The Israeli Government Promotes a New Settlement in the West Bank

Today it was reported that the commander of the military’s Central Command, Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs, signed an order delineating jurisdiction for a new settlement north of the town of Al-Ubediya, east of Bethlehem. This decision is the implementation of the government’s decision from February 2023 to establish 9 new settlements through the legalization of unauthorized outposts, including the legalization of the outpost “Mitzpe Yehuda” (now named “Mishmar Yehuda”). The order allocates approximately 417 dunams in the heart of the Judean Desert, beyond the planned route of the separation barrier, for the establishment of a new settlement.

The plan for the first phase of the settlement is to build 3,600 housing units on about 417 dunams for the religious-nationalist public. In the second phase, the settlement is intended to expand to an additional 2,000 dunams and another 10,000 housing units for the Ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) population. Peace Now has recently learned that the Ministry of Housing has contracted planners and architects to prepare plans for the new settlement at a cost of approximately 2.7 million shekels.

Peace Now: “Any house that would be built in this new settlement will eventually have to be evacuated by Israel. The plan is a severe blow to Israel’s security interest and to the Palestinians, and especially to the chances of reaching a two-state agreement. Instead of planning a future of peace and security for Israel, the government is planning to perpetuate the conflict, deepen the occupation, and unfortunately, continue the bloodshed.”

It should be noted that according to the regulations of the Civil Administration, the Civil Administration is supposed to publish in advance the intention to delineate jurisdiction and allow the public to object. Peace Now has not found any such publication. Apparently, no publication was made, as also recently happened with the publication of the jurisdiction area for the Homesh settlement. For the jurisdiction order – see here.

The plan: Approximately 13,000 housing units (around 65,000 residents)

The area included within the jurisdiction of the new settlement, about 417 dunams, was registered, apparently in 2014, under the name of an Israeli company from Kiryat Arba called “Mitzpeh Lebniyah” (whose registered owners were Argentine citizens). The company claimed to have purchased the land from Palestinian owners around 1992. In recent years, the developers have sold plots to Israelis and foreign investors as an investment for future construction once building is approved.

On February 4, 2024, the Local Planning and Construction Committee of the Gush Etzion Regional Council discussed a plan for the new settlement. The architect of the plan, Roni Goldschmidt, who has been involved in planning numerous settlements, presented the committee with Phase A of the settlement, which plans for 3,600 housing units intended for the national religious community on the land acquired by the company. During the meeting, it was noted that the Housing Ministry has recently begun preparing plans for the construction of a total of 13,000 housing units in adjacent areas, as indicated by documents received by Peace Now. The Housing Ministry has hired planners to prepare plans for the “Mishmar Yehuda” settlement amounting to approximately 2.7 million shekels.

It should be noted that the Local Planning and Construction Committee does not have the authority to approve plans for new settlements. The authority of the Local Committee of the council is only to recommend to the Higher Planning Council (HPC) of the Civil Administration for discussion of such plans. Therefore, legally, the plan has not yet been approved. For further details on the planning process in the areas, see here.

The name of the settlement “Mishmar Yehuda” was determined by the government naming committee at a meeting on June 29, 2023, where names were also assigned to the other settlements decided upon by the government in February 2023. It should be noted that two members of the government naming committee, Yishai Sarid and Yofi Tirosh, resigned from the committee due to the naming of settlements and argued that the settlements are not part of Israel, and it is not within the committee’s authority to name settlements illegally located in the occupied Palestinian territories.