'Gush Etzion hilltop must not be handed to PA'

MKs plan to head to abandoned army base to weigh in on IDF plan to hand portions of it to Palestinian town.

gush etzion 88 (photo credit: )
gush etzion 88
(photo credit: )
A panel of parliamentarians plans to head to the abandoned Shadma army base in Gush Etzion on Wednesday to weigh in on an IDF plan to hand portions of it over to the Palestinian town of Beit Sahur southeast of Bethlehem for a medical center and a park. The plan has already been hotly opposed by area residents including Gush Etzion Council head Shaul Goldstein and activists who question the wisdom of handing the Palestinians hilltop land that overlooks the new Tekoa road between the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa and the Herodian archaeological site. MK Yuli Edelstein (Likud) told The Jerusalem Post the plan endangered the Jewish presence in the area. He said that along with lawmakers from the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee he planned to tour the area on Wednesday morning to learn more details. MK Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism) wrote a letter to Defense Minister Ehud Barak earlier this month in which he said that giving up the land would halt the development of Har Homa, endanger traffic on the Tekoa road and harm the geographical contiguity between Jerusalem and Gush Etzion. "The placement of a Palestinian neighborhood in the area is widely objected to both by senior military experts and by the leaders of Gush Etzion settlements," Porush wrote. One of Barak's assistants said the ministry was indeed weighing a request by the Beit Sahur municipality to use a portion of the Shadma base. The ministry told Beit Sahur it would consider such a proposal favorably as long as it concerned the outer portion of the base. No decision has been made yet. Goldstein told the Post he believed that the request by Beit Sahur, which is under the control of the Palestinian Authority, was a ploy to gain control of the high ground. "If we give it to them, they will shoot at us from there," he said. Given that only 4 percent of Gush Etzion was in Israeli hand, why would they need more land? he asked. In recent months, activists, including Women in Green (Women for Israel's Tomorrow), have held numerous rallies at the site. Earlier this month they brought 300 protesters there.