J'lem plans 1,140 Palestinian homes near Jericho

Project would would provide a legal housing solution for Palestinians in the area living in illegal homes.

Sites and Insights: Jericho, city of palms  (photo credit: BiblePlaces.com)
Sites and Insights: Jericho, city of palms
(photo credit: BiblePlaces.com)
The Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria has deposited a plan for a large project of 1,140 Palestinian homes on Israeli state land in Area C of the West Bank near the city of Jericho.
The project, on 1,800 dunams of land, would provide a legal housing solution for Palestinians in that area living in illegal homes and unauthorized villages that are not properly connected to utilities, according to the civil administration.
It added that the plan was done “with the understanding” of the heads of the Palestinian villages and that the Palestinian Authority had also been involved in the plans.
Israel has been under increased international pressure to allow for Palestinian development of Area C of the West Bank, which is under full Israeli military and civil control.
News that the plans have been deposited comes amidst a renewed United States effort to rekindle the peace process, which has been largely frozen since December 2008.
Settlers on Monday slammed the plan, which they warned was simply the first phase of transferring the 1,800 dunams to Area A of the West Bank, which is under the control of the Palestinian Authority.
Yigal Delmonti, a spokesman for the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, said that it was particularly upsetting to hear that the civil administration was planning to build Palestinian homes exactly at a time when tenders for building in the settlements had quietly been frozen.
“It’s the theater of the absurd,” said the council in a statement it released to the media.
“Israel is advancing plans to build thousands of Palestinian homes in Area C, when land exists for the homes in Areas A and B [of the West Bank], while at the same time they are stopping building tenders for Israeli settlements,” the council said.
Settlers said they did not even know that such a plan existed until 10 days ago, when a civil administration official informed the Jordan Valley Regional Council of the plan, because it is slated for land under the council’s jurisdiction.
“They did it like thieves, in the middle of the night,” Jordan Valley Regional Council head David Lahiani told The Jerusalem Post.
“They kept it secret from us for over a year, which is a very serious problem,” said Lahiani.
He added that, based on the plans he had seen, the civil administration appeared to be building a new Palestinian city.
Settler leaders aired objections to the plan when they met last week with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who said he would look into the matter but never got back to them, Lahiani said.
Ma’aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel said he was never even given a courtesy notification, although his city is located nearby and would be impacted.
The civil administration has deposited the plans for the Palestinian homes before the Higher Planning Council of Judea and Samaria. The civil administration must now publish notification of the plans in the newspapers, in which it sets a 60-day period for objections to be filed. The higher planning council can approve the plans only after the objections have been dealt with.