MKs: Say no to Palestinian hospital in Gush

MKs urge Defense Ministry to reject request for construction on strategic hilltop in West Bank.

state-religion survey 224 (photo credit: )
state-religion survey 224
(photo credit: )
MKs from the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee called on the Defense Ministry not to give the Palestinians land for a hospital on a strategic Gush Etzion hilltop which once served as an IDF army base known as Shadma. "The committee does not see any logical reason as to why a medical center should be created there," MK Otniel Schneller, who heads a sub-group of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee which toured the site that overlooks the new road to Tekoa and Nokdim, said Wednesday. Schneller told The Jerusalem Post after the trip that he believed the request by the Palestinian town of Beit Sahour to the Defense Ministry to transfer a portion of the base for its use was made out of political rather than humanitarian concerns. It should be rejected, he said. During a morning briefing with the IDF, Schneller said, the sub-committee was shown maps with at least four other alternative sites in the area for the medical center on land that was already under Palestinian control. In a letter sent last week to MK Meir Porush (UTJ), the Defense Ministry said it was favorably considering the request but had not made any decision as of yet. At the end of its meeting, the committee called on Defense Minister Ehud Barak to find an alternative site for the hospital, Schneller said. Should Barak insist on giving a portion of the abandoned Shadma military base to the Palestinians for the hospital, Schneller said, the matter should be brought before the cabinet for a vote. In the morning, the committee members walked up the dirt road to the site, where a number of graffiti-filled barracks still stood. Scrawled on its stucco walls were Jewish Stars of David and the statement: "Shadma should remain Jewish forever." Looking at the apartments of Beit Sahour on the nearby hilltop, an IDF officer who accompanied the MKs told them that there was no doubt that the Palestinians needed another hospital in the area and that humanitarian concerns had to be considered. The portion of the Shadma hilltop controlling the highway, he said, would remain in Israeli hands and under military control in case the IDF should need to return to the area, while the hospital itself would be on an area of the site closer to Beit Sahour and further way from the road. But the area residents, including some from nearby Har Homa who joined the group, were not assuaged. For months they have been waging a grassroots campaign against the plan. The only dissenting voice on the matter was MK Ran Cohen (Labor). Given that Israel is the dominant authority in the area, he said, it needed to pay special consideration to the humanitarian requests of Palestinians and it should allow them to place a medical center there. At the same time, he said, he too believed that the military should retain control of the portion of the hilltop that was closest to the new road.