Dreams of building the fifth West Bank Jewish city moved one step closer to
reality on Wednesday, when the Defense Ministry advanced plans to build 523
homes in Gevaot, a plot of land in Gush Etzion.
cautioned that a final signature was needed before construction could
They noted that plans for Gevaot had long been in the works, and
that their advancement had nothing to do with building projects over the
pre-1967 lines that had been announced in recent weeks as part of the diplomatic
battle with the Palestinians.
The sources said that in any final-status
agreement with the Palestinians, Gush Etzion would remain part of
Tzipi Livni, who is running in the upcoming Knesset election at
the helm of a new party under her name, visited Gevaot moments before the Gush
Etzion Regional Council announced that the plans could be advanced. She told
reporters that she supported the development of Gevaot.
Regional Council head David Perl said he believed this meant he could deposit
plans for the homes with the Higher Planning Council of Judea and Samaria, and that he planned to do
so within two weeks.
“After years of delays and setbacks, we were happy
to hear that plans could be advanced to build a new city, Gevaot, in Gush
Etzion,” Perl said.
He added that the plans’ final approval would be a
major achievement and would offer renewed hope for his region and the settlement
enterprise as a whole.
The four existing Jewish cities in the West Bank
are Ariel, Ma’aleh Adumim, Betar Illit and Modi’in Illit.
located within the municipal boundaries of the Alon Shvut settlement.
to arrive there physically, one must leave the settlement and its security
barrier, and drive five minutes down the road west, in the direction of Beit
Shemesh. One then drives off the road and down a small paved path, passing a
wooden sign that says “Gevaot” and through a security gate.
property houses a school for young children, teenagers and young adults with
disabilities, a dormitory and homes for the staff members.
located 1.8 kilometers over the 1949-1967 Green Line. Based on a 1982 cabinet
decision, an IDF Nahal community was established there in 1984 in which soldiers
farmed the land. The IDF closed it in 1996.
In 1997, the Shvut Yisrael
Yeshiva moved onto the site from Efrat, but there was no permanent construction,
as all the buildings were modular.
In 2003, the yeshiva moved back to
Efrat, but a number of families remained, under a contract with the World
Zionist Organization’s settlement division.
In 2009, the Civil
Administration of Judea and Samaria ended that contract. In the summer of 2011,
the Gevaot families lost their legal battle to remain on the property.
1998, however, the Construction and Housing Ministry began plans to transform
the property into a city.
According to the Gush Etzion Regional Council
spokeswoman, plans for 6,000 homes on 350 hectares (865 acres) were finished in
2000 but never authorized.
The ministry eventually abandoned the project
because it seemed as if the diplomatic climate would not allow for a fifth West
Gush Etzion leaders, however, did not abandon the initiative,
and continued to work on the plans for the 6,000 homes.
Peace Now and
B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied
Territories kept their eyes on the project, and warned that it could move
A few years ago, a B’Tselem researcher noted that Gevaot came up
in civil administration protocols in October 2008 during a discussion about the
size of a pending wastewater treatment facility.
Former Gush Etzion
Regional Council head Shaul Goldstein worked hard to advance the project, and
focused initially on permits to build these 523 homes.
Earlier this year,
when Yair Wolf was acting council head, the Defense Ministry authorized the
construction of the school and 60 homes for staff.
Peace Now attacked the
plans, along with news of tenders for homes in other West Bank settlements. It
said that in so authorizing the construction, Israel was “waving a middle
finger” at the world, adding that the decision endangered any possibility of
achieving a two-state solution. •