Peace Now Petitions High Court to Halt Huge Settler Building Project

Peace Now and more than a dozen Palestinian landowners have petitioned Israel’s High Court of Justice to halt the construction of a pending 7,000-unit housing project in the occupied West Bank settlement of Efrat, over the issue of land discrimination. The planned settlement is intended to double the size of the settlement of Efrat while damaging the only remaining area in the vicinity of Bethlehem that could enable sustainable Palestinian development.

If implemented the plan would also seriously jeopardize the prospect of reaching a two-state agreement, as it would severely impair the territorial contiguity between Bethlehem and the southern West Bank, and thereby the viability of a Palestinian state. The petition was filed with the High Court of Justice after, two weeks ago, the Custodian of Government and Abandoned Property rejected a letter of appeal by Peace Now and the Palestinian owners of the lands involved. The letter demanded that the land be allocated to the Palestinians, and not to the settlement of Efrat.

In petitioning the court, Peace Now has argued that the property, which, extends over an area of 1,200 dunams (120 hectares or 297 acres), and which was classified as state land in 2004, should be allocated for Palestinian housing, even though technically it falls within the municipal boundaries of the settlement of Efrat. Palestinians contend that portions of the land are private Palestinian property and should never have been classified as state land.

“For over 50 years of occupation, the State of Israel has done everything it can to ensure the establishment and expansion of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank, at the expense of and serious harm to Palestinians, who are protected residents of the area. The time has come for the Israeli government to recognize its duty to ensure the welfare of the protected occupied population and to abandon its criminal allocation policy,” the petition stated.

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