A representative from the Ministry of Settlements and National Missions, under the responsibility of Minister Orit Strook from the Religious Zionist Party, has joined the Subcommittee for Settlement of the Civil Administration, the body responsible for approving construction for settlers in the West Bank. This is a significant change in the composition and nature of the committee, transitioning from a military body under the Civil Administration, to a body that operates according to the interests of the State of Israel and the settlement enterprise.
During a meeting of the Higher Planning Council on May 31, 2023, it was decided to add a representative from the Ministry of Settlements and National Missions as a member of the Subcommittee for Settlements of the Higher Planning Council within the Civil Administration. The appointment was made in accordance with Government Decision No. 137 dated February 19, 2023.
This appointment is a significant step in transforming the committee into a rubber stamp for the Religious Zionist Party ministers, Orit Strook and Bezalel Smotrich. It is important to emphasize that the implications are beyond the mere addition of a sole committee member. Until now, the planning and construction committees in the occupied territories were under military control because these areas are occupied and not part of the State of Israel.
The Subcommittee for Settlement operated under the management of military personnel or civil administration employees, with the exception of a representative from the Ministry of the Interior and a representative from the Ministry of Transportation, whose presence in the committee is due to their responsibility for new settlements. According to international law, the military is obligated to act in the best interest of the protected residents, both Israelis and Palestinians. Even before the appointment of the representative from the Ministry of Settlement Affairs, decisions of the committee were often made based on political interests rather than necessarily objective considerations.
In contrast, a government representative on the committee is obligated by law to act in the interests of the State of Israel and its citizens. In the case at hand, the representative is committed to the interests of the Ministry of Settlements and National Missions.
Until recently, the Subcommittee for Settlement operated, at least superficially, as a professional and objective body. However, the appointment of Minister Strook alongside the responsibility transferred to Minister Smotrich over the planning committees, while concurrently serving as the authorized minister over the Civil Administration, weakens its professional role, undermines proper administration, and turns it into a rubber stamp for the benefit of the settlers. For more information on the planning process, click here.
The Subcommittee for Settlement of the Civil Administration
The Subcommittee for Settlement of the Civil Administration is responsible for Israeli construction in the West Bank. This committee serves as a regional committee that approves all plans related to Israeli settlements in the area. It also serves as an advisory committee to the authorized body responsible for issuing permits in the occupied territories for military purposes when it comes to plans in areas under military control (Order 997).
The committee consists of ten members, eight of whom are representatives from the Ministry of Defense and the Civil Administration, including a legal advisor. Additionally, there is one representative from the Ministry of the Interior and one from the Ministry of Construction and Housing. The committee is subject to and managed by the Civil Administration as a planning body in the area under military control. The representative of the Minister of the Interior sits on the committee due to the ministry’s responsibility for all cities and towns in the country, including Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The representative of the Minister of Construction and Housing sits on the committee due to their responsibility for government construction plans in Israel.
Alongside the Subcommittee for Settlements, there is a separate subcommittee called the Subcommittee for Planning and Licensing, which approves Palestinian construction plans in Area C (mostly not approved). The composition of this committee remains unchanged.
Peace Now: “The Israeli government led by Smotrich and Strook is driving towards de facto annexation of the West Bank. The appointment of a settler representative to the Subcommittee for Settlement brings the fox to guard the henhouse. Step by step, the government is reshaping the role of the Civil Administration, from a military body to a civilian one responsible for the settlement enterprise. Israel is choosing to serve the settler interest and transform all residents of this land, Israelis and Palestinians alike, into hostages of a messianic and fanatic idea that sanctifies the land over the value of life itself.”