Thursday, May 9, 2013

Scratch that last post

A scant two days after Israel's under-the-radar halt on new settlement construction approvals was revealed in newspaper around the globe, the freeze has apparently thawed as Israel announced the approval of 296 housing units to be built in the West Bank settlement of Beit El.

Beit El, with a population just over 5500, overlooks the Palestinian de facto capital of Ramallah and sits above the Jalazone refugee camp.

The Civil Administration, Israel's governing body for many issues related to Israeli settlers and settlement in the West Bank, confirmed that the nearly 300 units approved in Beit El are related to the promised compensation for 30 settler families who were evacuated from the tiny Ulpana outpost nine months ago.

The Ulpana outpost was built by Jewish settler's without the Israeli government's permission, one of several dozen outposts Israel considers "illegal" (though all Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are considered illegal by the UN and under international law). The Ulpana outpost was justified by its founders in an Israeli court by a land deed that ended up being a blatant forgery - even indicating that the land was purchased from a seven year-old Palestinian child.

An Israeli court ordered the homes in Ulpana demolished because they were built on Palestinian-owned land. After delay, the order that was carried out in the summer of 2012. The 30 families living in Ulpana at the time of the order were promised resettlement in the larger Beit El settlement, which Peace Now and the 2006 Sasson Report found was itself built primarily on seized private Palestinian lands.

The sudden end to the new approval freeze indicates how politically untenable Netanyahu views angering the settlers or their allies is, especially given the upcoming reformation in the Knesset following January's elections - a supposed rebuke of Netanyahu.

Update: Looking back at a Guardian article from around the time Ulpana was evacuated, it appears Netanyahu actually promised these 300 units in Beit El in July 2012. The approvals for the specific buildings have just now cleared the Civil Administration.

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