Recent developments demonstrate that the Netanyahu government continues to promote the settlement known as “E2” at A-Nahla (Givat Eitam):
1. The Ministry of Housing has begun to plan the area for the settlement.
2. A new court decision regarding the status of the land is construed as partial approval of the land as state land.
3. Israeli authorities have destroyed a Palestinian wheat field in the area designated for the settlement.
A new settlement, comprised of thousands of residential units, is planned on an area of ~1,700 dunams near the Palestinian village of A-Nahla, south of Bethlehem. The new settlement, called Givat Eitam, shall be an extension of Efrat. The plan is sometimes referred to as “E2,” similarly to the “E1” plan, which, if realized, might deal a severe blow to the chance of two states. For further details – click here.
1. The Ministry of Housing recruits planners for the settlement
Peace Now has learned that on 21 October 2014, the Ministry of Housing approved a contract with architects for planning in the area designated for a settlement at A-Nahla. The architects were hired to prepare plans for the roads and the infrastructure of “Givat Eitam” for 825,420 NIS, financed by the Ministry of Housing.
2. New Supreme Court Decision on the Status of the Land
In 2004, the Civil Administration has declared the lands intended for the settlement as state lands. The Palestinian landowners filed an appeal at the Military Appeal Committee and, upon its dismissal, they filed a petition to the Supreme Court. On 7 September 2014, the Supreme Court issued an intermediate decision, rejecting the majority of the petitioners’ arguments and recommending that one issue (the issue of plots that were partially cultivated) be revisited by the Military Appeal Committee.
However, the specific list of parcels that were partially cultivated remained under dispute. On December 16th 2014, the court held another hearing in which it gave the petitioners 30 days to submit a detailed list of the disputed parcels to be examined by the Appeals Committee. Upon submitting the list of plots, the state will be granted another 30 days to respond, and the court will then issue its decision.
In his decision of 16 December 2014, Chief Justice Grunis clarified that “needless to say, all other issues raised within the petition, excluding the said partial cultivation, were exhausted in our decision dated 7 September 2014.” For the full decision (in Hebrew) see here.
It is possible that the Civil Administration and the Ministry of Housing construe the decision to confirm that the entire land is indeed declared state land, excluding the partially cultivated parcels. Nevertheless, it is important to note that this was an intermediate decision that does not comprise a ruling or even a partial ruling. Furthermore, there has not yet been a definition of the lands allegedly approved by the court and the lands are still under dispute.
3. The Civil Administration Destroyed a Palestinian Wheat Field in the Disputed Area
On Thursday, 15 January 2015, Civil Administration personnel, accompanied by bulldozers, destroyed a wheat field planted by Palestinians in the disputed area. According to the Palestinians, the status of the land was not yet decided by the court but, as it seems, the government’s legal interpretation of the court’s intermediate decision allows it to treat the land as state land. It seems that the government does not consider it a partially cultivated plot.
It is important to note that, in July 2014, when the settlers opened a new road to their outpost within the disputed area, the authorities did not destroy the route. When the matter was discussed at the Supreme Court, the state declared that it will be subject to the enforcement priorities, and the court accepted that. Destruction of the Palestinian wheat field could reflect selective enforcement; if the area is subject to priority enforcement, the government should have destroyed the route paved by the settlers and if it is a low priority area, enforcement should not have been applied to the Palestinian wheat field.
All of these developments demonstrate that the government is continuing to promote the plan to establish the settlement in A-Nahla, despite the danger that such plan poses to the chance of a two-state solution. See more about A-Nahla plan here.