.
Under the plan now under consideration, the approval process would be streamlined, reducing the number of permits required from five to two, not only dramatically easing the process but shortening the time necessary to begin construction.
Furthermore, the reform plan would mandate more frequent meetings of the Higher Planning Committee, the key authority for authorizing new construction. Rather than meet once every three months, as had been the norm under the last Netanyahu government or once every six months under the previous government, the committee would be convened once a month under the reform plan.
Some 18,000 new housing units are pending approval from the committee, and are expected to be green-lighted in the coming months.
Finally, there are also plans to help fast track construction by creating a second planning committee, lightening the load of the primary committee, which would deal with all non-housing construction plans.