Ofra - Gili Magen-Cohen - 16/6/2011
Construction in Ofra, June 16, 2011. Photo by Gili Magen-Cohen
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Israel announced on Thursday the initiation of a municipal plan that would retroactively legitimize structures in one of the largest West Bank settlements, and which were built on private Palestinian land.

There are three kinds of land in Ofra, the West Bank's largest settlement: The settlement's original tract of land; land expropriated by the Jordanians; and land expropriated by Israel, which designated exclusively for the construction of public structures.

Over 58% of Ofra's structures are built on private Palestinian land, a fact which has delayed potential construction plans.

However, in an attempt to allow further construction in Ofra, the state told the High Court of Justice on Thursday that it was drafting a jurisdiction plan for Ofra, the legal significance of which would be the retroactive approval of past construction plans, even on private Palestinian land.

The plan has another objective, which is the following of a 2005 state report, according to which constructions plans would be approved in settlements only if they possess a defined jurisdiction.

Israel's announcement came during a High Court hearing of an appeal made by the residents of nearby Palestinian villages against any new construction in the lands originally appropriated by Jordan.

In response, the state said that the building would indeed be approved, but that any construction would cease for the time being.

Dror Etkes, who has been aiding the Palestinian families in their legal battle against further construction on private lands, said that the move "at once cleared the smoke screen that the settlers and the state have been trying to keep for years in regards to the land on which Ofra was founded."

"It's clear that out of the thousands of dunams the settlers took control of, only a few dozen were actually purchased. The rest was just looted from their owners," Etkes added.