Tel Aviv, Israel (IMEMC) – Israel’s Civil Administration secretly allocated land for 800 housing units in an illegal settlement south of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, a rights group said Tuesday.
Despite orders by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2013 to cancel planning tenders for housing units in the settlement of Givat Eitam, planning continued as the land reportedly belonged to a subsidiary of the Jewish National Fund, Israeli watchdog Peace Now reported.
According to Ma’an, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) is a non profit organization that works to “reclaim” and repurpose land for use by Jewish citizens, often at the expense of Palestinian right to land and control of resources.
The planned housing units for the Givat Eitam settlement are dependent on the revocation of land belonging to Palestinian residents of the village of Al-Nahla south of Bethlehem, and north-east of the Efrat settlement. Last week Israel responded to a petition by Al-Nahla residents against the deceleration of 1,300 dunams of their lands as state land.
A year and a half prior, Israel’s Ministry of Housing and Construction had published the planning tenders for 20,000 housing units in settlements, among which was a tender for units in Al-Nahla, Peace Now reported, adding that following public criticism, Netanyahu ordered to cancel the tenders.
“Nevertheless, in a response submitted to court last week, the state exposed that the Civil Administration allocated approximately 300 dunams, owned by the JNF subsidiary Himanuta, to the Efrat Municipality for planning,” Peace Now alleged, referring to the municipality of the nearby Efrat settlement.
Israel argued that: “the only contractual communication in Givat Eitam is the planning authorization given to the Efrat Municipal Council regarding the land registered to Himanuta,” the group said.
The planned expansion of Givat Eitam onto land registered with the group would jut the settlement out into the central West Bank, bisecting the north and south and devastating the possibility for a continuous Palestinian state.
JNF is one of many groups that work throughout occupied East Jerusalem in the West Bank, where Jewish-only settlements have exponentially expanded over the decades in contravention to international law.
This report was prepared by the IMEMC.