The Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, along with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, approved on Sunday the expansion of an Israeli colony located on stolen Palestinian land near Ramallah.The expansion of the Beit El settlement will cost nearly $18 million, and will result in 300 new units being constructed in the colony. The money will come from the defense budget, and will be used to close a militarized base in the colony currently used by the Israeli border patrol, and to construct new houses that will be open for colonization by Israeli civilians.
The announcement of the expansion is the result of a promise made by the Israeli Prime Minister to the Beit El colonists that he would pay them this amount in exchange for their acceptance of a 2012 ruling by the Israeli High Court that ordered the removal of thirty units that had been illegally constructed on stolen Palestinian land.
Secretly, the Israeli Prime Minister had made a promise to the colonists at the time of that court ruling that they would receive compensation that would allow for the further expansion of the colony. Prior to Sunday’s announcement of $17.8 million for the expansion project, an additional ninety units have already begun to be constructed, also as part of the under-the-table deal struck by Netanyahu with the colonists in 2012.
The lawsuit brought against the colonists at that time involved the illegality of the five buildings (30 units) that had been constructed on illegally-seized Palestinian land. The lawsuit had been brought by the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din.
Even though the High Court had ruled in favor of the indigenous Palestinian owners of the land, the demolition of the five buildings in 2012 eventually led to the construction of more than ten times that many units being constructed, due to the backroom deal struck between the Israeli Prime Minister and the Beit El colonists.
The previous Finance Minister, Yair Lapid, had argued that the Prime Minister had no authority to carry out a secret deal with colonists, and argued that the matter should be brought to the public for discussion. But Lapid was fired by Netanyahu, and now the secret deal is moving forward with no one inside the administration to oppose it.
The Israeli colony of Beit El was established in 1977 by the Israeli military, which took over the land and then began moving Israeli civilians into houses there, in direct violation of international law. It is also the site of one of the largest Israeli military bases in the West Bank.