Israel Approves Etzion Settlement Expansion
Israel’s military establishment has approved the establishment of a new, permanent neighborhood and a farm near the West Bank settlement of Efrat. The projects will go beyond the community’s current built-up area, constituting an effective expansion of the Etzion Bloc of settlements toward the north and north-east. After they are completed, Jewish settlement in northern Gush Etzion will reach the edges of Bethlehem’s southernmost suburbs.
The plan for the neighborhood was approved by Defense Minister Ehud Barak. It calls for building 40 single-family homes on Givat Hadagan, replacing the trailer park on this site at the northern edge of Efrat. The Israel Lands Administration this week published a tender for the homes, a move that requires the defense minister’s approval.
Approval for the farm was issued by the Israel Defense Forces. It will be built at Givat Eitam, located on the Palestinian side of the planned route of the separation barrier. Its establishment is designed to preserve the territory for the future expansion of Efrat.
Efrat is located on a series of hills on a mountain ridge east of Route 60, which connects the Palestinian cities of the West Bank. Each hill has its own name. Givat Hadagan, the northernmost one, is a few hundred meters from the Deheisheh refugee camp and from the Palestinian town of Al-Hadr, south of Bethlehem. Givat Hadagan was planned as a neighborhood of 500 homes. Construction was approved in the 1990s but never carried out for both diplomatic and bureaucratic reasons. In the late 1990s settlers turned the site into an unauthorized neighborhood of trailer homes that is today the campus of Yeshivat Siach Yitzhak.