IDF soldiers prevent stabbing at Gush Etzion Junction 311.
(photo credit: IDF Spokesman's Office)
Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Thursday authorized construction of homes and
educational facilities in a small, isolated area of Gush Etzion known as
This marks the first time that permanent housing has been
authorized in Gevaot, which is made up of caravan homes.
Hagit Ofran of
Peace Now charged that the approvals were tantamount to the creation of a new
settlement – an allegation the Defense Ministry rejected.
the map, Gevaot is located within the Alon Shvut settlement.
traveling there, one feels as if he were entering another community. To get
there, one has to leave the guarded yellow gate of Alon Shvut, go several
kilometers down the road, turn right into a wooded area, and enter Gevaot
through another gate.
The authorization to build “is the most important
development that has occurred in Gush Etzion in recent years,” acting Gush
Etzion Regional Council chairman Yair Wolf said. He negotiated the deal for
Gevaot with the Defense Ministry.
Wolf explained that all five
bureaucratic phases of the project had been approved, and said he had permits to
replace 60 caravans on the site with permanent homes.
He can also build
educational facilities, including a dormitory, for children with disabilities,
specifically Down’s Syndrome.
The Defense Ministry confirmed that the
project had been approved, although its did not say how many structures could be
Wolf said the permits were a response “to all those who thought
that new construction in Gush Etzion was frozen.”
News of the approvals
comes less than a week before Tuesday’s election for regional council head. Wolf
is one of three contenders for the post. The other two are Chava Shem Tov and
The announcement also comes as the PLO considers
withdrawing from preliminary talks with Israel, which began last month in
There have been no meetings this month.
insisted that they do not want to hold full-fledged direct negotiations with
Israel before it halts all settlement activity, and Jewish construction in east
Permanent construction in Gevaot had long seemed a pipe dream.
Still, former council head Shaul Goldstein had worked to advance plans
Based on a 1982 cabinet decision, Gevaot was founded in 1984 as a
Nahal Brigade settlement, in which soldiers farmed the land.
By 1997, the
IDF had closed the base, and a yeshiva moved to the site. It was housed in
caravans that had first been used in Haifa to house Ethiopian immigrants more
than two decades earlier.
In 1998, the Construction and Housing Ministry
put forward a plan to turn Gevaot into a city of 13,000 apartment units. But
those plans were never implemented.
In 2003, the yeshiva moved to Efrat.
But a few families remained, based on a contract with the World Zionist
Organization’s settlement division.
In 2009, the Civil Administration of
Judea and Samaria ended that contract. Last summer, the families who lived in
Gevaot lost their legal battle to remain there.
Now that Wolf, who
replaced Goldstein last month, has secured construction approval for Gevaot, he
is hopeful that he will obtain further permission to build elsewhere in Gush
Peace Now executive director Yariv Oppenheimer, however, slammed
“This is yet one more proof that the direction this
government is going in, is to stop the peace talks,” he said. “They are also
doing whatever they can to make it harder for the next government to pull out of
the West Bank.”