Israel's civilian planning committee for construction in the West Bank moved last week to green light some 2,200 new housing units within existing settlements and retroactively recognize two outposts, most likely in a bid to preempt legal attempts by Palestinians and rights groups to see the sites evacuated. The move is only preliminary and is still subject to changes before the new units break ground.
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The Higher Planning Council of the Civil Administration agreed to advance a master plan for the Ma’aleh Michmash area east of Ramallah that will retroactively approve two outposts and add thousands of homes to the settlements in the region. The plan includes the settlements of Ma’aleh Michmash, Rimonim, Kochav Hashahar, Tel Zion and Psagot, and the area south of the settlement of Ofra.
The plan was originally submitted in 2014, and last month Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon gave the green light for the council to discuss it. A hearing was held on October 21 and a decision was reached on November 3 and published on Thursday. Ya’alon’s adviser on settlement issues, Koby Eliraz, attended the council hearing, which is considered unusual.
The approval was apparently given in anticipation of a High Court of Justice hearing scheduled for Wednesday on a petition by the Yesh Din organization and Palestinians from the area who want to evacuate the Mitzpeh Danny outpost, which the plan seeks to recognize.
Under the plan, by 2030 there will be 800 homes in Ma’aleh Michmash, which serves as the central land reserve in the region, while 300 more homes will be added to Kochav Hashahar. All told, some 2,200 homes will be added to the area’s settlements. To reach that ambitious goal, the plan seeks to regularize the Mitzpeh Danny and Neveh Erez outposts. The plan also includes tourism sites and an education complex.
The Higher Planning Council agreed to submit the plan for public comment, subject to augmentations the council is demanding. This is only a very preliminary stage in the process on the route to construction; after the comment period there will be hearings on the objections, after which the plan will be submitted for validation. Later on, it will be possible to draw up more limited plans that will lead to actual construction.