The Civil Administration in the West Bank is considering reducing the size of a nature reserve in the South Hebron Hills to enable the expansion of the settlement of Negohot and the legalization of a nearby outpost.
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Negohot was established in 1998, and for years it had no authorized master plan that would enable legal construction. Nevertheless, houses were built there, and the settlement is currently home to some 30 families.
Later an outpost was built on a nearby hill, and even though it has been served with an order that would enable its immediate evacuation, a few more families are living there.
Another outpost was built across the road, in the Nahal Negohot nature reserve, consisting of one house and a few grapevines. The Civil Administration razed the house in 2009, but it has since been rebuilt and the administration has taken no further action.
Over the past year, due to political pressure from the right, work has begun to legalize Negohot and its outposts. In May, Central Command chief Nitzan Alon signed an order that defined the settlement’s boundaries for the first time; these boundaries include 240 dunams (59 acres) of the nature reserve.
Negohot is now working on a master plan that would legalize its existing houses and allow additional units to be built, both in the main settlement and in the nature reserve.
Documents and testimony obtained by Haaretz show that the Civil Administration is seriously considering this plan, which would effectively shrink the nature reserve to permit construction. The plan was recently presented to planning professionals at a meeting convened by the administration’s planning office, and the experts are now studying it. Once they issue their recommendation, the matter will be forwarded to senior administration officials for a decision.
Amana, the construction arm of the Yesha Council of settlements, is pressing administration officials to approve the plan.
The Mount Hebron Regional Council said it “is sensitive to the value of nature and has proved this more than once in the past. The [construction] plan is located about half a kilometer from the grove. Moreover, the area in question was never declared a nature reserve.”
The Civil Administration said Haaretz’s information is “erroneous and misleading. We have no intention of legalizing and annexing the land on which Ben David illegally squatted [the outpost in the nature reserve]. Any claim or hint of an attempt at legalization is false and distorted.”