The Israeli security cabinet yesterday voted to postpone discussions regarding plans to expand the Palestinian city of Qalqiliya in the northern occupied West Bank.
According to Israeli news outlet Ynet, the security cabinet ruled for no further steps to be taken with regards to the plan, which would have seen some 5,000 housing units built in Qalqiliya, until it convenes to discuss the matter on 23 July.
The security cabinet also called on Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to issue a ruling on how control of Area C, the 60 per cent of the West Bank under full Israeli control, should be divided between the Israeli army and government, and how this would affect the plan.
“This is the first step in the right direction,” Yossi Dagan, the head of the Samaria Regional Council for illegal Israeli settlements in the northern West Bank, told Ynet.
“I call on the prime minister to complete this move and remove this absurd plan… from the agenda, and dedicate more time to advancing construction plans for the citizens of the State of Israel in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and all over the country,” Dagan added, using the Israeli term for the occupied West Bank.
The security cabinet decided in late 2016 to expand the municipal boundaries of Qalqiliya into Area C, where Palestinians are essentially prohibited from building or developing without nearly impossible to obtain Israeli permits.
While a number of right-wing Israeli politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, claimed they were not fully aware of the plans, far-right wing Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who has been pushing the plan, has claimed that transcripts of cabinet meetings proved that high-level Israeli officials had been informed.
The expansion plan aimed to address the growing need for housing in Qalqiliya, whose population is expected to rise from 51,000 today to 80,000 residents by 2035.