The state is to fund the construction of four public buildings in the West Bank settlement of Beit El as part of a compensation package for the voluntary evacuation of illegal buildings there in the summer of 2012, according to documents that have reached Haaretz.
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By conservative estimates, the construction of the four structures will cost about 5 million shekels per building, to be allocated from the state budget. This funding will be added to the millions of shekels that the state has already spent on Beit El.
In the summer of 2012, the state evacuated five of the 14 buildings that had been constructed north of Beit El in the neighborhood of Ulpana Hill. The buildings belonged to the Company for the Development of Beit El’s Yeshiva Complex, which was managed by CEO Yoel Tzur and the settlement’s then-rabbi, Zalman Baruch Melamed. Before the evacuation, Yaakov Katz, then an MK, organized young people who began to prepare to resist. As a result, Minister Gilad Erdan held marathon talks with the heads of the yeshiva and agreed to grant them an unprecedented benefit package in return for their agreement to a peaceful evacuation.
The state refuses to reveal the exact agreement reached with the yeshiva. Even a request by the Movement for Freedom of Information was rejected with the claim that no such agreement exists. Since the evacuation, it has emerged that the state promised to build the evacuated structures anew (a move that has not been carried out), to grant building permits for 90 housing units for the teaching staff at the Beit El yeshiva, to evacuate the Border Police base in the settlement and convert it into a neighborhood with 300 housing units, to pay the rent of evacuated settlers who moved to prefabricated houses and to fund the expansion of the settlement’s Torah study center.
Documents that have reached Haaretz show that Beit El stands to receive further benefits from the state. A source in the World Zionist Organization’s settlement division said that according to instructions handed down by the Prime Minister’s Office the state is to build four additional structures in Beit El: a religious girls’ high school, a local council headquarters, a community center and a further building for public use whose purpose has yet to be decided on. The buildings are still in the planning stage, and 2 million shekels have already been earmarked to cover architects’ costs.
Simultaneously constructing five public buildings — four of which are in the planning stage while the yeshiva’s expansion began in November — in a small community numbering some 7,000 residents is considered an irregular move at a time when local authorities battle every year for funding from government ministries, the Mifal Hapayis national lottery and fundraising.
Erdan had not responded by press time.