State Dragging Feet on Land Declaration in Etzion Bloc?

Local leaders outraged after Palestinians get 30-day extension to appeal state land declaration, made in response to the murder of 3 teens.

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Ido Ben-Porat, Tova Dvorin,

The Civil Administration
The Civil Administration
Hillel Maeir

The Civil Administration has extended an appeals period for Palestinian Arabs against the declaration of nearly 4,000 dunams (about 1,000 acres) in Gush Etzion as state land, IDF Radio reports Tuesday. 

Israel announced that it would declare 4,000 dunams as "state land" in September. The decision was one of Israel's responses to the kidnapping and murder of Israeli teens Eyal Yifrah, Naftali Frenkel, and Gilad Sha'ar, which occurred in Gush Etzion. 

The move would see the land opened for greater Jewish development, including building more homes - a necessity during Israel's housing crisis. Judea and Samaria is reportedly over 90% unpopulated, leading many to argue that the development of Israel's biblical heartland would solve the housing crisis plaguing the Jewish state.

The spokesperson for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) stated at the time that "the process was enabled after a thorough examination by the Civil Administration's zoning crew" - and noted that, despite it being declared perfectly legal under national and international law, Palestinian Arab landowners would be given 45 days to appeal the ruling. 

But while the 45-day grace period ended two weeks ago - and not a single appeal has been filed - the Civil Administration has given a thirty-day extension to the appeals process nonetheless, based on the prompting of Palestinian Arab activist lawyers. 

Head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, Davidi Perl, slammed the extension on IDF Radio Tuesday morning.

"This is the usual method of Palestinians attempting to exhaust the system, to arrive late and then request an extension to file relevant materials and dragging it out."

Perl added: "There is really a desire to build, [but] there is fear of international repercussions - we see repeated announcements on construction and then the international community hijacks it again and again."

The announcement follows both the proposal - and the resolution - of a number of building and annexation plans that have been put on the table. 

In December, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a bill to annex the Jordan Valley, but virtually no activity in that direction has been seen since, following a storm from the international community, including the Palestinian Authority (PA), US, and EU. 

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has recently begun to reverse a de facto building freeze in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria - but only by, finally, allowing building tenders from as far back as 2010 and 2012 to be approved for full construction