Glimmer of Light: Barak Legalizes 6 Judea-Samaria Towns

Defense Minister Barak will authorize the City Construction Plans of six veteran Jewish towns in Yesha. New construction is still far off.

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Hillel Fendel, | updated: 12:28

N'vei Tzuf
N'vei Tzuf
Israel news photo: Binyamin Regional Council

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have announced they will sign their approvals of six existing Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria. Their signatures will approve the Taba, or City Construction Plan, of the towns; a Taba is a legal document allowing the municipal authority to build on the land in question.

Though this was the type of action that was once a matter of course for nationalist governments in Israel, today it is cause for celebration. The towns in question are Nofim and Kiryat Netafim (Shomron), N’vei Tzuf-Halamish (Binyamin), Eshkolot (Southern Hevron Hills), and Hemdat and Rotem (Jordan Valley).

Sources close to Barak emphasize that the approvals do not mean the beginning of new construction in the towns. On the other hand, security roads and other security needs will now be facilitated.

For two of the towns - Kiryat Netafim and N’vei Tzuf – the news is actually several weeks old. Kiryat Netafim spokesman Moti Ovadiah says he plans to send flowers to Peace Now for the occasion, “for it was their lawsuit against construction here that pushed the government to take a stand and realize that it had to approve our Taba.”

Kiryat Netafim is a religious community of close to 140 families, located west of Ariel and founded in 1984. The Taba approval will pave the way for homeowners of 14 currently empty homes to finally move in. 

The other towns, in brief:

  • Nofim – mixed religious-secular, between Ariel and Karnei Shomron, founded 1986, 140 families.  
  • N’vei Tzuf-Halamish – religious, founded 1977, 240 families. It is located deep in the heartland of Binyamin (southern Samaria), along the Beit El-Rosh HaAyin route.
  • Eshkolot – founded 1991 after an IDF settlement site populated it for ten years,  the hilltop “from which Jordanian forces fired on nearby Kibbutz Lahav.” Located between Hevron/Kiryat Arba and Be’er Sheva, 60 families.
  • Rotem – Self-defined as “religious, secular, environmental.” Located in the northern Jordan Valley. Its website states, “Over 20 young families created this idyllic community where the religious and secular live in harmony with nature and a message of ecological awareness. Our community is being built with concern for pollution' recycling and a great respect for the environment. This is combined with a desire to express individual creativity and the people who live in Rotem established new businesses. An organic olive grove, natural cosmetics company, holistic treatments and homemade bakery are just a few of the local enterprises established by the members of our community.”
  • Hemdat – 30 religious families and 60 pre-military academy students. Located in the northern Jordan Valley.

What About Itamar?
The town of Itamar, 28 years old and with 20 terrorist deaths, including the five Fogel family members last month, has still not received Taba approval. Yesha leaders say that it is this situation that precluded the stationing of security cameras and an effective security fence, thus enabling the massacre in the Fogel home.

The requests for Taba approval in Itamar, as well as in other Yesha towns, continue to sit all but ignored on Barak’s desk, despite great efforts by settlement leaders to have them approved.

Shomron Regional Council Chairman Gershon Mesika said today’s announcement is a “partial rectification of the wrong that has been ongoing for six years since the Talia Sasson report… Barak acts arbitrarily and makes decisions based on political considerations, prevents communities from growing, and prevents houses and kindergartens from being built… In the Shomron alone there are still four towns that have not yet been approved – Bruchin, Barkan, Tal Menashe and Itamar – despite the difficult times that we are undergoing, and all because of his internal political machinations.”