Israel plans huge park in occupied West Bank

The Greek Orthodox monastery of Saint Sabbas (Mar Saba), overlooking the Kidron valley, south of the West Bank biblical town of Bethlehem (Hazem Bader - AFP)

Middle East Monitor  /  June 13, 2022

Israel plans to build a new national park on nearly 1 million dunams (247,000 acres) of land in the occupied West Bank between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, Israel Hayom has reported.

The park will stretch between the illegal Jewish settlements of Kochav Hashahar north-east of occupied Jerusalem and Gush Etzion.

Tourist attractions such as the Mar Saba Monastery, Nabi Musa Mosque and the ruins of Hasmonean palaces, as well as hotels, will be within the proposed park. The area known as E1 to the east of Jerusalem has long been considered a red line and a point of no return for the internationally-backed two-state solution.

“We want to set up a new national park, the likes of which has never been seen in Judea and Samaria [the occupied West Bank], and create a single network, one product,” explained regional director-general Keren Geffen.

The announcement comes after the Israeli Defence Ministry reapproved the plan to advance a controversial settlement project in the E1 area of the occupied West Bank earlier this month. The Israeli government withdrew the plan in January amid international pressure.

The Civil Administration of the Israeli army, which authorizes construction work in the occupied West Bank, published its agenda for an 18 July meeting to discuss objections to projects that have received initial approval. Two E1 plans totaling 3,412 housing units are the only projects on the docket.