Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about what is happening this week related to Israeli settlement activity.
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President Trump’s 28-hour trip to Israel and the occupied West Bank did not include any specific policy pronouncements (click for transcripts of Pres. Trump’s public speeches: 1, 2, 3, 4). The lack of public pressure on Israel to stop settlement growth comes at a time when Netanyahu’s government is reportedly advancing plans to build new, peace-killing settlements & infrastructure in East Jerusalem and across the West Bank. Netanyahu is also under pressure by his own coalition – which apparently understands President Trump to be supportive of the Israeli settlement enterprise – to escalate the building pace even more, some have even called for outright annexation.
Following Trump’s departure from Israel, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said bluntly, “Israel doesn’t need a green light from Washington for settlement building.” According to Liberman, the High Planning Council – the body that approves plans for all Israeli construction in the West Bank – may meet on June 7th to consider plans for “several thousand” new settlement units. While the details of which plans the High Planning Council’s upcoming meeting will handle are not known, Liberman specifically mentioned the massive Jerusalem-area settlement Ma’ale Adumim as well as the South Hebron Hills.
The Times of Israel reports the Israeli Security Cabinet created a new committee this week to “advance the legalization of West Bank outposts and illegal settler homes.” According to the same report, the committee will include the Prime Minister’s Office, the Defense Ministry, and the Civil Administration. With the Knesset’s passage of the Legalization Law (or “Regulation Law”) earlier this year, several cases related to the retroactive legalization of outposts have landed in the High Court of Justice.
One of those cases, stemming from a petition Peace Now filed that resulted in a stop-work order issued against the illegal outpost of Kerem Reim, is awaiting government response due to the High Court of Justice by May 30th. Americans for Peace Now reports that this week the Israeli government has acted to advance 3-year old plans for construction in Kerem Reim in the hopes of having the stop-work order lifted.
The settlement watchdog group Peace Now released an important new report on 2016 settlement growth. Several alarming facts we noted:
- There has been a 34% increase in construction starts in 2016, 70% of which was outside of the so-called “settlement blocs”
- There has been a 33% increase in planning advanced by the Israeli government, 60% of which was outside so-called “settlement blocs”
- The Efrat settlement saw the most construction in 2016. South of Bethlehem, west of the separation barrier, Efrat is inside a settlement enclave that cuts deep into the West Bank. Efrat’s location and the route of the barrier wall that grabs it, have literally severed the route of Highway 60 between Jerusalem and Bethlehem – Highway 60 is the sole major roadway providing north/south contiguity to the West Bank for Palestinians. The economic, political, and social impacts of the closure of Highway 60 at the Efrat settlement (there is literally a wall built across the highway) have been severe for the Palestinian population. The concentrated settlement growth in Efrat exacerbates all of these problems and further entrenches what settlement expert Lara Friedman called “the trend of ‘canonization’ of the West Bank.”
- On outposts, Peace Now writes, “While in recent years, most of the construction in outposts was done by individuals who initiated the construction of their own houses, in 2016 we saw more organized construction projects in outposts, with massive infrastructure works which requires funding and investment. Such investment must require the active, or at least passive, involvement of the authorities, and the settlement municipal councils in particular. The mechanism of the governmental involvement in illegal construction in the West Bank was exposed by Peace Now in our latest report, can be found here.”
Following an upsurge in settler violence in the Nablus area and elsewhere, the IDF is reportedly deploying hundreds of more troops into “known friction points, sensitive sites, and Palestinian cities.”
Contact Kristin McCarthy (email@example.com) with questions and comments.