The Israeli Housing and Construction Ministry has designated some $215,000 for expansion of the illegal settlement of Efrat, near Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank, said Israeli daily Haaretz, Monday.According to WAFA, it said that former Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, earlier, ordered the establishment of a farm on the site, as a prelude for expanding the nearby settlement Efrat, before international pressures on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rendered the project a failure.
The land on which Efrat is to be expanded was declared “state property” in 2011, before the owners of the land filed an appeal against the decision with the Israeli supreme court. The court, nevertheless, has not responded to the lawsuit.
Last August, the Israeli Civil Administration in the West Bank announced the takeover of 988 acres of land belonging to five Palestinian villages between the Etzion bloc and Jerusalem.
Furthermore, according to Al Ray’s report, Minister of Housing and Jewish Home party member Uri Ariel allocated an amount of 850,000 News Israeli Shekels (NIS), last October, for designing the infrastructure of a hill to the east of Efrat settlement between Bethlehem and Hebron, 6.5 km (4 mi) east of the Green line, inside of the separation wall.
(Earlier in May, Israeli Minister of Economy and head of the Jewish Home party Naftali Bennett went so far as to suggest demolition of a portion of the wall, offering an incentive of full Israeli citizenship for Palestinians affected by the move, but with the more strategical intention of annexing Area C to the state of Israel, amidst of new wave of increased settlement expansion.)
Haaretz further explained that building settlements on this hill particularly constitute a strategic goal for settlers since the settlement extends to the east, making Etzion closer to Bethlehem.
This plan dates back to 2009, when the Israeli Housing ministry planned to build 2,500 housing units on the hill after expropriating some 1,700 acres of the occupied West Bank and opening a road by destroying Palestinian wheat field and declaring it a state land.
This plan aims to build a large settlement bloc on Palestinian lands as a part of what is known as the ‘Greater Jerusalem’ project.
A new settlement, comprised of thousands of residential units, is planned on an area of approximately 1,700 dunams near the Palestinian village of A-Nahla, to the south of Bethlehem.
The new settlement, called Givat Eitam, is to be an extension of Efrat. The plan is sometimes referred to as “E2”, similar to the “E1” plan, which, if realized, might deal a severe blow to the chance of securing a two-state solution — contrary to what presumed pundits, such as US Secretary of State John Kerry, have proposed in regard to ‘peace talks’.
In August of 2013, Kerry said of the Israeli decision to build hundreds of new units in the occupied West Bank that Israel “only announced bids”, and that he did not believe that the announcement would harm political talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
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The general director of the Israeli ‘Peace Now’ movement noted that Israel settlers make use of elections for persuading the Israeli government to build the settlements. He added that the settlers will impose a new reality on the ground by building such settlements, and one which will implicate Israel politically, as well as in the International Criminal Court.
Settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the Golan Heights, both occupied since 1967, are considered illegal under international law.