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February 14, 2023 8:29 am

Smotrich Vows Unrestrained Building in Judea and Samaria Despite US Opposition

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Buildings in the West Bank Palestinian village of Nazlat Isa are seen from the Israeli Arab town of Baqa al-Gharbiyye, Feb. 1, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Ammar Awad. – Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich vowed on Tuesday to promote unrestrained construction in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, despite opposition from the Biden administration.

“The real answer to [Palestinian] terror is to continue to build, to continue to set roots in the Land of Israel,” said Smotrich at a meeting of his Religious Zionism Party in Givat Harel, one of the nine outposts the Security Cabinet on Sunday unanimously decided to legalize.

“That is what we as a government, as a state, as a nation, must do. The settlement enterprise thrives thanks to the pioneers who have sustained it for many years, with great love and determination,” he said.

“The American response is entirely understandable,” he continued, but “the [Biden] administration knows that this government is committed to the settlements. There’s nothing wrong with two friends having disputes. They understand, and that’s the way things will continue.”

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Smotrich further said that the government needed to remove all restrictions on fully developing Judea and Samaria. “This area must be treated exactly as any other part of the State of Israel, and that is what will happen,” he said.

The Security Cabinet also announced on Sunday that the Civil Administration Higher Planning Committee, the Defense Ministry body responsible for authorizing new construction in Judea and Samaria, would be convened in the coming days to approve new residential units in other existing communities beyond the Green Line.

For his part, Smotrich, who also holds the post of minister in the Defense Ministry and has been tasked by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with overseeing the Civil Administration, said that he would soon advance plans to construct some additional 10,000 homes in Judea and Samaria.

In response, the US said it was “deeply troubled” by the prospective move to “advance reportedly nearly 10,000 settlement units and to begin a process to retroactively legalize nine outposts in the West Bank that were previously illegal under Israeli law,” according to a statement by Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday.

The State Department said its stance is in line with prior Democrat and Republican administrations that “strongly oppose such unilateral measures, which exacerbate tensions and undermine the prospects for a negotiated two-state solution.”

The Security Cabinet approved the measures after a terrorist attack in Jerusalem killed three Israelis, including children.

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