Defense Ministry: Beit El Can be Expanded

Defense Ministry: there is land available in Beit El on which the homes in the Ulpana neighborhood can be copied.

Elad Benari ,

Children play in Beit El's Ulpana neighborhoo
Children play in Beit El's Ulpana neighborhoo
Israel news photo: Flash 90

The Defense Ministry said on Saturday night that there is land available in Beit El onto which the homes in the Ulpana neighborhood can be copied.

It was unclear why the Ministry did not decide to give alternate state land outside Beit El to those Palestinian Authority Arabs claiming ownership, thereby setting a precedent for land disputes that suddenly arise where there is longtime Israeli construction that was built in good faith, and preventing the need for families to leave their homes.

In addition, the Defense Ministry said, dozens of new buildings can be built in Beit El in more ways than one. The statement added that professionals are continuing to make the necessary technical arrangements for the planned copying of the buildings.

The statement was made following Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s decision on Saturday that the homes in the Ulpana neighborhood will not be destroyed, but rather will be copied to a military area within Beit El. For each home that is evacuated, he promised to “build 10 new structures.” In accordance with the decision, the homes will be copied from their site to an agreed-upon area.

The Defense Ministry’s statement likely came following an unsubstatiated report in the leftist daily Haaretz which claimed that Beit El was built in an area which is almost entirely made up of private land that is owned by PA Arabs.

The report stated that the Civil Administration conducted extensive tests in the area and found that only some 20 dunams of state land are available to build upon. As well, the report claimed, the IDF has found that only 40 new housing units could be built in Beit El.

Netanyahu has expressed his opposition to a proposed bill to legalize all existing structures, claiming such a law could expose the entire settlement enterprise of Judea and Samaria (Yehuda and Shomron, or “Yesha”) to international criticism.

The bill would block expulsion of Jews from their homes on land that is not contested by any Arab landowner within four years of construction on the site.

Despite Netanyahu’s opposition, MK Yaakov “Ketzaleh” Katz (National Union) said he intends to bring the legalization bill to a vote as scheduled on Wednesday.

“This is not about demolishing the 12-year-old Ulpana neighborhood, but about a domino effect which means the demolition of 9,000 homes that were built by the Israeli government over the past 45 years on land with a similar status to that of the Ulpana neighborhood,” Katz said in a statement Saturday night.

“These homes make up a fifth of the settlement in Judea and Samaria and this would mean the deportation of 70,000 Jews and erasing entire villages off the map, ten times as much as it was in Gush Katif,” he added.

“There is no doubt that all those who care about the fate of Israel and Zionism, and who do not want to be a partner in tearing the State of Israel apart, will vote on Wednesday in favor of the regulation law which will pass by a large majority,” said Katz.

The residents of the Ulpana neighborhood rejected Netanyahu’s plan on Saturday night and said, “Ehud Barak’s government placed us in the Ulpana neighborhood 12 years ago while providing incentives and grants, mortgages, construction of roads and sidewalks and infrastructure.

“Just as in the entire free world a neighborhood is not demolished, even it turns out there was a problem with the land’s bureaucratic status, so will the Ulpana neighborhood not be demolished and neither will thousands of homes in Judea and Samaria which are in the same position,” the residents added. “The Ulpana neighborhood will not be ‘copied’, even if it was a building made out of Lego.”

The residents said they “congratulate the ministers and Knesset members who will pass on Wednesday, by a large majority, the regulation law and prevent a decree that the public cannot stand, as the Prime Minister had declared.”