Israel Set to Approve First Settlement Housing Construction in Over a Year

Permits seen as attempt by Defense Minister Ya’alon to appease settler leaders after High Court ordered demolition of two illegal structures in settlement of Beit El.

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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Construction in the Jewish settlement of Ma'ale Adumim.
Construction in the Jewish settlement of Ma'ale Adumim. Credit: Emil Salman
Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

The Civil Administration in the West Bank is set to grant permits for the construction of a total of 906 new housing units on Thursday, the first such approval in a year.

The permits are seen as being part of an attempt by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to appease settler leaders following a High Court ruling that two illegal structures in the settlement of Beit El must be demolished.

Among the permits to be issued by the Civil Administration’s planning and building committee today is approval for the construction of 296 units in Beit El, to be built on the site of a Border Police base that will be evacuated. This construction is compensation for Beit El’s agreement to evacuate five buildings on the site known as Ulpana Hill, which had been built on private Palestinian land.

In other parts of the West Bank, 112 new units are to be built in Ma’ale Adumim on a 50-dunam (12.5-acre) site originally zoned for public buildings. The Ma’ale Adumim municipality gave up its claim to the area, giving the green light to the residential construction.

In Givat Zeev, 381 new units will be built in a 152-dunam area in the neighborhood known as Agan Ha’ayalot, and will be earmarked for an ultra-Orthodox population. In the settlement of Psagot, 24 buildings that are already standing will be retroactively approved. This is a complex built by the settlement association Amana, which is responsible for most of the illegal construction in the West Bank.

Another 22 buildings that were originally constructed illegally are to be retroactively approved in Giv’on, near Givat Ze’ev, as well as another 179 units built 20 years ago by Amana in the settlement of Ofarim.

In the settlement of Beit Arieh, construction of 27 units are to be approved. The original permit was withdrawn after it was discovered that the project encroached on a nature reserve. The plan was revamped, paving the way for its renewed approval.

Last year, the High Court ordered the demolition of the two buildings in Beit El, containing a total of 24 apartments, after the Palestinian landowners and the human rights group Yesh Din petitioned the court against the construction. However, the Civil Administration began moving ahead on granting a retroactive construction permit, on instructions from the defense minister, over the past month.

Last Wednesday, the Civil Administration heard the objection to the construction filed by the owners of the land. In an unusual step, it took only one day to reject the objection and retroactively approve the construction – with the stipulation that the building contractor would have to pay for evacuation and demolition of the buildings before he could receive new construction permits, if the High Court rejected his petition.

The office of the Coordinator of Government Actions in the Territories responded: “The committee’s decision was made after its members weighed all relevant considerations.”

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