The IDF this week signed an order expanding the municipal boundaries of the Beit
El settlement to make way for a new housing project.
News of the
expansion order signed by OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Nitzan Alon was made
public only on Thursday.
The expansion of the Beit El settlement is part
of an agreement the government reached with 30 families who formerly lived in
the Ulpana outpost on the outskirts of the settlement.
agreed to peacefully leave their homes by July 1 as mandated by the High Court
of Justice, if the government agreed to build 300 new homes in Beit El. To
accommodate a project of that size, the IDF is handing over an adjacent Border
Police base to the settlement.
Harel Cohen, a Beit El spokesman, said
that he did not know how many of the 300 housing units would be built on the
site, but he estimated 150 to 200. Cohen said he welcomed the decision to expand
the settlement, where growth has been stagnant due to the lack of
Yariv Oppenheimer, executive director of Peace Now, said that to
the best of his knowledge, the land on which the Border Police base was located
was state land, and did not belong to the nearby Palestinian village of Dura
Still, he attacked the expansion plan, which he said awarded a
prize to settlers from Beit El who had built the Ulpana outpost without permits
on private Palestinian property.
“They broke the law, and now they are
getting more space from the government,” Oppenheimer said.
He added that
expanding the boundary line of a settlement also flew in the face of Israeli
pledges to the international community not to take more land for West Bank
But Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has supported settler
construction on state land. He has, however, taken a stand against unauthorized
Jewish building on private Palestinian property.
Ulpana residents have
said that the High Court has never adjudicated the status of the land on which
their homes were built, and simply accepted the state designation that it was
private Palestinian property.
They agreed to relocate peacefully, after
reaching an agreement that they believed benefitted the settlement movement. As
part of that agreement, the state is relocating the five stone apartment
buildings in which they lived to a tract of land in Beit El that is authorized