In the less than two months between the elections on January 22, 2013 and the installment of the new government on March 18, 2013, plans to build 1,506 new housing units in settlements were advanced, half of them in isolated settlements.
On January 30, 2013, the Higher Planning Council in the Civil Administration approved the deposit of plans for 80 housing units in the settlement of Carmel, 28 housing units in the settlement of Tene-Omarim and 46 housing units in Maale Adumim.
On February 18, 2013 a plan to build 620 housing units in the settlement of Eli was deposited for public review and on February 25, 2013 a plan to build 732 housing units in Modi’in Illit was deposited.
Additionally, on February 4, 2013 the Housing Ministry published a tender to build 40 new housing units in the settlement of Efrat.
What does this promotion of plans mean?
Because of the political, diplomatic and military implications of building in the settlements, every single stage of planning requires the approval of the political echelon (the Defense Minister). The previous Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, had probably approved the advancement of those plans even before the elections, however, in the period after the elections, before the new government was installed, the interim government could have (and in our view should have) suspended all planning and building procedures in controversial areas and avoided establishing facts on the ground.
Plans promoted before the elections:
In the month before the elections, plans were advanced for the construction of 620 housing units in the isolated settlements of Nokdim, Tkoa and Ofra.
Furthermore, on January 15, 2013 tenders for the construction of 114 housing units in Efrat and 84 housing units in Kiryat Arba were published.
Plans with special importance:
The plan for 620 units in Eli – a reward for offenders and implicit approval of the takeover of private land
Of all the plans recently advanced, most noteworthy is the plan for the settlements of Eli. The purpose of the plan is to retroactively legalize 377 housing units built in the settlements against the law and without permits and to add 243 new housing units (a total of 620 housing units).
So far the authorities have avoided advancing building plans for the settlement of Eli because the settlement is situated on private land and construction in it cannot be legalized. But it appears that as a result of settler pressure and a petition by the Palestinian land owners to the High Court of Justice to stop the construction in the settlement on their land, it was decided to prepare the building plan.
The plan contains enclaves of private land on which there already is illegal construction but ignores them and refrains from indicating the buildings for demolition. Therefore approval of the plan would be de facto legalization of the illegal construction on the private land and obviously the land’s legal owners will not be able to use it.
Eli is an isolated settlement in the heart of the West Bank about 30 km from the Green Line, in a location that will not be included in the territories annexed to Israel in any future settlement.
Furthermore, the plan encourages illegal construction and sends a message to the settlers that illegal construction in settlements will not be evacuated but rather approved retroactively.
The plan for Modi’in Illit: the first new neighborhood in eight years
An especially big plan that was deposited is the plan to build 732 housing units in Modi’in Illit and build the neighborhood of Kiryat Elimelech (Matityahu North C). This 200,000 m² neighborhood would be the first new neighborhood in the settlement since Matityahu East was built eight years ago.