The settlement of Efrat in Gush Etzion violated building laws by building a youth club and another building illegally. An examination of aerial photographs of the settlement shows that the local West Bank council built two buildings and a park on an area that is outside the settlement’s jurisdictional boundaries that might be private Palestinian land.
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The Civil Administration has confirmed that the buildings were erected without permits and that stop-work orders were issued against them.
Historic aerial photographs show that the land in question was evidently cultivated, which, according to the rules that prevail in the West Bank, is a demonstration of ownership. That the plot is actually an enclave within the state lands on which the settlement was built, but which itself was never declared state land, indicates that the Civil Administration also believed it could not be declared as such.
Since this area is not part of Efrat’s urban plan, it would not have been possible to obtain building permits for these buildings, making them illegal construction. However, the buildings were completed despite the stop-work orders. Based on aerial photographs, construction started no later than 2012. In 2014 the youth club, called Yad Hagai, was inaugurated. The commander of the Givati Brigade at the time, Ofer Winter, is seen in photos from the opening ceremony for the building that the Civil Administration had ordered stopped.
“The settlement of Efrat has discovered the redeeming formula – building private homes on state land that was expropriated officially, while building public buildings on land whose theft the state has privatized,” said Dror Etkes of the anti-settlement research group Kerem Navot. “That’s how, in addition to the youth club, the settlement has built, with Housing Ministry funding, a library, parks and a parking lot on lands that it looted from its Palestinian neighbors, whose entry to those areas was deliberately prohibited.”
The Efrat local council said in response: “Yad Hagai is a youth club named for Capt. Hagai Lev, who was killed in battle in Gaza; it was erected eight years ago with funds from the family and donations. The second club was erected some 25 years ago for youth at risk. During all these years there has never been any contact by any Palestinian claiming that it was his private land. As always, the demolition request came from left-wing Jewish organizations who want to destroy Jewish settlement, not out of concern for Palestinians.”