Settlement Report: September 13, 2017

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Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.

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September 13, 2017

  1. Don’t be Hoodwinked by Misleading Settlement Numbers
  2. Israel Government Sides with Illegal Outpost in Fight Against Demolition
  3. Netanyahu’s Promise to Build 300 New Units in Beit El Moves Forward (With Trickery)
  4. Updates: Clashes Ensue in Sheikh Jarrah Following Eviction; Amona Site is Now a “Closed Military Zone”; More Demolitions in Silwan
  5. Bonus Reads

Comments, questions, or suggestions? Email Kristin McCarthy at kmccarthy@fmep.org.


Don’t be Hoodwinked by Misleading Settlement Numbers

Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics published data this week on new settlement starts in the second quarter of 2017 (April-June). The data, purportedly showing a dramatic decline (75%) in construction, compared to the same period in 2016.

Hagit Ofran, the Director of Peace Now’s Settlement Watch, set the record straight – noting that starts in any given period reflect planning that took place months and years before. Construction happening today, for example, reflects approvals and tenders from two to three years ago. In light of this reality, the relatively low number of starts in the second quarter of 2017 has nothing to do with overall settlement trends, or with current settlement policies. These current settlement policies, reflected in a huge massive wave of settlement approvals seen (so far) in 2017 – a wave the indicates the settlement floodgates have opened – will result in a corresponding spike in settlement starts down the line (at which point the Israeli government will claim “it’s not our fault, this was all approved long ago!”).

Israel Government Sides with Illegal Outpost in Fight Against Demolition

Map by Kerem Navot

The High Court of Justice has ordered the demolition of 15 structures located in the Netiv Ha’avot outpost, built on land recognized by Israel as privately owned by Palestinians. In response to a last minute petition the outpost’s leaders filed with the High Court of Justice, the Israeli government expressed its support for their proposal to save 6 of the buildings from complete demolition; instead, the proposal offers to demolish only the “problematic parts” of the structures – i.e., where they cross into the pockets of privately-owned Palestinian land that run through the middle of the outpost. The High Court is set to make a final ruling on the petition on September 13th.

It is worth pointing out that every structure in the Netiv Ha’avot outpost was built in violation of Israeli planning laws. The outpost is an unauthorized expansion of the Elazar settlement, located southwest of Bethlehem. Only the 15 buildings that were built on private Palestinian land face demolition; if Israel enforced its own planning laws, the entire outpost would be razed. Last month, the Attorney General ordered the Defense Ministry to create a special unit to enforce Israeli planning laws specifically in settlements and outposts (in conjunction with the passage of the Regulation law permitting legalization of most illegal settlement construction and land seizures).

Netanyahu’s Promise to Build 300 New Units in Beit El Moves Forward (With Trickery)

Map by Kerem Navot

Kerem Navot (aka, Naboth’s Vineyard – the organization founded by anti-settlement legend Dror Etkes) has a cheeky look at how Netanyahu’s promise to build new homes in the Beit El settlement by the end of this month is coming to fruition. According to the report, the settlement has conspired with the government to build a new Border Police base south of the settlement 0- based on alleged security needs of the settlers. And what about the existing Border Police station for the settlement? That’s where the new units will be built. Two birds with one stone: more settlement units for Beit El, plus more land taken for settlements, to accommodate the entirely unnecessary new police station. 

The Beit El settlement was established in 1977, on land previously seized by Israel for military purposes. A second military seizure in 1979 enabled Beit El to expand. This method of establishing and expanding settlements has been repeatedly challenged in Israeli courts. The Israeli group Yesh Din led one such petition against Beit El, seeking to have the second seizure annulled; that petition was dismissed earlier this year. Yesh Din writes,

The State understood that it was impossible to legally defend the land theft that has been ongoing in Beit El for 40 years on land that was seized for arbitrary reasons, but it refrained, once again, from defending the rights of the weakest population, simply because they are Palestinians. Despite this, we at Yesh Din will continue to fight against the dispossession of Palestinians and the infringement of their rights.

Map by Haaretz

As a reminder, Beit El is the settlement that current U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman personally donated to and fundraised for in his capacity as President of the American Friends of Beit El charity from 2011 until his appointment (he dedicated at least one building in the settlement which bears his name).

Beit El is also slated to have a security wall built between one side of the settlement and the al-Jalazoun Palestinian refugee camp.

Updates: Clashes Ensue in Sheikh Jarrah Following Eviction; Amona Site is Now a “Closed Military Zone”; More Demolitions in Silwan

  • Last week, in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, Palestinians participated in Friday prayers in front of the former home of the Shamasneh family, which was evicted last week by settlers. On the same day, 200 Israelis – including MK Ayman Odeh (Joint List) – marched from central Jerusalem to join the demonstration. Clashes broke out between settlers and the demonstrators, resulting in injury to 14 protestors.
  • The illegal outpost of Amona was dismantled earlier this year, but the Kerem Navot organization has revealed that instead of being returned to the Palestinians who the court ruled were the rightful owners, the Israeli army has declared the area a “closed military zone” — keeping Palestinians off the land but permitting residents of the neighboring Ofra settlement to enter the area at will.  
  • Ma’an News has video of a home demolition in the Ras al-Amud area of Silwan, a Palestinian neighborhood just south of the Old City in Jerusalem. Ma’an also reports that Israel delivered several demolition orders to Palestinians in the Issawiya neighborhood of East Jerusalem earlier this week.

Bonus Reads

  • “Red Cross Chief Blasts Settlements as ‘Key Humanitarian Challenge’” (Times of Israel)
    • “We witness it daily in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem: [Israeli settlement] has enormous impact on people, on their freedom of movement, the social and economic fabric in the territories. It offers limited access to agricultural and other productive lands, has curtailed educational and employment opportunity; it makes water resource and water supply systems difficult for Palestinian communities. And the list could go on and on,” he [Red Cross Chief Peter Maurer] said.
  • “Shin Bet Bypasses Court Again and Stiffens Release Terms of Teen Settler Activist” (Haaretz+)
    • “Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court initially ordered him [a teen who is part of the extremist West Bank movement known as Hilltop Youth, had been detained without trial after violating a administrative order] released on the condition that he remain at home at night. But the Israel Defense Forces order requires him to be under house arrest 24 hours a day.”
  • “In a First, Israel Will Penalize Amnesty International for Anti-Settlements Campaign.” (Haartez+)
    • “Israel plans to punish Amnesty International for its recent campaign, which encourages people to lobby companies and governments to boycott settlement products, by denying tax benefits to Israelis who donate to the human rights organization. It is the first time the government will apply the so-called anti-boycott law, which penalizes organizations and individuals calling for a boycott of Israel or the settlements. The controversial law was passed in 2011.”
  • “Reports Israeli government plans to retaliate against Amnesty International over settlements campaign” (Amnesty International)
    • “Amnesty International has repeatedly emphasized that the very existence of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories violates international law, a matter on which there is international consensus and is reflected in UN Security Council resolutions. Settlements have contributed to decades of mass suffering and violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”