A Settlement Arises in Samaria, or is It Merely a Neighborhood?

Less than 24 hours after the final OK was given, 10 prefabricated houses were placed Wednesday on a barren hill about a mile away from this veteran settlement, in what some say is an attempt to establish a new Jewish enclave in the West Bank.

The scene looked like it was taken out of a motion picture on pioneer settlements in Israel, updated to include modern-day equipment.

A huge crane dropped the prefab houses one by one on a plot previously straightened out by bulldozers. An electric generator gave the audio background with its monotonous humming.

Young women were standing in the scorching desert heat, watching the scene, as if unable to believe that this hill eight miles northeast of Jerusalem would soon become home.

The exact status of the new settlement remained unclear.

Although one could tell from miles around that this was a new Jewish presence in the area, its founders — eight couples and two bachelors–insisted this was merely a new neighborhood of Kfar Adumim.

“Pay no attention to the distance,” Moshe Weissman, the secretary of the new settlement, said with a smile. “Soon we will have houses lined up from here all the way to the old settlement.”

There was good reason why the settlers might not want to admit this was a new settlement, since it was not one of the eight locations on which the now-defunct national unity government agreed to build new settlements.

Extensions of existing settlements, however, do not require government approval.

A DIPLOMATIC VISITOR APPEARS

It was also no mere accident that after years of applying to build housing in this particular spot, the settlers finally obtained all the necessary permits in the six weeks since the Labor Party left the government.

As soon as the army issued the final permit Tuesday, the bulldozers hit the road.

“This is the resumption of the settlement drive in Eretz Yisrael,” Knesset member Elyakim Haetzni of Tehiya exclaimed with pride as the houses were erected.

Also on hand to celebrate the occasion were Rabbi Moshe Levinger of Hebron and Knesset member Hanan Porat of the National Religious Party, both leaders of the Gush Etzion settlement movement.

Just as they were raising wine glasses in a toast to the new settlement, a van bearing a diplomatic license plate appeared on the scene, and a shy-looking American diplomat came out, asking naively: “What’s happening here?”

The man, who refused to be identified, was a representative of the political section of the U.S. Consulate in East Jerusalem, which functions as a quasi-embassy to the West Bank.

A spokesman for the consulate later gave the following brief statement regarding the visit of the American diplomat on the settlement site:

“Because of U.S. government concern about settlement activity, the American consulate general in Jerusalem pays close attention to the settlement issue.”

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