‘Start plan­ning for a mil­lion set­tlers in Area C’

Elkin tells J’lem con­fer­ence on set­tle­ment: From the Jor­dan to the sea, ‘there will be one state’

The Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By TOVAH LAZAROFF

Is­rael must start plan­ning for a mil­lion peo­ple in Area C of the West Bank, Jerusalem Af­fairs Min­is­ter Ze’ev Elkin and set­tler lead­ers said on Tues­day.

“This will hap­pen – it is only a ques­tion of when,” Elkin said, adding that it could be any­where be­tween the next 10 to 20 years, de­pend­ing on the pace of con­struc­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the Cen­tral Bureau of Sta­tis­tics, 400,000 peo­ple lived in West Bank set­tle­ments in 2016.

Drop­ping a word of Ara­bic slang, Elkin dis­missed the idea of a Pales­tinian state in the West Bank.

“Halas (enough) with the story of two states. There is no other op­tion but the state of Is­rael, cer­tainly be­tween the Jor­dan [River] to the sea there will be one state.”

Elkin spoke in Jerusalem at a spe­cial con­fer­ence on pop­u­la­tion growth in Judea and Sa­maria ti­tled “On the Way to a Mil­lion,” that was spon­sored by Amana, the con­struc­tion arm of the set­tle­ment move­ment.

The cur­rent pace of hous­ing of less than 3,000 a year, is not enough to al­low for such a pop­u­la­tion spike, Elkin said. Ul­ti­mately 100,000-120,000 new apart­ment units are needed, he added.

Elkin urged the re­gional coun­cil to start pre­par­ing tech­ni­cal plans for growth even if it seems as if the ap­provals would never hap­pen.

“If this had hap­pened in the ‘80s, the ques­tion would not be how to get to one mil­lion,” Elkin said.

“Ad­vance plans with all your might as if it is pos­si­ble to­day, as if you could cre­ate a zon­ing plan for one thou­sand homes and ex­e­cute it,” he said.

“If ev­ery­one does this, I be­lieve that the num­bers will be­come the re­al­ity of our lives. They will change the en­tire out­look with re­gard to diplo­macy se­cu­rity and set­tle­ments and will show ev­ery­one that there is no turn­ing back here,” Elkin said.

Amana head Ze’ev Hever, known as Zam­bish, gave a rare pub­lic speech.

He ex­plained that growth was not uni­form but would oc­cur in cer­tain spe­cific set­tle­ments, such as Ariel, which could dou­ble in size to reach about 40,000 peo­ple and Efrat, which could more than dou­ble, hit­ting a pop­u­la­tion of 20,000.

In the his­tory of the set­tle­ment move­ment, its sup­port­ers have looked for mark­ers for that mo­ment when it be­comes clear that their pres­ence is ir­re­versible.

Ini­tially, “we thought that when we reached 50,000 res­i­dents in Judea and Sa­maria, we were done,” Hever said.

He was en­cour­aged by the sur­pris­ing state­ments the new Labor party head Avi Gab­bay has made about the set­tle­ments, given that his move­ment sup­ports a two-state so­lu­tion and in the past has only sup­ported those set­tle­ments in the blocs.

Gab­bay has echoed Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu in stat­ing that there was no need to up­root the set­tle­ments.

Hever said he did not be­lieve this was just an elec­toral gam­bit.

Gab­bay’s words show that “the set­tle­ments are es­tab­lished in the peo­ple of Is­rael’s heart and any­one who wants a lead­er­ship po­si­tion has to say such things. I be­lieve that this is his true in­ten­tion,” he said.

Hever cau­tioned the res­i­dents of Judea and Sa­maria to re­mem­ber the they were emis­saries of the peo­ple of Is­rael and that the day “we stop lis­ten­ing to the voice of the peo­ple, we will not be able to ful­fill our mis­sion.”

On Mon­day, the left-wing group Peace Now is­sued a re­port about the in­creased set­tle­ment ac­tiv­ity in 2017 not­ing that, to date, plans had been ad­vanced for 6,742 new set­tler homes and 3,154 ten­ders had been is­sued.

Last year, plans were ad­vanced for 2,613 homes and 42 ten­ders were is­sued, Peace Now said. In 2014, plans were ad­vanced for 6,929 units and ten­ders were is­sued for 2,359 homes.

Ac­cord­ing to the Cen­tral Bureau of Sta­tis­tics, 2,934 set­tler houses ac­tu­ally broke ground in 2016. The num­bers this year are lower. In the first half of the year, ground was bro­ken for only 646 homes.

“The past few months have seen un­prece­dented de­vel­op­ments in the set­tle­ments, caus­ing se­vere dam­age to the chances of a two-state so­lu­tion,” Peace Now said.

“With­out any of­fi­cial dec­la­ra­tions, the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment is prevent­ing the vi­a­bil­ity and con­ti­gu­ity of a fu­ture Pales­tinian state, while treat­ing lands in area C as its own. The im­pli­ca­tions of the above men­tioned de­vel­op­ments are far-reach­ing for Is­rael, the Pales­tini­ans and the re­gion as a whole,” it added.

(Miri Zahi)

ZE’EV ELKIN speaks on Tues­day at the ‘On the Way to a Mil­lion’ con­fer­ence in Jerusalem about pop­u­la­tion growth in Judea and Sa­maria.

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