(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The state wants to authorize a 40-home project in the West Bank settlement of Nokdim, the State Attorney’s Office told the High Court of Justice this week.
The Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria accepted the plans for deposit in January and intends to publish them in the near future, it added.
News of the pending authorizations was first published by Army Radio on Thursday, hours before Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was due to meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss possibilities for resuming peace talks.
The Palestinians have refused to negotiate directly with Israel until it halts West Bank settlement activity and Jewish building in east Jerusalem. Israel has refused to accede to that request. Kerry is looking to break the impasse.
Nokdim is located in the Gush Etzion region, but in an area that is outside the boundaries of the West Bank security barrier.
Israel believes that Gush Etzion will be within its borders in any final-status agreement with the Palestinians.
Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin told Army Radio that news of the plans broke as a result of the project’s legal situation and had nothing to do with Kerry’s visit.
Legal matters cannot be dependent on the diplomatic agenda or visits from foreign dignitaries, Elkin said, adding that Netanyahu’s last government established a policy to authorize Jewish West Bank construction when possible, particularly if it was on state land.
According to Gush Etzion Regional Council head Davidi Perl, work on 14 homes already began on the site in Nokdim two years ago, even though final authorization had not been issued.
The court on Thursday issued an injunction against further construction of the homes in response to a petition filed by attorney Ghiath Nasser on behalf of the adjacent Palestinian village of Jinata, which sought a injunction against the project.
The homes are being constructed illegally, Nasser said, adding that the state had a responsibility to notify the village of the project so that they could file an objection.
Perl noted that if the council approves the plans, the 14 homes would be retroactively authorized.
A spokesman for Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said that the 40-home project was on state land. He added that former defense minister Ehud Barak had given initial approvals to the project.
The Higher Planning Court for Judea and Samaria must now deposit the plans, after which there will be a 60-day comment period for objections to be filed.
The Gush Etzion Regional Council reacted angrily to the court’s decision to issue a temporary injunction against the 14 homes.
It charged that the court acquiesced to a baseless petition against a project on state land located within Nokdim’s municipal boundaries.