Israel to Expropriate Palestinian Land in Order to Build Sewage Treatment Facility

The Civil Administration asked nearby villages to be linked to the sewage plant in order to justify the confiscation, but they refused.

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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The Ofra sewage-treatment plant. Palestinian property owners argue it was built on privately held land.Credit: Dror Etkes
Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

The Civil Administration intends to confiscate 180 dunams (44.5 acres) of land belonging to residents of the villages Ein Yabrud and Silwad, in order to build a facility for treating the sewage of the West Bank settlement of Ofra, according to the planning documents that were submitted to the Supreme Planning Council.

The saga of Ofra’s sewage plant has been going on since 2007. In Ofra’s original building plan from the 1980s, which was never approved, an area was allocated for oxygenation pools, which were never built due to their proximity to the homes. As a substitute, in 2007 the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council began building the plant on land belonging to Palestinians from Ein Yabrud and Silwad – without any construction permit.

In 2008 the landowners and Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights, petitioned the High Court of Justice through attorneys Michael Sfard and Shlomi Zacharia, demanding that the facility be demolished. In reply to the petition, the state declared that it intended to issue a retroactive construction permit for it. The High Court ruled that the facility would not operate until it was approved. In order to prepare the site, the land must be confiscated.

But according to the law, Palestinian land cannot be taken for the sole benefit of settlers. In order to confiscate the land it must also serve the Palestinian population. The Civil Administration turned to the nearby villages and suggested that they be linked to the sewage plant, but they refused. As a substitute the Civil Administration decided to build an cesspool with a pipe that would reach the sewage plant, and in which the Palestinians would theoretically spill the sewage from their homes.

At the same time a criminal investigation was begun against regional council head Pinchas Wallerstein and his then-deputy and at present his successor, Avi Roeh. The investigation focuses among other things on the fictitious construction permit issued by the council that was given to the company that actually built the plant, as proof of the legality of the construction. The investigation file is on the table of the attorney general, who is supposed to make a decision.

“The state repeatedly promised not to confiscate private Palestinian lands for the settlements, and here we are once again witnessing a massive confiscation plan of private lands for the benefit of the settlement of Ofra,” said attorney Shlomi Zacharia of the Yesh Din legal staff, regarding the revelation of the plan.

After Passover the Civil Administration was supposed to conduct a discussion about legalizing the facility. This discussion has been postponed for now. In advance of the discussion the relevant documents were submitted, and they indicate that the Civil Administration intends to confiscate 180 dunams, although the actual facility covers an area of about 20 dunams. The plan also reveals that the aforementioned cesspool is not included in the plan, and therefore the sewage plant cannot serve the Palestinians, even theoretically.