Netanyahu to head new ministerial committee on Jewish communities

Three days after the controversial eviction of Jewish families from two Hevron buildings on Friday, coalition partners Habayit Hayehudi and Likud agreed to resolve the case through a special legal mechanism and establish a committee to handle future such cases.

Friday saw some 80 Jews removed at a flashpoint in the city, under the orders of Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. Despite their claims that they had legally purchased the homes from Palestinian owners, Ya’alon said they had failed to obtain the necessary occupancy permits from the defense establishment and were therefore trespassing.

The newly formed committee, to be headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, will oversee the government’s response to similar cases. Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett asked to establish the committee as per Article 77 of the coalition agreement between Likud and Habayit Hayehudi, which stipulates that “a ministerial committee will be established to deal with Jewish communities in areas of high national priority, towns bordering Gaza and remote areas.” The committee includes two Habayit Hayehudi ministers: Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Uri Ariel and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. According to the Prime Minister’s Office, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri will serve as deputy chairman.

Although the panel will be tasked with coordinating construction across Judea and Samaria with law enforcement authorities and the defense establishment, and will review’ occupancy petitions, the ministerial committee’s decisions will not supersede the defense minister’s decisions on construction and occupancy of new housing units in that region. The Prime Minister’s Office further stressed Monday that Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon would continue to hold exclusive authority on such matters, despite Habayit Hayehudi’s request to limit his powers.

Netanyahu and Bennett also agreed to work together to resolve the outstanding legal issues surrounding the disputed homes in Hebron in an effort to see the Jewish occupants return.