After years of research and a number of High Court cases, the Civil Adminstration on Sunday declared a parcel of 980 dunams (242 acres) of land in Gush Etzion as state-owned land. The declaration of the parcel as state-owned land is the first step in developing plans for eventual home construction.
This is the largest single state land declaration in Gush Etzion for more than a decade and observers said that it could signal a signifcant increase in construction in Gush Etzion in the coming years. Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon signed off on the declaration order last week, and Civil Administration officials hung signs in the area declaring the state's intentions.
The declaration was made possible after legal research teams labored for years researching the provenance of the land. Numerous leftist groups brought cases before the High Court seeking to prove that the land belonged to Palestinians, but all the cases were rejected, as no substantive proof of ownership or long-term use was provided.
Despite the fact that they have no title to it, several Palestinian Arab farmers are using parts of the land, and the government has set a 45-day period for them to file appeals against the declaration. Since the land is unowned, however, they would receive compensation if they could prove that the declaration hurt them materially.
After the 45-day period, the IDF Civil Administration will accept plans for development of the land.