Work Halted on Park Being Built on Arab Land With Help of Israel Railways

Site in question is a 30-dunam area, half of which is owned by residents of the Palestinian village of Shivtin.

Israel Railways has been aiding the establishment of a park that was partly being built on private Palestinian land without a permit, near the Nili settlement in the West Bank. Following an inquiry by Haaretz, the Civil Administration has ordered that work be halted and that the area be restored to its former condition.

The site in question is a 30-dunam area, half of which is owned by residents of the Palestinian village of Shivtin, half a kilometer to the north of Nili. Officials at Mateh Binyamin Regional Council told Haaretz it was agreed with Israel Railways that waste soil from the digging of a tunnel near Latrun would be used to level the grounds of the settlement. The construction manager at the site said that every day a hundred double trucks unload soil at the park.

Mateh Binyamin Regional Council said the planning committee had issued all necessary permits for construction of the park in an area defined as "public land," and that the council is not responsible for any construction work carried out beyond that area.

Settlement researcher Dror Atkas said the topographic features of the area mean that the construction work that has been given the green light cannot be carried out without first leveling the lands belonging to Palestinians from the nearby village.

Atkas said that aerial photos prove the lands were cultivated until the end of the 1990s and that access to them was probably forbidden at the time of the second intifada, which began in 2000. "It turns out that not only does Israel remove natural resources from the West Bank at rock-bottom prices, it also exports back part of the waste it produces," he said.

Work began more than three months ago and is being carried out a short distance from the main road, but the Civil Administration ordered it to be halted only after Haaretz's inquiry. According to international law and Supreme Court rulings, an occupying power cannot make permanent use of occupied soil when that use is for the exclusive use of its citizens.

Israel Railways stated in response: "The waste soil is being transferred to specific sites, following approval and under the supervision of the relevant authorities. Israel Railways takes care to fully carry out the directives of the authorities, and every deviation brought to its attention is immediately addressed."