On July 30, Israel’s security Cabinet approved a plan by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to build 715 housing units in Palestinian villages in Area C of the West Bank, which is under Israeli control. Cabinet members were asked to approve the plan by phone — a procedural move generally reserved for urgent or unusual decisions. What made the ministers rush to vote on construction for Palestinians? The answer was apparently supplied the following day when President Donald Trump’s envoy Jared Kushner dropped in for a few hours to discuss his father-in-law’s peace plan for the Middle East with Netanyahu. The timing of the brief visit, at the height of Israel’s election campaign, was especially strange given its focus on a peace plan that no one wants. According to a July 31 report in the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, Trump plans to hold a peace summit at Camp David with Arab leaders even before Israel’s Sept. 17 elections, in a bid to help Netanyahu’s re-election.
Either way, resolving the mystery is a no-brainer. Uber-hawk Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich (of the United Right) voted in favor of the Palestinian permits but his unexpected support should come as no surprise. As he explained in detail, Israel plans to turn US pressure into a construction boom for the settlers. "Now, finally, thank God, comes the twist in the Israeli government's approach to the spread of the terrorist cancer within us.… Israel is forming a strategic plan to stop the creation of a Palestinian state inside the country," he wrote on Facebook. “For the first time, the State of Israel will implement its sovereignty and responsibility for the entire area.… No more approval of building plans proposed by the Palestinian Authority that serve its interest. For the first time, Israel will create a toolbox for enforcement and forceful neutralization of the Palestinian takeover plan."