After a wait of 12 years, Rotem, a small ecological settlement in the Jordan Valley, might finally get permission to build up to 170 homes and a guest house for visitors.

Last week the Jordan Valley Regional Council was given permission to deposit the first zoning plans for the settlement before the Higher Planning Council of Judea and Samaria, council head David Lahiani has told The Jerusalem Post. It followed Defense Ministry approval nine-months earlier to begin preparing the plans.

There is now a 60-day comment period. Once the council approves the plans, further approval will be needed from the Defense Ministry to begin building.

Still, the ability to deposit the plans is a significant step for the community of 30 families, most of which have been living in modular homes, Lahiani said.

“Now they can build permanent homes and begin to live normal lives like all other Israeli citizens,” he told the Post.

The government first authorized Rotem in 1984, but never authorized zoning plans. Located just under six kilometers across the pre-1967 lines, it was initially used to house an IDF Nahal unit, which later abandoned the site. The first families moved there in 2001.

The government has noted the Jordan Valley’s security significance and insisted that Israel maintain a military presence there in any final status agreement with the Palestinians for a two-state solution. Nevertheless, it has been ambiguous about the future of the area’s settlements even as it continued to advance planning for the small, mostly agrarian communities.

Lahiani said he would feel secure about the region’s future only when it is included within Israel’s final borders.

It is the final arrangement for the area – not the building – that will be telling, he said, adding that he would like to see Israel annex it.

Until the region’s status is resolved, he said, it will be important to improve life for its residents.

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