Efrat settlement, West Bank.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Civil Administration for Judea and Samaria is looking for land to build a road large enough to allow the Efrat settlement to grow by some 2,500 homes.
Peace Now has warned that the construction project “would have a devastating impact on the two-state solution.”
Continued work on the project “demonstrates the true path” of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, Peace Now stated.
It has dubbed the project E-2 and has warned that would be as devastating as the E-1 project opposite the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement, which has been widely condemned by the international community.
Israel views the Efrat settlement as a “consensus community.”
It holds that Efrat, much like the Gush Etzion bloc to which it belongs, would be part of Israel in a final peace agreement.
But Palestinians hold that it must be part of their future state. They are particularly concerned by the Givat Ha’eitam project, which expands the built-up part of Efrat on a tract of land that is very close to the Palestinian city of Bethlehem.
Palestinians see that land as critical for the future development of the Bethlehem area.
Efrat council head Oded Revivi, however, said that the Givat Ha’eitam would be built partially on land that had been purchased by the Jews, through the Jewish National Fund, even before the creation of the state in 1948.
The state’s efforts to promote the Givat Ha’eitam project he said, “corrects an injustice” done to those Jews who invested in the land and to the settlement itself, which has not be allowed to make use of that property.
“It’s a testament to the spirit of those Jews who believed in the resurrection of the Jewish state in Zion,” Revivi said.
He added that in addition, it would help ease the housing crisis in Jerusalem, by providing affordable apartments nearby for young couples.
The project, he added, has been many years in the making and has gone through a number of court cases.
The Efrat settlement is broken up into two tracts of land, one that houses over 8,200 residents and a second tract of empty property of close to 140 hectares (350 acres) on which Revivi hopes to build 2,500 homes.
Planing is under way for those homes, with the focus on 800 units that would be built on the property purchased by the Jewish National Fund.
But a large road and infrastructure are needed to link the two sections of Efrat.
Earlier this year, the Efrat Council asked for planning work to begin on the road, even though the bureaucratic process of authorizing the homes on Givat Ha’eitam is still in its infancy stages.
As a first step, the civil administration has embarked on a land survey to determine which plots may belong to the state, so that it can clear that property for road construction.
At present the land is considered to be mostly survey land, which means it status is unclear. Peace Now holds that it is private Palestinian property.
The state notified the non-governmental group Peace Now of the pending reclassification earlier this month. It did so in response to a Peace Now petition to the High Court of Justice with regard to transparency when it comes to land allocation in the West Bank.
The state further told the court that it would make such land allocation public with regard to the Givat Ha’eitam road project.
Peace Now, publicized news of the pending land allocation to the media on Saturday and Sunday.
Revivi noted that it was symbolic of the group’s efforts to sabotage Jewish building in Judea and Samaria that it published such news on the Fast of Av, which marks the destruction of the Jewish Temple 2,000 years ago.
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