Israel Defense Forces Central Command head Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs has been unilaterally undercutting official government policy by cutting down the number of forces allocated to the enforcement of Palestinian construction violations in Judea and Samaria, according to Israel Hayom.
As a result, the government’s policy of cracking down on illegal construction has never been fully implemented.
Data obtained by Israel Hayom shows that in recent weeks there has been a drastic decrease in measures against illegal Palestinian construction in Judea and Samaria because of the decision to draw down the number of forces who could be used to secure demolition operations in Palestinian towns—thus preventing the officials from executing such warrants and other enforcement-related actions.
Fuchs refused to heed a request to provide the troops required by the enforcement policy of Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who has been tasked with handling civilian matters in Judea and Samaria.
The minister sent a letter to Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanding that they instruct Fuchs to help implement enforcement operations. The letter accuses Fuchs of putting a spoke in the wheels of the government for non-professional reasons.
A source in the Civil Administration told Israel Hayom that “as far as the general is concerned, he is the sovereign on the ground. He sees Smotrich has scaled back tackling illegal Jewish construction, so he does not want to be suspected of selective enforcement that could result in legal action against him.”
Likud lawmakers slammed the major general following the Israel Hayom report. Likud MK Dan Illouz tweeted:
“The illegal construction among Arabs in Judea and Samaria is rampant. You can clearly see it on the ground. The political echelon sets the strategic agenda while the military echelon is the operator. This is how things must be conducted, otherwise, we will have anarchy. The general’s actions are beyond the pale.”
Netanyahu vowed in January shortly after the new government was sworn in to combat illegal Palestinian construction in Judea and Samaria.
“We’ll fight against illegal building by Palestinians,” said Netanyahu, who qualified that this did not mean that the government would “enable illegal Israeli building” in Area C, which is under full Israeli jurisdiction.
“What’s important to me is that all heads of the coalition parties agree upon this,” he added.
According to the Israeli NGO Regavim, there are more than 170 illegal outposts in Area C of Judea and Samaria, created by the Palestinian Authority and funded by the European Union. A Regavim report in October of last year found that illegal construction in Area C increased by 80 percent during the tenure of former defense minister Benny Gantz.
Israel to discuss measures to boost PA
In related news, the Israeli Security Cabinet on Sunday will discuss a series of economic and defense measures to boost the Palestinian Authority amid the deteriorating security situation in Judea and Samaria, according to Hebrew-language media reports.
The agenda will include the possible approval of a new industrial zone in Tarqumiyah, near Hebron, as well as easing the timeline for Ramallah’s debt repayments and freedom of movement for top PA officials.
In June, Israel green-lighted the development of a natural gas field off the coast of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
According to Channel 13, Israeli security officials warned the government that the moves needed to be implemented quickly to prevent the PA’s possible collapse.
The initiative is also intended to weaken Iran-backed terror proxies Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in PA-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria, according the reports.
Last Monday, the IDF launched a major counterterror operation in Jenin, including the entry into the Samaria city of significant ground forces.
More than 1,000 IDF troops participated in the two-day campaign, which is believed to be the largest deployment in Judea and Samaria in two decades.
Israel’s public broadcaster reported last month that Ramallah was mulling declaring bankruptcy, a decision that would entail the complete closure of official offices and thus lead to possible instability given that the PA is the largest employer in the areas under its control.
A large number of Palestinian security personnel have already resigned and are looking for work in the private sector, according to the report. In recent months, they have been receiving 80% of their salaries, and many have gone into debt, upon which the banks close their accounts.
Netanyahu told a Knesset panel recently that the PA would not be allowed to fail.
“We need the Palestinian Authority. We cannot allow it to collapse. We also do not want it to collapse. We are ready to help it financially. We have an interest in the PA continuing to work. Where it succeeds in operating, it does the job for us. And we have no interest in it falling,” said Netanyahu.
With reporting by JNS.
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