© Gil Cohen-Magen
A neighborhood under construction in the West Bank settlement of Ofra.
Defense Ministry changes housing regulation according to whether the houses belong to Jews or Palestinians.

The Defense Ministry's Civil Administration on Tuesday rejected a request to legalize a Palestinian house, claiming it was too close to a main West Bank road. A day earlier, the administration approved the construction of homes in the West Bank settlement of Ofra, after revoking the very ban on which the Tuesday decision was based.

The administration's planning heads, architects Natalia Averbuch and Daniel Halimi, said their considerations were purely professional. But observers maintain that the administration's planning is politically motivated and aimed at pushing the Palestinians off their land.

The request that a retroactive bulding permit be issued for the Palestinian house in Beit Ummar, a village 11 kilometers northwest of Hebron, was rejected by the administration's planning and licensing committee, headed by Halimi, on Tuesday. The administration had previously issued a demolition order for the house, which was built without a permit.

Halimi wrote in his decision that regulations forbade the building of houses less than 120 meters away from Route 60, as it both obstructed the traffic and was a disturbance to the people living near the road. The rejection made it possible to demolish the house, he said.

However, on Monday the administration decided exactly the opposite regarding homes belonging to Jews.

The administration is in the process of legalizing some of Ofra's illegal construction, in terms of a new master plan it has drawn up for the settlement. Ofra was built without a master plan, as required, and most of its houses were built without permits on private Palestinian land. The objective of the new plan is legitimize some 200 illegal houses and authorize the construction of some 50 new homes.

However, the houses in question are less than 120 meters from Route 60.

Consequently, the administration reduced the permitted distance from the road to 80 meters, thus legalizing the construction in Ofra. The very next day, however, it upheld the 120 meter ban when requested to legalize a Palestinian house.

The administration declined to comment.