Despite a promise by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu not to confiscate any more Palestinian-owned land in the West Bank, the state has informed the High Court of Justice it is considering expropriating 37 dunams (3.7 hectares) of land owned by Palestinian farmers in Ein Yabrud to retroactively legitimize the construction of a wastewater purification plant for a settlement, petitioners to the court said Monday.
The information was included in an update submitted by the state's representative, attorney Gilad Shirman, to the court 10 days ago in response to a petition filed by Yesh Din-Volunteers for Human Rights on behalf of Musa Farhat and Muhammad Manaa, who inherited part of the land from its registered owners.
In a petition filed by attorneys Michael Sfard and Shlomi Zecharya, Farhat and Manaa alleged that the facility had been built on land owned by them and other Palestinian inhabitants of the nearby village of Ein Yabrud, who had not consented to construction. The facility did not receive a building permit and contradicted the outline plan for the village.
Furthermore, even though it was illegal, the wastewater purification plan, which cost an estimated NIS 7.8 million, was largely paid for by the National Infrastructures Ministry.
On June 4, 2008, the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria issued a final stop-work order and an order to demolish the facility. In the wake of the petition, the court issued an interim injunction to stop all work on the facility and not to connect it to the electricity grid.
Now, it appears that the state has found no other solution to the problem of treating the sewage from Ofra.
"The untreated sewage runs down into the wadis and the cultivated land in the area and pollutes the underground water," wrote Shirman. "The reason for this is that Ofra is located at a highly sensitive point in the area which is the main feeder of the mountain aquifer."
He added that the pollution affects the Palestinians in the area as well.
To justify the expropriation of Palestinian land to solve Ofra's sewage problem, the state said it was considering hooking up Ein Yabrud to the Ofra wastewater purification plant. Shirman added that the government would also examine the possibility of building a regional sewage system that would incorporate the Ofra facility.
In that context, the state wrote that "as planning continues, the legal possibility of expropriating the land for public use will also be examined."