By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondent
23 June 2009
Defense Minister Ehud Barak has authorized the building of 300 new homes in the West Bank, defying U.S. calls for a halt to settlement growth.
Activists for BIMKOM association, which works for justice and human rights in planning and knows a thing or two about the situation in the territories, have discovered that Barak recently authorized the Civil Administration to submit a plan for the construction of 300 housing units in the unauthorized outpost of Givat Habrecha, near the community of Talmon.
U.S. President Barack Obama has pressed Israel to halt settlement activity as part of a bid to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
The new construction is located around 13 kilometers east of the Green Line, on the "Palestinian" side of the separation barrier. According to the Sasson Report, this outpost was built without government approval and without a master plan and damaged private Palestinian property.
The objections submitted by Bimkom (with the Al-Ghaniya village council) say the planned construction is on lands formerly declared "state lands" and the plan apparently is a bid to whitewash the illegal construction of 60 housing units that have already been put up and to allow the construction of another 240 housing units, public buildings and roads.
Bimkom argues that adjacent to the area of the plan on the ground, which even according to the Civil Administration is private Palestinian land, several permanent structures were put up by the residents. So far there have been wide-scale building violations at Givat Habrecha, including the paving of roads and the building of public structures and residential buildings - all without permits and contrary to the master plan defining the area as agricultural. In its objection to the plan the association argues that approving the construction would be tantamount to blessing the start of unmonitored construction in unauthorized outposts
Half a million Jews live in settlement blocs and smaller outposts built in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, all territory captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War.
Palestinians, who want their own state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, see the settlements as a land grab meant to deny them a viable state.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has so far refused to declare a settlement freeze, which could spark a backlash within his right-leaning coalition government.
Israel says the Palestinian Authority has not done enough to stop militant violence.