Defense Minister Ehud Barak has approved steps for expanding the area zoned for residential building in the town of Itamar, in Samaria, where two Palestinian Authority Arab terrorists savagely murdered five members of the Fogel family in March 2011.
Officials from Itamar and the Shomron (Samaria) Regional Council confirmed to Arutz Sheva Monday that they have pressuring the government to allow re-zoning that would enable the town to build up to 538 more homes, more than double the number now existing.
The Haaretz newspaper reported that Barak approved the expansion in September after more than a year of pressure that followed the brutal murders of the Fogel family members, including the parents and a young baby.
The rezoning also approves 137 homes already built, according to the newspaper.
Barak has been a major stumbling block to approving new homes in Judea and Samaria outside of areas that have been zoned for residential building. A few Jewish communities have succeeded in gaining approval for rezoning, but many others have faced political and bureaucratic obstacles.
Once zoning is approved, building usually can take place without the explicit approval of the Defense Minister, who officially is the final authority in Judea and Samaria, which Israel has not annexed as it did in the Golan Heights and all of Jerusalem.
However, the expansion of the residential zone in Itamar has a special clause that requires Barak’s approval.
Nationalists have argued for years that building new homes is the best answer to terrorists who kill Jews in Judea and Samaria.
Itamar Central Committee member Moshe Goldschmidt told Arutz Sheva Monday that it will take time for the re-zoning to reach final approval.
Shomron Regional Council liaison David Ha’Ivri said, “There also are negotiations between regional councils and the government. Barak always is trying to make it difficult [for us], but political give-and-take allows for opportunities.
“That does not mean that Barak has woken up to say, “How can I help Jews in Judea and Samaria.’”