Ofra Wastewater Treatment Facility (top-right) and the raw sewage it is meant to treat

After 14 years, Israeli government to issue tender for the Ofra Wastewater Treatment Facility

Important environmental protection victory: A “Green Now” petition has resulted in an announcement by the state that it will issue a tender for bids to operate a wastewater treatment plant serving Ofra and adjacent Arab villages – 14 years after construction of the facility.

Are 14 years of bureaucratic foot-dragging and ongoing pollution about to end? Yesterday (Thursday), the Israeli government notified the High Court of Justice that it would publicize a call for bids for the operation of a wastewater treatment facility to serve the Jewish community of Ofra in the Binyamin Region, as well as five neighboring Arab villages. In the state’s response to a petition filed by the environmental protection group “Green Now” and residents of Ofra, the High Court was notified that the Civil Administration’s Committee on Tenders has approved the documentation and publication of a call for bids to plan, construct and operate the Ofra Wastewater Treatment Facility (WWTF).

The WWTF at Ofra was built by the Binyamin Regional Council, with government funds, in 2009, but only after construction was completed, the land on which it stands was identified as privately owned. The project was frozen in 2011, before the facility was activated, when leftist organizations petitioned the High Court of Justice.

In its decision, the High Court instructed the state to activate the facility only after completion of legal expropriation of the property, which was duly completed in 2019 – but the facility wasn’t activated. Ever since, millions of cubic liters of raw sewage from Ofra and the nearby villages has continued to flow past the padlocked gates, polluting the soil, poisoning the olive groves and the groundwater.

In a hearing of the Green Now-Ofra petition in February 2022, the justices excoriated the state, and expressed outrage over the length of time that the process has dragged on – over a decade after the previous High Court of Justice decision was handed down. The High Court denied the government’s request for an additional extension of six months in order to prepare for publication of a tender.

Attorney Shlomo Meir Rabinowitz of “Green Now” responded to the announcement: “More than a decade has passed since the High Court of Justice’s decision decried the ongoing, catastrophic damage to the environment that continues with each passing day that the wastewater facility is left inactive. Now that the Civil Administration has announced the approval and publication of a call to submit tenders, we will continue to monitor progress, to insure that the Civil Administration does, in fact, take the necessary steps to activate the facility as promised. It is unfortunate that it took a lawsuit to get results.”

A ground-level view of the Ofra Wastewater Treatment Facility
A view from above: Town of Lehavim in the Negev

Today (Sunday) the Israeli government approved the establishment of 5 new settlements in the Mevo’ot Arad region, including a new Bedouin settlement. Regavim called the decision a “positive and proactive Zionist settlement policy decision.”

The Regavim Movement welcomed this morning government’s decision to establish five new settlements in the Mevo’ot Arad region. Among the slated new communities is a new all-Bedouin settlement.

Regavim’s statement pointed out that today’s decision affirms decisions taken by the previous government in 2011 and 2014.

“The Mevo’ot Arad region is a strategic area for the State of Israel, and strengthening this region through the establishment of new settlements is an expression of basic Zionist ideals, using planning and regulation of land resources for settlement in a manner that will make the Negev desert bloom. We congratulate Minister of Interior Ayelet Shaked for her leadership in this matter.”

Regavim also welcomed the establishment of a new Bedouin community in the region, provided that it is established in accordance with the planning criteria set for the establishment of the other new settlements in Mevo’ot Arad, and subject to the ‘convergence model’ for relocation of Bedouin squatters formulated by the current government:

“Several months ago, the government approved the establishment of three new settlements and a new supra-tribal city for the Bedouin sector, subject to the ‘convergence model’, which includes detailed identification of the encampment clusters slated for relocation, signed consent and relocation commitments by 70% of those slated for relocation to the new community, and clear deadlines for relocation. These same criteria must be applied to the new community approved in today’s decision.”

Regavim: The radicalization of the Bedouin community in the Negev is unaddressed – and has resulted in bloodshed

Following the murderous attack in Beer Sheva this afternoon in which four people lost their lives, Regavim released an anguished statement: “Once again, the loss of governance in the Negev has taken an intolerable toll in human life. For years, Regavim has been sounding the alarm and calling out the loss of governance in the Negev. We have warned, again and again, that the void of governance in the Negev is an open invitation to extremism and radicalization of the Bedouin sector that will result in bloodshed. Today, our worst fears were realized, and blood has been spilled on the streets of Beer Sheva.”

Regavim added that “the government of Israel is afraid to raise the entire issue of law enforcement in the Negev, while it approves billions for the Bedouin sector’s five-year development plan. And who pays the price for this breakdown of common sense and loss of governance? The residents of the Negev, who are faced with a nightmare reality that continues to devolve with each passing day. The problem is not insufficient funding. The problem is the lack of law enforcement. There is a state within our state in the Negev; it is called Bedouistan. The time has come for the State of Israel to take back the Negev.”

The illegal Bedouin outpost of Khan al Ahmar near Kfar Adumim

High Court issues conditional order: We are forced to move toward a conclusion in the matter of Khan al Ahmar

This evening (Sunday) the High Court of Justice issued a conditional order in the most recent round of the Khan al Ahmar case. Tonight’s order, giving the government 120 days to explain its failure to fulfill the three-year old commitment to enforce the law “in the near future,” follows the government’s most recent request for an additional postponement:

“In light of the frequent requests for extensions and postponements, some of which were justified but most of which were less so; and in light of the amount of time that this petition has been pending, nearly three years; and in light of the fact that this ‘saga’ has been unfolding since 2009 when demolition orders were issued … we are forced at this juncture to take a further step toward a conclusion, by issuing a conditional order.”

The Regavim Movement, petitioner in the ongoing battle over the illegal encampment in the Adumim region, reacted to the new order: “The fact that we have been forced to petition the High Court of Justice again and again in order to compel the government to enforce the law is bad enough. Even worse is the government repeatedly giving a commitment to the High Court that it will enforce the law – and then failing to do so. It is not the job of the judicial branch to bail the executive branch out of the mess it’s made.”

The illegal outpost of Khan al Ahmar near Kfar Adumim

Israeli government asks High Court for an additional 30 days in the Khan al Ahmar case “due to the Prime Minister’s intensive involvement in the military crisis in Europe.” Regavim: “We may petition for a summary judgement.”

This evening (Tuesday) the state’s attorney requested an additional 30-day extension, in order to enable “the most senior levels of government, particularly the Prime Minister, to weigh in on this matter.”

The government had been required to respond to Regavim’s most recent High Court of Justice petition no later than this past Sunday (6 March 2022), but as the deadline approached the state requested a 48-hour extension. As this extension runs out, the state has requested an additional postponement, this time for 30 days. The request, submitted in a deposition signed by the Director of the National Security Council Eyal Hulata, claimed that the reason for the latest request was “circumstances that have arisen in the sphere of international diplomacy, including the Prime Minister’s involvement in the European military crisis.”

The Regavim Movement reacted to this latest request for postponement: “To the best of our knowledge, Prime Minister Bennett has returned from his trip to Europe, and as far as excuses go, this one is exceptionally flimsy. We are considering requesting a summary judgement.”

This morning, Bedouin lawbreakers herding flocks of thousands of sheep invaded the IDF Tzeelim Base, leading to a confrontation with the Israel Police and the Green Patrol who were called out to remove the intruders from the IDF’s live-ammunition training area. The intruders called in backup of their own – Bedouin residents of the Bir Hadaj squatters’ camp – who stoned the police officers, faced off with the enforcement patrol, and attempted to run over one of the inspectors.

As this scene was unfolding, a different face-off was taking place in the Knesset, where ministers were embroiled in a tug-of-war over the government’s new five-year plan for the Negev. Over the past several weeks, the previous five-year plan (2397) – a ₪3 billion package that included 200 million shekels for forestation, land protection and law enforcement – ran its course. The new plan, which the government is scheduled to debate and approve this week, does not include one single shekel for these crucial projects; the chapter on enforcement was simply cut out of the draft legislation.

The plan in its present form includes funding for Bedouin municipalities but is completely devoid of any allocation of resources for enforcement authorities. It will cause long-term damage to the state of governance in the Negev.

Increased enforcement activity in the Negev over the past year is the result of government decisions and budgetary allocations legislated in 2017. As it now reads, the new Negev Five-Year Plan will cut the oxygen supply for enforcement, and the results will be felt over the coming years. Under no condition should this plan be approved; all ‘carrots’ and no ‘sticks’ is not a plan, it’s a recipe for disaster.

The illegal outpost of Khan al Ahmar, next to Route 1

Regavim first petitioned the High Court of Justice over a decade ago for the evacuation of Khan al Ahmar, the illegal squatters’ camp encroaching on Route 1 and the Jewish community of Kfar Adumim.

This evening, Amit Segal reported on Channel 12 News that the Bennett-Lapid government intends to relocate the squatters a mere 300 meters (330 yards) away from their current location.

This hare-brained scheme, hatched by the Ministry of Defense, will turn the Palestinian Authority’s flagship outpost in Judea and Samaria into a permanent, recognized Palestinian settlement.

The PA targeted this point on the map precisely because of its critical strategic value as the link between Bethlehem, Ramallah and Jericho – an area where there is no Palestinian Arab presence. Enabling the takeover and de facto annexation of this strategic location will be a fiasco for the security and strategic integrity of the State of Israel.

The Israeli government invested millions, preparing an alternative location for relocation of Khan al Ahmar on Israeli state land in Jahalin West, but the relocation of the squatters has been stalled solely due to European pressure.

It is inconceivable that the very same members of this government who repeatedly attacked Netanyahu for his failure to evacuate the squatters of Khan al Ahmar are now responsible for this bizarre, pathetic alternative – one that is far worse in every way.

The planned relocation will do little to improve the lives of the squatters, but it will set a dangerous precedent of state-sanctioned annexation for the dozens of illegal squatters’ camps throughout the region that were established according to the Khan al Ahmar model.

Jahalin West: the relocation site that remains ready and waiting for the squatters of Khan al Ahmar
KKL tree-planting on state land, before it was stopped

Following the decision to suspend the KKL forestation project in southern Israel, the Regavim Movement decried the government’s capitulation, charging this decision as continued “protection payments” to Mansour Abbas that make the next round of violence and domestic terrorism inevitable.

The Raam Party and the Bedouin know full well that they can dictate to the government through the use of political pressure, strongarm tactics and violence. When you cave in to terrorism and blackmail, you invite the next round of violence. Prime Minister Bennett and Interior Minister Shaked have repeatedly asked that the “government of change” be judged by actions, not words. Today, the government’s decision to surrender to terrorism and to suspend the planting project is a an action that speaks louder than words. The words we’re hearing are Ayelet Shaked’s – but the tune the government is dancing to is being sung by Mansour Abbas.

A short video summary of our activities over the past year

From the May 2021 Riots through the Electricity Law, from the Palestinian Authority’s de facto annexation of Area C through countless hours of Knesset committee hearings and fieldwork, from countless courtroom appearances through grinding parliamentary policy sessions, from our constant presence on the ground to our incessant efforts to bridge the gaps in law and enforcement, policy and vision – this year, as every year, we present a summary and overview of Regavim’s activities.
 
As always, we take stock of the year’s achievements and challenges with the approach of Tu B’Shvat, the day we celebrate the natural rebirth of the Land of Israel – and the founding of Regavim.
 
This year, as we have for the past 15 years, we did our utmost to insure that land policy in the State of Israel reflects core Jewish and Zionist values, using every possible means to combat the unrelenting opposing forces that seek to obscure and disrupt the connection of the Nation of Israel to this good and sacred Land.

We’re pleased to present our in-depth annual report here.

Thank you for your partnership and continued support.

Recently, we went on a field tour of the Adumim region (E1) with Tribe Journal to see up close the illegal Arab takeover of the territory. Naomi Kahn, Director of Regavim’s International Division, explained how the Bedouin are being used as pawns by the Palestinian Authority to create facts on the ground, in accordance with the Fayyad plan.

Over a decade ago, then-Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority Salam Fayyad outlined his vision for a future Palestinian state throughout Judea and Samaria. The strategic, meticulous, well-funded, EU-backed plan seeks to take control of Area C, the section of Judea and Samaria under Israeli jurisdiction, and unilaterally establish a de-facto Palestinian state.

Israeli governments have failed to offer an adequate response to this strategic threat. Through various activities, Regavim and others are working hard to change the tide and help the Israeli government begin to win the Battle for Area C.

Learn more in the video >>