The security cabinet unanimously approved the establishment of a new settlement near Shiloh on Thursday night for families evacuated from Amona. This is the first time the government has sanctioned a new settlement in 25 years.
The approval came at a security cabinet meeting that was also set to discuss the recent US efforts to energize the diplomatic process, as well as the three-week-old talks with Washington regarding new settlement construction guidelines.
Following the security cabinet’s approval, the rest of the members of the government were called to vote on the move.
The Prime Minister’s Office did not release any information regarding the contours of the new guidelines for settlement construction being hammered out with Washington.
According to a statement following the meeting, Netanyahu announced that some 2,000 new housing units – out of the 5,700 that were announced two months ago – have now been approved for marketing. In addition the cabinet was told that 90 hectares (222 acres) of land near Eli has been declared state land.
The settlement approved is an outgrowth of a promise Netanyahu made the 40 Amona families before their evacuation that the government would formally authorize a new settlement for them by March 31. Netanyahu, through his chief of staff Yoav Horowitz and US Ambassador Ron Dermer, has been holding discussions for nearly three weeks with the Trump administration about new guidelines for settlement construction. The US team is headed by Trump’s envoy Jason Greenblatt.
The idea behind these talks is to reach an agreed upon formula governing settlement construction to remove it as a constant point of contention in the US-Israeli relationship, as it was under former US president Barack Obama.
Right-wing politicians fear the announcement of the new settlement will be used to sugarcoat an agreement on the guidelines that may severely curtail settlement construction outside of the main settlement blocs.
The Knesset Land of Israel Caucus wrote an urgent letter to Netanyahu and to ministers urging them not to make such a link.
“We are asking each one of you to fiercely object to any constraints on settlements in Judea and Samaria,” said caucus cochairmen MKs Yoav Kisch (Likud) and Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi).
“Certainly, do not agree to any freeze or any limits on building outside the blocs,” they wrote. “Acceptance of the concept of the blocs, is akin to accepting a Palestinian state… There is no justification for a right-wing government to do this.”
Although Netanyahu publicly accepted the idea of two states for two peoples in his 2009 Bar-Ilan speech, he has been under pressure from the caucus to rescind that statement.
The Amona families issued a similar call, noting that the issue of a new settlement was a contractual one and had nothing to do with talks between Israel and the US.
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