Authorizing Talmon building plan would legalize an outpost

The Civil Administration is debating a building plan that, if fully authorized, would legalize an outpost and lay the groundwork for the construction of 240 single-family housing units in the settlement of Talmon, located within the boundaries of the Binyamin Regional Council. The unauthorized outpost, known as Givat HaBricha, was listed by attorney Talia Sasson in her 2005 report to the cabinet, and has 30 two-family homes on the site. By 2005, the Construction and Housing Ministry had already spent NIS 1.385 million on the site, even though according to Sasson, some of the structures there were on private Palestinian land. She added in her report that neither the cabinet nor the Defense Ministry had authorized the creation of the outpost, and that it lacked an authorized master plan. However, Hagit Ofran of Peace Now said her organization did not list Givat HaBricha as an outpost, but considered it an illegal neighborhood of the Talmon settlement. On Tuesday, the Defense Ministry acknowledged that it had included the 30 two-family homes in Givat HaBricha within the proposed master plan for the area nine months ago, during the time of former prime minister Ehud Olmert. It added that it had not authorized construction at the site or in Talmon, nor did it intend to do so. It said that if the plan were approved, the 60 housing units would be retroactively legalized. It would not comment further on the matter. The NGO Bimkom - which publicized on Tuesday that this plan was winding its way through the authorization process in the Civil Administration - has objected to the proposed master plan because of the large building potential and because it includes areas of nature reserves and blocks Palestinian farmers from accessing their lands and a nearby road. An architect who works with the group, Alon Cohen-Lifshitz, said that the Civil Administration would not be debating a master building plan for the area without the preliminary approval of Defense Minister Ehud Barak. His group has filed an objection to the plan with the Civil Administration. In its statement to the civil administration it noted that there were already two approved construction plans for the area of Talmon. The first, for 107 single-family housing units, is mostly complete. The second, for 368 single-family housing units, was already approved. Only some 106 single-family housing units from that plan have been built. The third plan, now under debate, would pave the way for the construction of 240 single-family housing units and would authorize the 60 that already exist. With that authorization, the outpost of Givat HaBricha would become a legal neighborhood of the Talmon settlement. If the master plan is approved, the Prime Minister's Office and the Defense Ministry would still have to authorize any further construction at the site. But Cohen-Lifshitz said that it would be fairly easy to move from the master plan to actual construction and that it could be actualized by the Binyamin Regional Council without input from either the Defense Ministry or the Prime Minister's Office. The settlement of Talmon was created in 1989 and populated in 1992, when 210 settlers were registered there, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics. Since Israel signed on to the road map, which calls for a freeze in settlement activity, the settlement has grown by nearly 1,000 people, from 1,618 in 2003 to 2,600 in 2008.