Under Pressure From Settlers, IDF Rebuilding West Bank Watchtower

The IDF is rebuilding a military position on a base it evacuated in April 2006 east of Beit Sahur near Jerusalem.

The IDF is rebuilding a military position on a base it evacuated in April 2006 east of Beit Sahur near Jerusalem. The ground work at the abandoned base, formerly known as Camp Shadma, began this week. Military sources said that they are only building a guard tower.

The building of the military position follows intensive efforts by settlers from Gush Etzion to gain approval for the establishment of a Jewish city on the site of the abandoned military camp and its environs.

Such a development would link up the neighborhood of Har Homa in Jerusalem and Gush Etzion in the West Bank.

Last Friday settlers held a ceremony at the site, where they learned that the army intended to build a watchtower on the site. According to a report by settler radio station Arutz Sheva on Sunday, Colonel Eran Makub, who is charged with securing the area, announced that the IDF intends to "rebuild an IDF position at Shadma."

Arutz Sheva noted that the decision to set up a military position at the site followed "determined efforts by the Committee for Jewish Shadma" and quoted the head of the Gush Etzion local council, Shaul Goldstein, who spoke at the ceremony.

"Establishing a [position] at Shadma is a sign that Shadma will become, with God's help, a thriving community and this thanks to the determined and consistent efforts of the Committee for Jewish Shadma," he said.

Goldstein added that the committee "was successful in its mission and will now be able to move forward and become a Committee for Jewish Jenin or Jewish Nablus."

Arutz 7 also reported that Herzl Yehezkel, who heads the Har Homa local committee, said at the ceremony that the contiguity of Shadma and Har Homa will prevent the spread of Arab construction, which he described as threatening to "choke off Har Homa."

Har Homa, which is described as a neighborhood of Jerusalem, is built on land that was appropriated over the years from Beit Sahur.

The IDF spokesman denied yesterday that there is any connection between the decision to set up a military position on the abandoned base and the efforts of the settlers.

"In accordance with an evaluation of the situation carried out by Central Command, it was decided to establish a guard post near the village of Beit Sahur, in order to ensure the security and order in the area. The claim that the decision to place this position at this site did not stem from only professional considerations is false," the IDF spokesman wrote to Haaretz.

The army spokesman also says that the building of a military position will not harm existing Palestinian structures in the area.

Prior to 1967, the site was the location of a Jordanian military camp, which one of the locals at Beit Sahur says was smaller and was used as a logistics base.

During the 1970s and 1980s, the IDF appropriated several hundred dunams of private land and declared them a closed military zone. During that time the owners of the land were not permitted access to their property.