The West Bank settlement of Ofra, north of Ramallah 370.
(photo credit: Reuters)
The Civil Administration authorized 272 new homes for settlers this week and
gave the Ofra settlement a boost of legitimacy by approving the first-ever
master plan for the West Bank community since it was created in
“After 40 years of waiting, this is a celebration,” Ofra secretary
Sami Karsenti said on Monday night. Both he and Peace Now spoke with The
Jerusalem Post about the approvals.
Ofra is located 15 kilometers over
the pre-1967 lines in the Binyamin region. It is outside the boundaries of the
security barrier and is considered an isolated settlement.
considered a legal settlement under Israeli law because the government approved
it in the 1970s, even though it fails to meet all the technical criteria for an
A master plan for the settlement of 3,400 people was
never approved and as such its buildings are considered unauthorized. The
settlement’s situation is particularly complicated because many of the homes are
situated on land that is privately owned by Palestinians.
government policy in 2014 not to approve building on private Palestinian
Left-wing groups have in past years filed a number of petitions
against homes in the settlements, hoping to create a precedent that could be
applicable throughout the West Bank of taking down homes on private Palestinian
property within a settlement.
The master plan that the Civil
Administration approved on Sunday covers a small portion of the settlement
located on state land, in an area of the community that was formerly part of a
Jordanian military camp. It retroactively legalizes 53 already existing homes
and another 35 that are under construction.
There is an existing court
case against those 35 homes.
It also approved a plan for 162 new homes,
the first such permits in many years for the community, which has been unable to
build because of its unique status.
Karsenti said that absence of a
master plan had become particularly problematic in the aftermath of the 2005
government- sponsored report by attorney Talia Sasson that spoke of the legality
problems in Ofra.
Separately this week, the Civil Administration
authorized the building of 22 homes in the Karnei Shomron settlement, located 9
kilometers over the pre-1967 lines and within the boundaries of the security
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said last month that he would
approve new settler building in conjunction with the release of 26 prisoners at
the end of December
The US and a number of European countries have urged
him to refrain from announcing more building, particularly given the effort
underway to achieve a framework agreement by April.
said that Jewish building, on land that they believe will be part of their
future state, demonstrates that the Israelis have no interest in
Israel has rejected Palestinian and international calls for a
settlement freeze. In July it approved the release of 104 Palestinian prisoners
in four stages during the nine-month negotiation period. But it stated that it
would continue to build during the negotiations.
Israel made building
announcements in conjunction with two past releases. The Civil Administration’s
actions this week follow the third prisoner release, last week.
expected that more announcements will follow.
Peace Now attacked the
decision, noting that neither settlement would remain part of Israel in any
final-status agreement with the Palestinians.
“With Kerry in the region
preparing to present a framework agreement, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s
government has once again exemplified its obsession with building in the
“A government that is seeking a two-state solution would not
further entrench the conflict by building in the settlements, and especially in
settlements that have no chance to remain under Israeli sovereignty,” it
Long time left-wing activist Dror Etkes said he plans to file a
petition to the High Court of Justice against the master plan.
Ministry officials said that all approval had been in the pipeline for a long
time, and that there was nothing new in this week’s actions.
that more approvals would be needed before more building could happen.