Israel to Expand Illegal Settlement beyond Segregation Barrier

TEL AVIV, January 26, 2015 (WAFA) – The Israeli Housing and Construction Ministry has earmarked some $215,000 for the expansion of the illegal settlement of Efrat near Bethlehem City in the West Bank, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz.

It said former Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak earlier ordered the establishment of a farm on the site, a prelude for expanding the nearby settlement Efrat, before international pressures on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rendered the project a failure.

The land where Israel is supposed to expand Efrat was declared a “state property” in 2011, before owners of the land filed an appeal against the decision to the supreme Israeli court. The court, nevertheless, has not responded to the lawsuit so far.

Last August, the Israeli Civil Administration in the West Bank announced the takeover of 988 acres of land belonging to five Palestinian villages between the Etzion settlement bloc and Jerusalem.

The United States State Department said the decision was ‘deeply concerning’ and urged it to ‘reverse the decision.’

Settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the Golan Heights, both occupied since 1967, are considered illegal in international law.

The Israeli human rights center B’Tselem says “Israel’s dramatic alteration of the West Bank map has precluded realization of Palestinians’ right to self-determination in a viable Palestinian state.”