The New Settlement in Nahla (E2) – A Significant Threat to the Two States Solution
Update: On 6 January 2016 the High Court of Justice rejected the Palestinian land owners' appeal against having their lands declared to be "State Land" (which can consequently be used for a new Jewish settlement).
For details see Peace Now's report here.
Update: July 2015, Lands Allocated to the Efrat Municipality for the Planning of 800 Housing Units in A-Nahla ("E2")
The Civil Administration Secretly Allocated JNF-Owned Land to the Efrat Municipal Council for the Planning of 800 Housing Units in A-Nahla ("E2")
A year and a half ago the Ministry of Housing and Construction published planning tenders for 20,000 housing units in the settlements, among which a tender for planning 800 housing units in A-Nahla (Givat Eitam), located north-east of the settlement of Efrat. After the revelation of the tenders and following public criticism, Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered to cancel the tenders. Nevertheless, in a response submitted to court last week, the state exposes that the Civil Administration allocated approximately 300 dunams, owned by the JNF subsidiary Himanuta, to the Efrat Municipality for planning.
The plan in A-Nahla is considered to be a significant obstacle to the two states solution, and has received massive international criticism. The plan has been referred to as "E2" to emphasize its harsh consequences on the two state solution.
On Wednesday, July 8th 2015, the State submitted a response to a of Palestinian owners against the deceleration of 1,300 dunams of their lands in A-Nahla as state lands. In its response, the State indicates that: "the only contractual communication in Givat Eitam is the planning authorization given to the Efrat Municipal Council regarding the land registered to Himanuta", thus exposing continued planning in the area despite the Prime Minister's orders to cancel the tenders in 2013.
One of the petitioners' arguments in this case was that the declaration of state lands was made in advance in order to establish a settlement and thus it should be invalidated. The petitioners' also argued that the Ministry of Housing has already hired planners to prepare a construction plan for Givat Eitam. In response to this, the State argued that the planners were hired to plan near Givat Eitam, and added that the land allocated for planning in Givat Eitam is not a part of the area which was declared as state land but an area belonging to Himanuta, the JNF's subsidiary.
Six month ago, the High Court rejected most of the petitioners' pleas in the case mentioned above and decided to only discuss the question of the partial cultivation of some of the parcels declared as state land. The petitioners submitted a map of the parcels which they believe should be re-discussed and the State now requested that the court will reject this petition because the map was too general and in-fact included all of A-Nahla's declared lands which is, according to the state, far from the original intention of the court's interim decision. In the coming days the high court will decide on the future of this petition. If rejected, the state will be able to allocate the lands to the planning and construction of a new settlement.
see also "Peace Now" site.
Update: January 2015 Recent developments demonstrate that the Netanyahu government continues to promote the settlement known as “E2” at A-Nahla (Givat Eitam):
1. The Ministry of Housing has begun to plan the area for the settlement.
2. A new court decision regarding the status of the land is construed as partial approval of the land as state land.
3. Israeli authorities have destroyed a Palestinian wheat field in the area designated for the settlement.
Background: A new settlement, comprised of thousands of residential units, is planned on an area of ~1,700 dunams near the Palestinian village of A-Nahla, south of Bethlehem. The new settlement, called Givat Eitam, shall be an extension of Efrat. The plan is sometimes referred to as “E2,” similarly to the “E1” plan, which, if realized, might deal a severe blow to the chance of two states. For further details see further down this page.
1. The Ministry of Housing recruits planners for the settlement. Peace Now has learned that on 21 October 2014, the Ministry of Housing approved a contract with architects for planning in the area designated for a settlement at A-Nahla. The architects were hired to prepare plans for the roads and the infrastructure of “Givat Eitam” for 825,420 NIS, financed by the Ministry of Housing.
2. New Supreme Court Decision on the Status of the Land In 2004, the Civil Administration has declared the lands intended for the settlement as state lands. The Palestinian landowners filed an appeal at the Military Appeal Committee and, upon its dismissal, they filed a petition to the Supreme Court. On 7 September 2014, the Supreme Court issued an intermediate decision, rejecting the majority of the petitioners’ arguments and recommending that one issue (the issue of plots that were partially cultivated) be revisited by the Military Appeal Committee. However, the specific list of parcels that were partially cultivated remained under dispute. On December 16th 2014, the court held another hearing in which it gave the petitioners 30 days to submit a detailed list of the disputed parcels to be examined by the Appeals Committee. Upon submitting the list of plots, the state will be granted another 30 days to respond, and the court will then issue its decision. In his decision of 16 December 2014, Chief Justice Grunis clarified that “needless to say, all other issues raised within the petition, excluding the said partial cultivation, were exhausted in our decision dated 7 September 2014” (For the full decision ,in Hebrew, see here). It is possible that the Civil Administration and the Ministry of Housing construe the decision to confirm that the entire land is indeed declared state land, excluding the partially cultivated parcels. Nevertheless, it is important to note that this was an intermediate decision that does not comprise a ruling or even a partial ruling. Furthermore, there has not yet been a definition of the lands allegedly approved by the court and the lands are still under dispute.
3. The Civil Administration Destroyed a Palestinian Wheat Field in the Disputed Area On Thursday, 15 January 2015, Civil Administration personnel, accompanied by bulldozers, destroyed a wheat field planted by Palestinians in the disputed area. According to the Palestinians, the status of the land was not yet decided by the court but, as it seems, the government’s legal interpretation of the court’s intermediate decision allows it to treat the land as state land. It seems that the government does not consider it a partially cultivated plot. It is important to note that, in July 2014, when the settlers opened a new road to their outpost within the disputed area, the authorities did not destroy the route. When the matter was discussed at the Supreme Court, the state declared that it will be subject to the enforcement priorities, and the court accepted that. Destruction of the Palestinian wheat field could reflect selective enforcement; if the area is subject to priority enforcement, the government should have destroyed the route paved by the settlers and if it is a low priority area, enforcement should not have been applied to the Palestinian wheat field. All of these developments demonstrate that the government is continuing to promote the plan to establish the settlement in A-Nahla, despite the danger that such plan poses to the chance of a two-state solution.
Establishing this settlement would bisect the West Bank and seriously damage the chance for a two-states solution (as would the plan to expand Maaleh Adumim westward to area “E1”, east of Jerusalem), and for this reason we call this plan E2. The plan is for 2,500 housing units on an area of about 1,700 dunams (i.e.170 hectares or 425 acres).
In 2004 Israel declared most of E2 as “State Lands” and incorporated it into the municipal jurisdiction of the Efrat settlement. The Palestinian landowners appealed against this declaration, and the High Court of Justice (HCJ 2676/09) is expected soon to reject the appeal. At that time, Israel will be able to begin the actual process of building the settlement.
In the meantime, since October 2013, Israel has allowed settlers to use part of area E2 under the guise of an “agricultural farm”, but the Ministry of Housing under the settler-minister Uri Ariel is already preparing plans to replace the “farm” with a first stage of 840 building units.
It should be noted that area E2 is located totally east of the separation fence (i.e. outside the area that Israel defines as “settlement blocs”), and establishing a new settlement in this place would violate the Israeli commitment to build no new settlements. The settlement would block Bethlehem from the south, and prevent any development in the only direction that has not yet been blocked by settlements or bypass roads (that were paved principally for Israeli settlers). The planned building in area E2 would likely finalize the cutting off of Bethlehem city from the southern West Bank, delivering a crushing blow to the Two States solution.