Defense Chief Bennett Announces Task Force to Strengthen Israeli Settlement Activity

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett announced Wednesday that he had established a task force to develop plans for the future of Area C of the West Bank and then advocate on behalf of the plans.

Legal sources familiar with Bennett's plan said it may present some legal difficulties, as some of the proposed moves are effectively equivalent to annexing parts of the West Bank.

Bennett is a leader of the Hayamin Hehadash party, which has supported expanded settlement activity.  

“We are launching a campaign for the future of Area C; it started a month ago and I’m announcing it here today,” Bennett told a conference of the Kohelet Forum, a nationalist and economically conservative lobby. “The State of Israel’s policy is that the land in Area C belongs to [Israel].”

All of the settlements are in Area C, which comprises the 60 percent of the West Bank that is under full Israeli control, unlike other areas of the territory, where the Palestinian Authority exercises at least partial control. 

Over the past few weeks, leading settlement activists have been invited to a series of meetings with Bennett’s chief of staff, Itay Hershkowitz, where they raised a number of issues they believe could be advanced in the coming months, despite the limitations imposed on the current caretaker government, which will remain in office at least until the March 2 Knesset election.

The matters selected by Hershkowitz and the settlers include those that up to now have been seen as explosive. They include allowing Jews to privately buy land in the West Bank and hooking up unauthorized settlement outposts, including isolated ones, to water and electricity.