Israel Police Find More Settler Construction on Palestinian Land

Waste purification plant near Ofra has been under investigation since 2009.

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

The Binyamin Regional Council is suspected of allowing a contractor to continue building a project on Palestinian land, even after it had received a stop-work order from the Civil Administration, police said on Tuesday, citing documented evidence.

Since 2009, the National Fraud Squad has been investigating the construction of a waste purification plant near Ofra, which was built on Palestinian-owned land at the initiative of the regional council and with partial funding from the state.

After it was completed, the Palestinian landowners, through the Yesh Din organization, petitioned the High Court of Justice to demolish the structure. The state responded that it was searching for a way to legally operate the plant, as it was desperately needed to treat Ofra's sewage, which had been flowing into local streams and polluting the mountain aquifer for 30 years.

But to expropriate the land from its Palestinian owners for public purposes, the plant would also have to serve Ofra's Palestinian neighbors. The plant, however, is too small to serve the neighboring Palestinian villages.

The High Court ruled that the plant could not operate until a legal solution is found. A civil suit has also been filed, demanding compensation for the landowners.

Meanwhile, the fraud squad began to probe suspicions that public funds had been illegally transferred to finance the treatment plant. Documents obtained by Haaretz indicate that in 2008, regional council chairman Avi Roeh issued a fictitious building permit for the site, although he had no authorization to do so because the Civil Administration had never approved a building plan in Ofra. The document states that the land had been confiscated for military purposes, when in fact it was registered in the name of a Palestinian.

A neighborhood under construction in the West Bank settlement of Ofra.Credit: Gil Cohen-Magen

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