Israel’s Defense Chief Okays Palestinian Children’s Hospital at Bethlehem

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Orthodox Jews at Givat Eitam, a hilltop near the Palestinian city of Bethlehem in the West Bank, September 30, 2007.
Orthodox Jews at Givat Eitam, a hilltop near the Palestinian city of Bethlehem in the West Bank, September 30, 2007.Credit: Marco Longari, AFP

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has approved the establishment of a children’s hospital for Palestinians in the Bethlehem area, drawing the ire of forces further to the right who fear Israel will make concessions on land.

The defense minister’s office added that the move was part of the hard-liner’s “carrot and stick” program for fighting terrorism announced earlier this month.

Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank said the plan, which has been delayed for around eight years, still needed its approval. This means the plan must go through the regular planning process, but Lieberman’s announcement is designed to get this process going.

The children’s hospital is expected to be funded by international institutions, including American organizations.

The hospital would be built at Shdema, near Beit Sahour, in the northwest part of the Gush Etzion settlement bloc. The facility would be built in Area C, which is under full Israeli control.

But critics on the right have harshly criticized Lieberman, including Oved Arad, a senior official at the nonprofit group Regavim that fights unauthorized Palestinian construction in the West Bank. He called Lieberman’s move “scandalous.”

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, center, with ministers Uri Ariel and Gila Gamliel, during a tour of Bedouin settlements in the Negev on August 29, 2016.Credit: Eliahu Hirschkowitz

“The Palestinian Authority has a range of possibilities to establish a hospital in Areas A and B, in which it can plan and build without a need for permits from Israel,” Arad said, referring to areas where the Palestinians have full and civilian control, respectively.

“The Palestinians are pushing to advance plans with strategic significance in Area C and on state lands with the goal of taking over areas under Israeli control,” Arad added. “In doing so they hope to achieve Palestinian territorial contiguity and strangle the natural growth of settlement in Gush Etzion.”

When the hospital plans were discussed in the past, the intention was to build on land that is now under a military appropriation order. The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories and the defense minister’s office say the narrowing of the appropriation order will be considered once the hospital plans are submitted, said sources involved in the matter.

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