Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Israel approves plan for a new big new settlement and legalizes an 'illegal' one

The settlement of Gevaot. Photo: Eyal Hareuveni, B'Tselem.
Gevaot now: home to some 12 families in mobile homes.(Photo Eyal Hareuveni/B'tselem)

The Israeli movement Peace Now reports that the Minister of Defense approved the promotion of a plan to build 523 units in a new settlement called Gevaot, South-West of Bethlehem. This approval will allow the Higher Planning Council of the Civil Administration to convene and approve the depositing of the plan for public review. When the plan will be deposited, the public will be granted 60 days to file objections, after which the Planning Council will hear the objections and then approve the plan. After this final approval, tenders may be issued and the construction may start. This process may take a year or two, says Peace Now.
The plan existed already for some time, the human rights movement B'tselem mentioned the plan in 2009. The plan for the 523 units is part of a larger working-plan of the Ministry of Housing, both movements report, which may result in building a city for several thousands of units, 6.000 or even 13,000 units according to Peace Now.  Gevaot today is a site with several caravans. In 1984 Gevaot was established as a Military Base. During the 90’s the soldiers were replaced by Yeshiva students that occupied the 30 caravans on site. On 2003 the Yeshiva moved to Efrat and only few families stayed in Gevaot to keep the site alive. Officially Gevaot was never announced by the government as an independent settlement. In 1998 the site was included within the Municipal Borders of the settlement of Alon Shvut, which is located 3 km away from Gevaot. This way the Government can claim that the approval of the 523 units is not an establishment of a new settlement but an “expansion” of an existing settlement. Earlier this year it was reported that the Minister of Defense approved the promotion of 60 units in Gevaot, for a community of people with special needs. 

Left Nofei Nehemia, right Rechelim (in between: route 60) 
Peace Now also reports that the Israeli government as well secretly approved the 'non-authorized outpost' Nofei Nehemia' east of the settlement of Ariel: Following the Government decision of April 2012, to retroactively legalize three outposts (Rehelim, Sansana and Bruchin) and to declare them as a new settlements (see also here, Dutch), the Commander of the Central Command issued a few days ago a military order officially establishing the boundaries of Rehelim. According to reports, although the Government decision did not mention the Nofei Nehemia outpost, it turned out that the boundaries of the new settlement of Rehelim includes the outpost of Nofei Nehemia which is located nearly 2 km west of Rehelim, as a “neighborhood” of Rehelim.  
This authorization marks the government’s 10th authorization of illegal outposts, being the only government to ever authorize outposts.
Nofei Nehemia was established in 2002 and contains 32 mobile homes and in the past year another 12 permanent homes were built in it. According to the Quartet’s Road Map, which Israel is internationally committed to, Israel is obliged to evict all of the outposts that were established after March 2001. Nofei Nehemia is the fourth outpost that was established after 2001 that the government is now authorizing. The other three were Mitzpe Eshtamoa, Givat Sal’it and Elmatan (in all of which the Minister of Defense approved the promotion of plans that will legalize them as “neighborhoods” of existing settlements).

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