Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
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This morning (June 2), the Israeli High Planning Council announced the highly anticipated agenda for its June 7th meeting. According to the agenda, the committee will consider plans to advance thousands of new housing units in the West Bank (Note: Haaretz is reporting 2,100 new units, Times of Israel is reporting as many as 2,600 new units, and the settler media outlet Arutz Sheva is reporting 2,600). This does not mean imminent construction of all of these new units. The majority of the plans before the council, though significant, have more procedural steps to take before building begins. Only 400 are up for final approval according to the Times of Israel.
Reportedly, 1,500 of the 2,100 units are in settlements located inside “settlement blocs”: Maaleh Adumim (on Jerusalem’s northeast flank) and Ariel (located in the heart of the northern part of the West Bank, between Nablus to the north, Ramallah to the south, and at almost exactly the midpoint between the Green Line and the Jordan border – for background on Ariel and the Ariel “bloc” see here). Plans for new units in the South Hebron Hills and the now infamous Beit El settlement, north of Ramallah, will also be considered. Haaretz also reports that the Council will move to retroactively legalize the Kerem Reim outpost, which is currently under a stop-work order thanks to a Peace Now Israel petition before the High Court of Justice.
The announcement of this agenda – and the approvals that will likely come out of the meeting – is significant, as it is the first indication of what Netanyahu’s policy of “restrained settlement growth” will mean, post-Trump’s visit. Ahead of the announcement, Netanyahu tried to temper expectations amongst his right wing coalition members who are heavily pressuring him for rapid settlement expansion. Netanyahu reportedly told Knesset members earlier in the week that Israel does not “have a blank check” from the U.S. to build in the West Bank. Following that, Haaretz reported that the Prime Minister’s Office stepped in on Thursday night to remove “thousands” of units from the meeting agenda. Predictably, settler leaders are disappointed with the total number of units up for discussion. As things stand, it appears that Trump will make the case that approving thousands of units is, in fact, an example of “restraint,” and that, as a result, this move should earn him credit rather than criticism from the Trump Administration and the world.
Over the weekend, Israeli authorities approved a jurisdictional outline for the first entirely new Israeli settlement established with government permission since 1992. The settlement is being called Amichai, and it is situated on a hilltop near the highly problematic Shilo settlement, located deep in the northern West Bank heartland. Peace Now Israel covers the important history of how this settlement (and a second settlement) is being built as pay-off to the families who were evacuated from the illegal Amona outpost earlier this year (i.e., it represents a concrete reward for breaking Israeli law and an incentive for further settler law-breaking).
The approval of this new jurisdiction will likely speed up the projected completion date for the Amichai settlement, which was once thought to be on a three-year timetable. Despite the rapid pace the Amichai approval is now taking, the Amona lawbreakers are demanding permission to construct temporary shelters in the jurisdiction that was just created.
An IDF soldier was lightly wounded in an alleged stabbing incident at the entrance gate of the Israeli settlement Mevo Dotan. Reportedly, a 16-year old Palestinian girl approached the main gate of Mevo Dotan and stabbed a soldier who was telling her to leave the area. The girl was shot and transported to a nearby hospital where she later died of her wounds. Mevo Dotan is in the northern tip of the West Bank, fairly close to the separation barrier’s route. Previously a small settlement of ~330 people, last year Mevo Dotan nearly doubled in size.
Reuters recently picked up on the impressive archival work of Akevot, an Israeli NGO unearthing and preserving Israeli government documents. The story covers more than just archived documents relating to settlements, but here’s a real money quote:
Theodor Meron, one of the world’s leading jurists who was then legal adviser to the [Israeli] foreign ministry, wrote several memos in late 1967 and early 1968 laying out his position on settlements. In a covering letter to one secret memo sent to the [Israeli] prime minister’s political secretary, Meron said: “My conclusion is that civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – Occupied Palestinian Territories (OCHA oPt) put out a new report this week titled, “Fragmented Lives: Humanitarian Overview 2016. ” In it, OCHA highlights many important ways the Israeli settlement enterprise impacted Palestinian lives in 2016. These include settler violence, settler takeovers of Palestinian property in East Jerusalem, discriminatory planning practices, the movement and access restrictions in areas near settlements, and more.
Israel’s +972 Magazine ran a feature piece on prominent Israeli activist and settlement expert Dror Etkes. The story includes his work challenging the Amona outpost as well as a great explanation of the Ottoman era law that Israeli settlers are using to massively expand settlement growth.