Settlement & Annexation Report: May 26, 2023

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

To subscribe to this report, please click here.

May 26, 2023

  1. IDF & Settlers Move Ahead with Re-Establishment of Homesh Settlement
  2. Israeli Authorities Approve New East Jerusalem Settlement of “Kidmat Zion”
  3. State & Settler Violence Coerce the Forcible Transfer of Ein Samia Bedouin Community
  4. Israel Attempts to Assuage U.S. Concern Over Smotrich’s “Double the Settlers” Planning
  5. Israeli State Budget Awards “Several Billion” Shekels to Settlements & Outposts
  6. Government Gives Settler Group $41 Million for East Jerusalem Archaeological Projects
  7. Annexation, End of Civil Society on the Government’s Agenda This Weekend
  8. Bonus Reads

IDF & Settlers Move Ahead with Re-Establishment of Homesh Settlement

On May 18th the IDF Commander signed a military order that finalizes the Knesset’s recent repeal of key sections of the 2005 Disengagement Law, allowing Israelis to enter the area in the northern West Bank where the Homesh settlement stood before it was dismantled by the Israeli government in 2005 as part of Disengagement. In parallel, the Israeli Defense Minister announced that the government plans to relocate the Homesh outpost – a yeshiva (that is, a Jewish religious school) established illegally by settlers as part of their drive to re-establish the Homesh settlement – from its current location, which is on land that Israeli courts have recognized as private Palestinian property, to a small plot of nearby “state land.”  The Times of Israel further reports that the IDF Commander signed additional orders on May 15th that temporarily bar Israelis from entering the existing Homesh outpost until the outpost’s yeshiva is relocated to the “state land” plot, and that add the Homesh outpost as an official community under the umbrella of the Shomron Regional Council (a settlement municipal body).

Following the IDF Commander’s order, Yesh Din said in a statement:

“The Homesh outpost is on private land belonging to residents of the Palestinian village of Burqa. The entry of Israelis into the area is an additional tool in the expulsion of residents from their lands. The process of authorizing the outpost is a prize and an incentive for criminals and a violation of international law.” 

On May 25th, Haaretz published photos of settlers using tractors to clear the plot of “state land” for construction, ostensibly in preparation for the relocation of the existing Homesh outpost/yeshiva. Israel’s plan to relocate the outpost is an attempt to sidestep a pending petition filed in 2009 by the Palestinian landowners and Yesh Din seeking removal of the Homesh outpost/yeshiva from the Palestinians’ land and providing for the landowners to access the area (discussed in greater detail below). To state the obvious, moving the Homesh settlement to the tiny plot of “state land” in the area will not cure any of the underlying infringements on Palestinian rights. Yesh Din explainsIsrael is well aware that as long as there is an Israeli presence in the area, the Palestinian landowners will not be able to access their lands safely and the violation of their rights will continue.”

 This land clearing by settlers is taking place despite the fact that, according to Haaretz, the settlers do not have the permits legally required by Israel to carry out work at the site, resulting in the IDF attempting to stop the illegal work. Reportedly Defense Minister Gallant and Minister Smotrich ordered the IDF to back off and allow the settlers land-clearing to continue, lack of permits notwithstanding. On May 24th Yesh Din submitted an urgent appeal with the Israeli Central Command to stop the settlers’ work at the site; the appeal is still pending, even as the settlers’ work continues because the Israeli government has instructed the IDF to allow it.

Israeli actions on the ground send strong signals that Israel will soon act to transform the Homesh outpost, relocated to its new site, into an official new (or in this case, resuscitated) settlement. Yet, following U.S. criticism of its policies and actions vis à vis Homesh, the Israeli government reportedly sought to assuage U.S. concerns by drawing a (manufactured, meaningless) distinction between establishing a settlement and relocating an existing outpost. Axios reports that “the Israeli side made it clear to the Biden administration that it has no intention of rebuilding the Homesh settlement and stressed the new order was signed only to allow the moving of the Homesh outpost from private land to state land.”  

As a reminder – the legalization of Homesh was explicitly agreed to in the coalition deals which formed the current Israeli government. And despite the message to the U.S. behind closed doors, Israeli lawmakers and settler leaders hailed the Israeli government’s moves on Homesh as concrete steps toward the realization of this commitment. Otzma Yehudit MK and settlement activist Limor Son Har Melech hailed the news and said that the real goal is to reestablish all four settlements located near the Homesh outpost which were dismantled by the Israeli government in 2005 (the order issued by the IDF Commander on May 18th that allows Israelis to enter to the Homesh area did not extend to the areas of the other three settlements – Sa-Nur, Ganim, and Kadim).

Kerem Navot adds more detail to the settlers’ grand ambition in this area of the West Bank – between the major cities of Nablus and Jenin where there is currently no official Israeli settlement or control. Kerem Navot writes:

“the settlers have already made it clear that from their perspective, returning to Homesh is only the beginning. And that it is their intention to also re-establish the settlement of Sa-Nur, which was located on a hill a few kilometers to the north, next to the Nablus-Jenin road. At the same time as the takeovers of these sites, the settlers have also been pursuing a plan to take over the Al-Mas’udiyya train station, which is located north of the violent and isolated settlement of Shavei Shomron. As we reported here last September, they intend to establish the “Settlement Museum” there…the racist and violent settler right that, in practice, controls the Israeli government, plans on taking over an area where there haven’t been settlements since 2005. At this stage, the intention is to 1. Re-establish two settlements (Homesh and Sa-Nur) that were evacuated in 2005. 2. Take over two new spots (the archeological site in Sebastiya and the Al-Mas’udiyya train station), by turning them into tourist sites. The wider Israeli public will provide the money and the soldiers required to realize this plan. And the land, and most of the blood that will be spilled in order to realise this plan, will, as always, be supplied by the Palestinians.”

And a further reminder: The Israeli government has for nearly three years delayed its response to a 2019 petition filed by Yesh Din seeking both the removal of the illegal outpost and yeshiva at the site of the dismantled Homesh settlement, as well as the site’s return to its Palestinian landowners. Despite Homesh being dismantled in 2005, Israel never permitted Palestinians to regain access to or control of the land, declaring it a closed military zone. That status has prevented Palestinians from entering the area, even as the IDF permitted settlers to routinely enter the area, to live (illegally, under Israeli law) at the site, and to illegally establish a yeshiva there. That yeshiva, according to Kerem Navot, has become one of the West Bank’s “hardcore centers of settler terror”. Settlers have also wreaked terror on nearby Palestinian villages, most notably Burqa and Sebastia. One Israeli politician even went so far as to say that settlers are “carrying out a pogrom” in Burqa.

Proving Kerem Navot’s point, on May 24th, on the heels of a visit to the area by foreign diplomats, a group of settlers attacked Burqa, near the Homesh site, throwing stones and setting homes on fire.

Israeli Authorities Approve New East Jerusalem Settlement of “Kidmat Zion”

The Jerusalem District Planning Authority gave initial approval to a plan to build a new settlement enclave, “Kidmat Zion,” to be located between the Ras al-Amud neighborhood and the Israeli separation barrier, with the Abu Dis neighborhood on the other side of the wall. The settlement enclave will be accessible only by driving through densely populated areas of Ras Al-Amud. 

The plan – which calls for 400 settlement units [translating, conservatively, to at least 2,000 settlers] – is being promoted by the Ateret Cohanim settler organization. Speaking publicly about the plan, Ateret Cohanim said it will:

 “change the map of the eastern part of the city. The neighborhood sits in a strategic location, and can gradually change its image to Jewish and prevent the Arab takeover of the city’s eastern neighborhoods.” 

Construction of this settlement could well achieve the considerable geopolitical consequences the settlers hope for — most notably by complicating if not outright blocking any future division of Jerusalem (or sharing agreement) under any possible Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. It is worth recalling that Abu Dis has been repeatedly suggested by Israel and its allies (including in the Trump Plan) as the capital of a future Palestinian state (as a substitute for Jerusalem), and an unfinished building in Abu Dis was designed to be the future home of a Palestinian parliament. This settlement plan would scuttle all such ideas. Indeed, in the planning documents Ateret Cohanim explained:

“Palestinian institutions in Abu Dis were built with the vision of turning the town into the capital city of Palestine and building a corridor and passage to the center of Jerusalem, and thus promoting the takeover of the entire city…The significance of establishing and developing the neighborhood is to create a shield for Jerusalem against Palestinian ambitions. The neighborhood will disturb the contiguity [of the area] and protect us from dividing the city.”

The new settlement enclave will also further solidify the infrastructure connecting settlements south of Jerusalem to the city. Kidmat Zion will be located adjacent to the so-called “American Road,” which will tunnel underneath parts of Abu Dis. The “American Road” is a section of north-south highway that is meant to seamlessly connect settlements located in the north and south of Jerusalem to one another, and to serve as a bypass for settler traffic to cut through East Jerusalem’s Palestinian neighborhoods. While the road will be accessible to Palestinians (a fact touted by Israel as proof of Israeli good intentions), the obvious primary purpose is to entrench Israel settlements, expand Israeli control over all of East Jerusalem, and close off Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhoods from the rest of the West Bank, thereby (further) torpedoing Palestinian hopes of one day establishing a capital in East Jerusalem. 

State & Settler Violence Coerce the Forcible Transfer of Ein Samia Bedouin Community

On May 22nd, the approximately 200 residents (27 families, including 80 children) of the Ein Samia bedouin community were forcibly coerced to leave their homes and abandon their land. The community faced nearly constant and often violent harassment by settlers from a nearby settlement, Kochav HaShachar and its shepherding outpost, as well as state-backed violence, including the looming demolition of the community’s only school. 

The Ein Samia community lived on the land for 40 years, and its residents have endured violence and oppression for decades. However, as +972 journalist Basel Adra reports, the community has been living through a true nightmare over the past week. Adra writes:

“Residents say they were compelled to leave after a fierce spate of violence over the previous five days, during which settlers attacked them at night, blocked the roads to the village, and threw stones at the old homes. The mental toll of the attacks, especially on the children, was the decisive factor in the residents’ choice to destroy the village and move away…‘Ein Samia is located next to the Kochav HaShachar settlement and is east of Tzir Alon, an area settlers have been attempting to take over in recent years. It is one of 180 Palestinian villages in Area C of the West Bank that are “unrecognized” by the Israeli authorities and whose residents are denied permits for any construction or connection to basic utilities, like water and electricity.”

Yesh Din said in a statement:

“Yesterday, a Bedouin Palestinian family was forced to leave their home in Ein Samia due to escalating settler violence. This heartbreaking incident is not an isolated case. Rather, it has become a distressing phenomenon in the West Bank, growing worse with each passing day. In Ein Samia – like other areas in the west bank – the plight of Bedouin communities has been unfolding for decades. For approximately 60 years, Bedouin communities have resided and worked on the agricultural lands surrounding Kafr Malik – an area called Ein Samia. These families were first displaced in the 1960s and have since relied on these lands for their livelihoods. They have endured hardships and harassment, but recent events have taken a sinister turn. The establishment of ‘Micha Farm,’ a settler shepherding outpost, marked a turning point. (5/10) It not only disrupted the lives of the Bedouin communities but sparked a surge in violence. With increasing frequency, settlers armed with guns and attack dogs invade their lands, stealing livestock, damaging crops, and subjecting Palestinian residents to physical assaultsThe situation has become unbearable. The attached photo captures the heartbreaking moment when a family had no choice but to pack their belongings, forced out of their home by the constant terror they could no longer endure.”

B’Tselem said in a statement:

Israel’s policy, whose goal is to allow the state to take over more and more Palestinian land to be used by Jews, is applied across the West Bank against dozens of Palestinian communities. This policy is illegal. Forcible transfer is a war crime.”

Israel Attempts to Assuage U.S. Concern Over Smotrich’s “Double the Settlers” Planning

Last week it was reported that Bezalel Smotrich, who has been granted vast authority over civil affairs in the West Bank, has set out to initiate wide-scale planning with the goal of adding  500,000 new settlers within the next two years. This week, Haaretz reports that Israeli government officials told the Biden Administration that, notwithstanding Smotrich’s intentions and plans, the government does not have an official policy seeking to add 500,000 new settlers in the next two years.

Israeli State Budget Awards “Several Billion” Shekels to Settlements & Outposts

On May 24th, the Knesset approved a state budget which, among other things, provides (at least) several billion (yes, with a “b”) shekels for settlements and outposts.

In particular, the State budget invests massively in West Bank infrastructure projects. Fully one-fourth of the total Transportation Ministry’s budget is for projects in the West Bank, even though settlers are just X% of the total Israeli population. Specifically, the budget provides the Transportation Ministry with NIS 3.5 billion ($941 million) to invest in upgrading and paving new roads in the West Bank over the next two years. The Times of Israel details the settlement-related budgets and projects that this funding includes:

  • NIS 2 billion ($538 million) will go to upgrading Highway 60, the main north-south highway which runs from Jerusalem to Hebron;
  • NIS 500 million ($134 million) will go toward expanding a road between the Ariel settlement and Tapuach Junction in the northern West Bank;
  • NIS 366 million ($98 million) will go to upgrading the access road to the Beit El Regional Council area; 
  • NIS 300 million ($81 million) will pay for a new road between the Migron settlement and Qalandia north of Jerusalem; 
  • NIS 200 million ($54 million) for a road circumventing the Palestinian village of Al-Funduq in the northern West Bank west of Nablus; and, 
  • NIS 150 million ($40 million) for a road in the Alfei Menashe settlement. 
  • Hundreds of millions more were allocated for roads in and around East Jerusalem.

The newly created Settlements and National Missions Ministry, headed by Religious Zionism MK Orit Strock (a longtime settler activist from the Hebron settlements) received NIS 268 million ($72 million) in funding, including NIS 399 million ($107 million) that will be funneled to the World Zionist Organization’s Settlement Division and NIS 74 million ($20 million) to support settlement municipal authorities in their efforts to monitor “illegal” Palestinian construction in Area C.

Yoni Mizrachi, a researcher with Peace Now told The Times of Israel:

“All Israeli governments prioritize the West Bank settlements in the budget, but this government has gone even further and has taken money from core funds and given it to a small group living in the West Bank which in a political agreement with the Palestinians Israel will leave. We are seeing an effort here to deepen Israel’s presence in the West Bank.”

Government Gives Settler Group $41 Million for East Jerusalem Archaeological Projects

On May 21st, at a ceremonial cabinet meeting held in the Western Wall tunnels of the Old City of Jerusalem (timed to coincide with Jerusalem Day celebrations), the Israeli government approved 41 million shekels ($11 million) for archaeological sites in East Jerusalem, almost all of which are managed by the Elad settler organization. Another 6 million shekels ($1.6 million) were budgeted for programs which bring Israeli soldiers and students to Jerusalem’s archaeological sites. The Chairman of Elad, David Be’eri, attended the meeting.

Emek Shaveh, an association of left-wing archaeologists, said in a statement:

“The government will invest millions of shekels in developing tourism and promoting an ideology dictated by the radical settler organization Elad. This year, large swaths of the funding were also earmarked for bringing students and soldiers to participate in archeological and tourist settler activities. Consequently, not only will our taxes go toward Judaizing East Jerusalem, but so will our children.”

Peace Now said in a statement

“Like in every year, the Israeli government celebrates Jerusalem Day by transferring funds to settlers in East Jerusalem. The cabinet meeting in the Western Wall tunnels is a direct continuation of the hate march we witnessed last week on Jerusalem Day. Both of these actions are intended to increase hostility, tension, and hatred between Israelis and Palestinians in the city, rather than finding a peaceful solution between the peoples.”

Annexation, End of Civil Society on the Government’s Agenda This Weekend

The Israeli Ministerial Committee on Legislative Affairs (a body of ministers who decide whether or not the government will back legislative proposals in the Knesset) is set to meet on Sunday, May 28th to vote on multiple bills that are particularly concerning for settlement watchers.

The committee may (rumor has it the government is reconsidering) vote on a resolution, authored by Galilee and National Resilience Minister Yitzhak Wasserlauf (Otzma Yehudit), that seeks to make the commit the whole of the Israeli government to advancing “Zionist values” as described in the Nation-State law. The Times of Israel reports the resolution is specifically aimed at promoting settlement growth across the West Bank, and the resolution’s language uses “The Land of Israel” to refer to the entirety of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. The Times of Israel further details:

“Wasserlauf’s proposed resolution appears to be expressly focused on the issue of advancing the Jewish presence in the West Bank and throughout Israel, with the text of the resolution stating that it is applicable to government agencies involved in land allocation and construction planning, such as the Israel Land Authority and the National Council for Planning and Construction…It appears likely that a central objective of Wasserlauf’s resolution will be to further expand the West Bank settlements.”

The committee is also expected to vote on a bill to de facto annex national parks and nature reserves in the West Bank. The bill, proposed by Likud MK Danny Danon, seeks to transfer the power to declare “national sites” in the West Bank from the Defense Ministry (which is hte occupation government) to the Interior Ministry (an entirely domestic body), which is currently headed by acting Minister is Michael Malchieli (Shas). Revealing the bill’s true goal – to bring every archaeological and heritage site in the West Bank under Israeli control –  the explanatory note filed with the bill reads:

​​“The lands of Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] are full of heritage sites of great national and historical importance to the development of settlement in the Land of Israel. In these lands, our forefathers walked, established their homes, and were exiled from these places twice in history. After nearly 2,000 years of exile, the people of Israel have returned to their land, and during the Six Day War, the lands of Judea and Samaria were liberated as well. We must recognize the history of the Jewish people that can be found in every clod of earth in Judea and Samaria.”

Amid international outcry, the committee is also expected to vote on an extremely dangerous bill targeting civil society organizations and, in particular, the human rights sector. The legislation would in effect remove the tax-exempt status of these groups and replace it with an onerous, and quite openly punitive, vindictive tax rate of 65% applied to the groups’ income and/or endowments. Please listen to a new FMEP podcast with Lara Friedman, Jessica Montell (HaMoked) and Francesca Albanese (UN Rapporteur), entitled “Israel’s new anti-NGO legislation: An Effort to Eradicate Opponents of Illiberalism”

Another bill seeks to penalize students flying the Palestinian flag on Israeli school campuses, making it a punishable offense with suspension and/or expulsion.

Bonus Reads

  1. “The Palestinian Village in Smotrich’s Sights” (Jewish Currents)
  2. “Opinion | Israel’s Absent Finance Minister Serves the Settlements” (Nehemiah Shtrasler, Haaretz)


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

To subscribe to this report, please click here.

May 5, 2023

    1. Planning Initiated for New East Jerusalem Settlement Enclave, Kidmat Zion
    2. May 8 Hearing Set to Advance Plan Massively Expanding Nof Zion Settlement Enclave
    3. Israel Announces Start of Construction of the “Sovereignty Road,” Which Enables E-1 Construction & Annexation of Area C
    4. IDF Created Unit Specifically for Radical, Violent “Hilltop Youth” Settlers to Terrorize
    5. Two Major New Reports: Amnesty on Surveillance and B’Tselem on Water
    6. Bonus Reads

Planning Initiated for New East Jerusalem Settlement Enclave, Kidmat Zion

Ir Amim reports that on April 27th a new plan was submitted to the Jerusalem District Planning Committee outlining the construction of a new settlement in East Jerusalem, between the Ras al-Amud neighborhood and the Israeli separation barrier, with the Abu Dis neighborhood on the other side of the wall. This new enclave – dubbed Kidmat Zion – is slated to have 384 settlement units built on a strip of land surrounded by Palestinian neighborhoods and only accessible by driving through the densely populated areas of Ras Al-Amud.

The plan is being promoted by an affiliate of the Ateret Cohanim settler group – Bahorim Company – which filed documents with the planning committee that show it (Bahorim) only owns 10% of the land the new plan seeks to build on. The land is unregistered, but Bahorim submitted a table of ownership purporting to show that dozens of plots were owned by Jews prior to 1948, still other plots are owned by settler affiliated groups including one run by U.S. millionaire and settlement financier Irving Moskowitz, and 1 or 2 plots are owned by Palestinians. Part of the land is owned by the Israeli Custodian General, and though it is unknown whether or not the Israeli government is involved in the promotion of this plan Ir Amim speculates:

“Although this does not appear in the documents published thus far, it is possible that the General Custodian is involved in the plan’s preparation, which could explain how Bahorim Ltd. has submitted a plan while only allegedly owning 10% of the area. Last year, the General Custodian covertly transferred into its management 12 dunams of land near the area designated for the new settlement and subsequently completed land registration of the property. The assumption is that the General Custodian likely intends to advance another settlement plan on these respective dunams of land. It should be noted that the General Custodian has become one of the leading state institutions who works in close cooperation with settler groups to expand Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem.”

May 8 Hearing Set to Advance Plan Massively Expanding Nof Zion Settlement Enclave

Ir Amim reports that on May 8th the Jerusalem District Planning Committee is scheduled to take up a plan to massively expand the Nof Zion settlement enclave located in the middle of the Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabal Mukaber. The Committee is set to hold its second discussion to decide whether to submit the plan for public objection; it’s first discussion in March 2023 resulted in the committee sending the plan back to its initiators for a few minor revisions.

The plan – called “Nof Zahav” – would allow for 100 new residential units and 550 hotel rooms in the settlement enclave, which currently consists of 95 units, plus another  200 under construction. In order to provide sufficient land for this expansion, the Jerusalem Planning Committee is simultaneously advancing another plan to relocate an Israeli police station [the Oz station], currently located on the border of Jabal Mukaber, to a new site across the street. This will leave its original location free for the planned expansion of Nof Zion, while the new site will become a massive new Israeli security headquarters. Ir Amim filed a petition against the police station plan, arguing that it is an affront to the planning needs of the local community and that it represents a continuation of Israel’s systematic, city-wide discrimination against the housing, educational, and service-based needs of Palestinian neighborhoods. 

Israel Announces Start of Construction of the “Sovereignty Road,” Which Enables E-1 Construction & Annexation of Area C

Peace Now reports that the Israeli Civil Administration has announced that it will begin preparatory work for the so-called “Sovereignty Road” in early May. Terrestrial Jerusalem further reports that In recent days, Israeli authorities have: issued notices to Palestinian landowners whose land will be seized for construction of the road, began testing borings where the road will be paved, and allocated millions of shekels to fund components of the road. If built, the “Sovereignty Road” will seal and divert Palestinian traffic around the area where Israel intends to build the E-1 settlement just east of Jerusalem. [map]

The road was dubbed as the “sovereignty road” by Naftali Bennett,  in light of Bennett’s argument that the Palestinian-only, Israeli-controlled road answers key international criticism over the ramifications of the construction of the E-1 settlement. For decades, construction of the E-1 settlement – which is scheduled for its final discussion on June 12th  – has been adamantly opposed by the international community because, in part, it would effectively cut the West Bank in half – preventing any two-state solution. The new road has long been Israel’s answer to that criticism, with Israel arguing that it will replace territorial contiguity with limited “transportational continuity” – via a sealed road that is under Israel’s total control. 

However, in order to plan for the road, Israel has had to make more than a few exceptions to its own planning laws (suggesting again that for Israel, “rule by law” rather than “rule of law” is the prevailing paradigm). Peace Now explains:

“Officially, the planned road is defined as a ‘security road’. The excuse for its construction is the intention to build the separation barrier around the Ma’ale Adumim settlement bloc, which is defined as a security need. As a derivative of this, there is a need to build a road that will allow the continuation of the ‘abric of life’ of the Palestinians travelling from north to south of the West Bank.  Furthermore, by being defined as a security road, it is not brought for planning approval in the Higher Planning Council of the Civil Administration. Subsequently, the public is not given the opportunity to object to it, as in a formal planning process. Seemingly, this is because the State of Israel has no official authority to plan this road as significant parts of it pass through Area B (see map). According to the 1995 Interim Agreement with the Palestinians, planning authority in it is given only to the Palestinian Authority. To bypass this, the Ministry of Defense chose to define the road as a security road. The lands taken for its construction do not go through a process of seizure for public purposes, but rather a process of military seizure, and therefore the planning process is done behind closed doors.”

Terrestrial Jerusalem explains the significance of this road:

“this [road] is the last link in the creation of an ‘Israel-only’ national road grid in Area C, located to the East of East Jerusalem. The completion of this road will be a quantum leap towards de facto annexation of a large portion of Area C. Dovetailed with E-1, and the demolition of Khan al Ahmar, which are intimately-linked to the road project, would further solidify the irrefutable reality of de facto annexation.”

IDF Created Unit Specifically for Radical, Violent “Hilltop Youth” Settlers to Terrorize 

An investigation by +972 Magazine and Local Call has revealed that two years ago the IDF created a special unit – “Desert Frontier” – composed mostly of settlers from the Hilltop Youth movement who are known to the army to be violent. The unit is based in the West Bank, operating now almost entirely in the Jordan Valley, and its soldiers police the area to assert Israeli control and presence, protecting settlers and outposts while harassing Palestinians and clearing them out of Israeli declared firing zones.  +972 obtained testimony of at least 12 incidents in which the “Desert Frontier” perpetrated terrible interrogations and beatings of Palestinians – often driving their victims to remote areas in the desert and leaving them there without a phone or keys, sometimes blindfolded and handcuffed. 

According to a security official who spoke to +972 on the basis of anonymity said that the idea behind the unit was/is to rehabilitate hilltop youth members, who are not only notoriously and violently anti-Palestinian, but who also regularly challenge the Israeli government’s authority. The source said the unit “consists mainly of hilltop youth … the extreme of the extreme, who otherwise would not have enlisted.”

Two Major New Reports: Amnesty on Surveillance and B’Tselem on Water

In case you missed it, two new reports have been released this week that are worth reading for those tracking settlements and annexation.

Amnesty International released “Automated Apartheid: How facial recognition fragments, segregates and controls Palestinians in the OPT”, revealing new information about Israel’s use of technology to enforce apartheid rule in the OPT. The publication of the report was covered by The New York Times.

B’Tselem released Parched: Israel’s Policy of Water Deprivation in the West Bank.” The report details how Israel uses water rights and planning to strengthen its control over the West Bank and advance the apartheid regime’s principles: reinforcing and entrenching Jewish supremacy in the entire area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

Bonus Reads

  1. “Recent Developments in the Situation of Palestinian and Israeli Human Rights Defenders – April 2023” (Human Rights Defenders Fund)
  2. Israelis Settlers Suspected of Assaulting Two Palestinian Men in West Bank” (Haaretz)
  3. “Legalizing the Younger Settlement Enterprise (Hanan Greenwood / Israel Hayom)
  4. “Israel Razed the Last Orchard in Silwan in Search of Siloam Pool. It Still Can’t Be Found”
  5. “Netanyahu Meets with Settler Leaders” (Arutz Sheva)

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

To subscribe to this report, please click here.

March 11, 2022

  1. Settler Population Continues to Surge
  2. Bennet Government Delays Khan al-Ahmar Decision
  3. Major Ma’ale Adumim Settlement Expansion Advanced
  4. Palestinians Continue Weekly Protests Against Expansion of “American Road” in Jerusalem
  5. High Court to Rule on Expulsion of Palestinians in South Hebron Hills “Firing Zone”
  6. Former U.S. VP Mike Pence Hangs out with Kahanists in Hebron
  7. Further Reading

Settler Population Continues to Surge

The Israeli Ministry of Interior released new figures on the growth of the West Bank settler population over the past 13 months (January 1, 2021 through Jan 31, 2022). The data shows that growth in the Israeli settler population, which surged during President Trump’s overtly pro-settlement term in office, has continued to accelerate. This population growth follows the surge in settlement construction that took place during the Trump presidency.

The data was compiled by Yaakov Katz, who is the former Chair of the Board of Directors of the settler-run Arutz Sheva media outlet. Katz currently publishes West Bank Jewish Population Stats (a project of “Bet El Institutions”, associated with the settlement of Beit El – a settlement closely associated with Trump’s ambassador to Israel, David Friedman). The data reveals that over the reporting period:

  • The number of West Bank settlers grew to a total of 490,493 (not including the ~330,000 East Jerusalem settlers), representing a nearly 3.2% rise over 13 months
  • The following settlements increased their population size by over 10% over the reporting period:
    • Rechan, located in the northern West Bank;
    • Alei Zahav, located in a string of settlements stretching across the northern West Bank. Alei Zahav and its settlement neighbors create a contiguous Israeli populated areas linking Israel proper (west of the Green Line) all the way to the Ariel settlement, located in the heart of the West Bank (the eastern end of Ariel is closer to the Jordan border than to the Green Line). Notably, Alei Zahav is one of the settlements in which the “market principle” has been applied to legalize settlers theft of land recognized by Israel as belonging to Palestinians (see our July 2019 report).
    • Amichai, a brand new settlement established  by the Israeli government in 2017 and continuously expanded, located in the central West Bank;
    • Naaleh, in the central West Bank;
    • Bruchin, in the central West Bank;
    • Yitzhar, the radical and violent settlement located near Nablus in the central West Bank. The Yitzhar settlement serves as the home base of the “Hilltop Youth” settler movement;
    • Nokdim, located south east of Bethlehem;
    • Metzad-Asfar, located south east of Bethlehem;
    • Kfar Etzion, located south of Bethlehem;
    • Beit HaArava, located in the Jordan Valley;
    • Maskiot, located in the Jordan Valley;
    • Negohot, located in the South Hebron Hills;
    • Susya, located in the South Hebron Hills; 
    • Pnes Hever, located in the South Hebron Hills;
    • Sansena, located in the South Hebron Hills.

The report goes on to predict that the settler population will cross the 1 million threshold in 2046.

Bennet Government Delays Khan al-Ahmar Decision

This week the Bennett-led government asked the High Court of Justice to extend the deadline for submitting its position on the forcible relocation of the Khan al-Ahmar bedouin community (a war crime). The State was facing a March 6th court deadline (which has already been delayed once at the request of the State), and initially requested a two-day extension – which the Court granted. On March 8th, the State requested a 30-day extension, citing the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a time consuming matter for senior officials whose input is needed on the Khan al-Ahmar plan.

Regavim – the settler group behind the Court case seeking to force the government to demolish Khan al-Ahmar – slammed Bennett for the repeated delays and also stated that they might challenge the latest delay, saying

“As far as we know, Prime Minister Bennett has already returned from his trip to Europe, and the additional rejection request smells like smearing. We will consider appealing to the Supreme Court for a ruling.”

Prior to this most recent delay, reports suggested that the government was preparing a plan that would see the demolition of the Khan Al-Ahmar only to (bizarrely) rebuild the community some 300 meters from where it currently stands. As a reminder, the High Court has ordered the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar, which it declared to be illegally built (i.e., lacking Israeli building permits that are virtually impossible for Palestinians to obtain). 

It’s also worth recalling that the Supreme Court, in its September 2020 decision to grant the government a six-month delay, explicitly expressed its impatience to bring this matter to a close. It called the government’s request “embarrassing” and said:

“the expectation is that at the end of [the six-month] period a clear decision will be presented to this Court, after all options have been explored and exhausted. The period of mapping out alternatives and exploring courses of action is about to run its course, and what follows is the decision stage. Our aim is to conclude the hearing of this petition immediately after the [government’s updated statement] is submitted, and the plaintiff’s response is received, one way or another.”

Major Ma’ale Adumim Settlement Expansion Advanced

On March 3rd the local building committee of the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement, located just east of Jerusalem, approved what is reportedly the largest settlement expansion plan in over a decade. The plan would allow for 3,300 new settlement units as well as areas for public buildings. Assuming (conservatively) an average family size of 5, this means construction for at least 16,500 new settlers. The plan will now be sent to the Israel High Planning Council for its consideration and approval. 

Ma’ale Adumim is the largest settlement by size and population. In past negotiations, Israel has always included Ma’ale Adumim and the surrounding area as one of the “settlement blocs” that would be annexed to Israel under a final agreement. The Israeli political consensus around the annexation of Ma’aleh Adumim (which has not been meaningfully challenged in past negotiations) has, by and large, resulted in the implied acceptance that expansion of Ma’ale Adumim is treated as non-controversial or not as geopolitically consequential as new units built in settlements and outposts in other locations. However, it should be emphasized that the term “settlement bloc” has no legal definition or standing — not under Israeli law, or under international law, or in the context of the Oslo agreement — and the fate of Ma’ale Adumim, like all settlements, is a matter for future negotiations. Nonetheless, the Israeli government has for years deployed the “settlement blocs” terminology in an effort to legitimize settlement expansion in areas it wants, in effect, to unilaterally take off the table for any future negotiations. For more context, see resources from Americans for Peace Now here and here.

Palestinians Continue Weekly Protests Against Expansion of “American Road” in Jerusalem

For the past month, Paelstinians have gathered in front of Jerusalem’s City Hall to protest a plan to expand the so-called “American Road” — expansion that will come at the expense of 62 residential structures that are home to 750 Palestinians in the Jabal al-Mukaber neighborhood of East Jerusalem. 

As  a reminder, the so-called “American Road” is a section of north-south highway that is meant to more seamlessly connect settlements located in the north and south of Jerusalem to one another, and to serve as a bypass for settler traffic to cut through East Jerusalem’s Palestinian neighborhoods. While the road will be accessible to Palestinians (a fact touted by Israel as proof of Israeli good intentions), its clear primary purpose is to entrench Israel settlements, expand Israeli control over all of East Jerusalem, and close off Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhoods from the rest of the West Bank, thereby (further) torpedoing Palestinian hopes of one day establishing a capital in East Jerusalem. 

Israel began work on this road in June 2020, and recently completed the first phase of construction.

The second phase of construction directly threatens Palestinians, involving the demolition of 62 buildings in Jabal al-Mukhaber. According to Middle East Eye, the Jerusalem Municipality has come up with a proposal, as reported by one of the threatened homeowners:

“The municipality suggested alternatives for residents with demolition orders, but they are neither realistic nor fair, Muhammad says. The proposal stipulates erecting buildings upwards on each side of the road. In them, four stories must be exclusively allocated for parking, another four for commercial use, and only two stories for residential use, each containing four apartments. The estimated cost for each of those buildings is between 20 and 25 million shekels ($6m to $7.7m), which many Palestinians in the area can’t afford without loans.  The options left for residents are either expulsion or indebtedness. One strategy the municipality is taking is to empty the area completely of its inhabitants and replace them with commercial centres, Muhammad says. ‘They want to force the residents to resort to local or external investors, or to resort to banks to take out loans, which would mean that the landowners would only receive a single residential apartment, while the investors or banks would retain the lion’s share,’ Muhammad told MEE. ‘The Jabal al-Mukaber residents refuse this unequivocally, considering vertical building to be incompatible with the rural context to which they have grown accustomed to’.”

See Orly Noy’s reporting for a detailed history of this plan’s evolution as well as a moving portrait of some of the Palestinians who are affected by this plan.

In a deeply researched report on how infrastructure like roads is a means for settlement expansion and annexation, Breaking the Silence explains:

“While Israeli authorities justify many of the projects described in this document by claiming that they serve both the settler and the Palestinian populations in the West Bank, it is important to note that these roads are designed with Israeli, not Palestinian, interests in mind. Many of the roads that are technically open to Palestinian traffic are not intended to lead to locations that are useful to Palestinians.16 Instead, these roads are primarily designed to connect settlements to Israel proper (and thus employment and other services) via lateral roads, rather than to connect Palestinian communities to one another. Further, roads intended to connect Israeli settlements to Jerusalem (many of which are currently under construction) do not serve West Bank Palestinians outside of Jerusalem, as they are not allowed to enter Jerusalem without a permit. In addition, an extensive system of checkpoints and roadblocks allows Israel to control access to bypass roads and the main West Bank highways, and it can restrict Palestinian access when it so chooses.

This prejudice against Palestinian development is even starker when one considers that, according to an official Israeli projection, the expected Palestinian population in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem) in 2040 is 4,600,000 individuals. Even if the vision of settler leaders to arrive at 1,000,000 settlers is realized by 2040, the Palestinian population would still be four times the size of the settler one. Despite this discrepancy, priority is still given to settler infrastructure development.

West Bank road and transportation development creates facts on the ground that constitute a significant entrenchment of the de facto annexation already taking place in the West Bank and will enable massive settlement growth in the years to come. By strengthening Israel’s hold on West Bank territory, aiding settlement growth, and fragmenting Palestinian land, this infrastructure growth poses a significant barrier to ending the occupation and achieving an equitable and peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

High Court to Rule on Expulsion of Palestinians in South Hebron Hills “Firing Zone”

On March 15th, the Israeli High Court is expected to issue a ruling on the mass expulsion of 12 Palestinian communities in the Massafer Yatta region of the South Hebron Hills. These 12 villages are located on land that Israel declared a “firing zone” – Firing Zone 918 – in the early 1980s. Palestinian and Israeli activists have launched an international campaign to bring attention to the matter in the hopes of stopping the mass expulsion of Palestinians from their land.

In a recent article for +972 Magazine, Ali Awad – a journalist and activist from Massafer Yatta – contrasted the plight of his community to the success of chicken farms established by settlers on nearby land, writing:

“In Umm al-Khair, we find it especially absurd that the chicken farms have better infrastructure than our residents. We suffer from a constant lack of water and are prevented from connecting to the electricity grid; the farms, meanwhile, have constant access to water, and are not only permanently connected to electricity but also have backup generators in case of an emergency. Seeing the electricity lines pass directly over our village is a constant reminder that the animals get rights that we as Palestinians are deliberately denied. More importantly, we know that building these farms in Masafer Yatta is yet another strategy of the occupation to displace us Palestinians from our homes, and is no less dangerous than its policy of declaring 12 of our villages as falling under Firing Zone 918 — thereby sanctioning our displacement. Israel is even still using the outdated Ottoman Land Code in the occupied territories to transfer Palestinian pasture into “state land,” which it then leases to settlers in order to establish other kinds of farms.  They are multiple laws and policies, but they all serve one goal: to take over Palestinian land.”

Over the past months, FMEP has hosted a series of webinars and podcasts highlighting Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Massafer Yatta, including:

Former U.S. VP Mike Pence Hangs out with Kahanists in Hebron

During his visit to Israel this week, former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence found time to meet with far-right settler leaders including Kahanist lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir while visiting the Tomb of the Patriarchs/al-Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, a city that is perhaps the clearest example of Israeli apartheid policies. 

According to the Hebron Fund (the U.S. 501c3 charity that raises funds for the Hebron settlers), Pence was accompanied by Simon Falic (Duty-Free America), who is a major supporter of the Hebron settlers. Photos showed Pence also accompanied by Baruch Marzel, the former right-hand man of the Kach party’s Rabbi Meir Kahane. For extra fun, here’s video of Marzel introducing Pence to Ben-Gvir, who Marzel says “represents us in the Knesset.” Pence shakes Ben-Gvir’s hand and says: “stay strong – we’ll stand with you… It’s my great honor.” Falic is also visible in the video.

During his time in Israel, Pence also received an honorary degree (alongside former U.S. Ambassador David Friedman) from Ariel University, at a ceremony held at the settlement. During the ceremony, Pence made his thoughts on settlements clear, saying:

“It’s great to be here in Ariel. I’m told that some people say that you shouldn’t go to Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. I obviously have a different opinion.”

Pence also received an award from a group of Evangelical supporters in recognition of his support for Israel. That ceremony was held in Jerusalem. Many speculate that Pence is prepping for a run for the 2024 Republican nomination for the presidency, and making stops in Israel to court the Evangelical vote.

As a reminder, the parties associated with the now deceased Rabbi Meir Kahane – Kach and Kahane Chai – are U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations. Ben Gvir’s political party, Otzma Yehudit, is a clear present-day incarnation of those parties and is devoted to Meir Kahane’s teachings. For more on Kahanism in Israel, please see “Mainstreaming the Extreme: How Meir Kahane’s Vision of Jewish Supremacy Conquered Israeli Politics” and FMEP webinar hosted in March 2021 featuring Amjad Iraqi (+972 Magazine), Shaul Magid (author & Dartmouth College professor), Natasha Roth-Rowland (University of Virginia) in conversation with Lara Friedman (FMEP).

Bonus Reads

  1. “Editorial | Jewish Settlers in La La Land” (Haaretz)
  2. “ Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (Weekly Update, March 3 – 9, 2022)” (PCHR)

Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement & Annexation Report. To subscribe to this report, please click here.

March 25, 2021

  1. Construction on Extension of “Apartheid Road” Slated to Begin Next Month as Israel Barrels Towards E-1 Settlement Construction
  2. Israel Opens National Park on Land Belonging to Al-Walaja
  3. Palestinians File Appeal Against “King’s Garden” Settlement Plan for Al-Bustan, Silwan
  4. Bonus Reads

Comments/Questions? Contact Kristin McCarthy (

Construction on Extension of “Apartheid Road” Slated to Begin Next Month as Israel Barrels Towards E-1 Settlement Construction

The Israeli Civil Administration announced that construction will begin next week on a new section of Route 4370, aka, the Apartheid Road (having earned the nickname for the high cement wall running down the middle of the road, separating Israeli and Palestinian traffic). The work will expand the road to the south in order to connect to East Jerusalem. The new road, which Israel touts as a benefit for Palestinians, is designed to route Palestinian traffic around the E-1 settlement area – in preparation for that settlement’s eventual construction. According to Ir Amim, the construction of this new road segment “constitutes a major step in laying the groundwork for settlement building in the E1 area.”

Map by Breaking the Silence

Ir Amim further explains:

“While portrayed as a road project to benefit Palestinians by expediting traffic and significantly reducing travel time between Ramallah and Bethlehem, it will in fact serve to completely reroute Palestinian traffic out of E1. Currently, the only road which facilitates Palestinian travel between the two West Bank centers runs through the E1 area. This limits Israel’s ability to carry out its massive settlement plans in the vicinity, which would require blocking Palestinian access to the area. This new road along with Route 4370 will create an alternative corridor between Ramallah and Bethlehem, which would eliminate the need for Palestinians to drive through E1 altogether. Diverting Palestinian traffic thus removes one of the obstacles to settlement construction in E1 and should signal cause for heightened vigilance.”

In a 2008 objection against the construction of the Apartheid Road, Adalah explained:

“The road further aims to consolidate and develop the Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and link them directly and conveniently to each other and to West Jerusalem. The road is simultaneously intended to isolate the Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem from the main route of the Eastern Ring Road, from each other and from the West Bank. It would thereby turn these neighborhoods into islands that are isolated – geographically, economically and in terms of transportation – from their immediate surroundings and would end Palestinian geographical contiguity within and around East Jerusalem, thereby precluding any future economic and social development or expansion of these neighborhoods. The plan stands to cut the owners of agricultural land off from their lands, to dramatically reduce the accessibility of schools, health services and workplaces for residents of these neighborhoods, and severely disrupt their family and social lives.”

Israeli officials have argued that the now-open road should resolve international objections to Israel building the E-1 settlement (a plan long criticized for effectively cutting the West Bank in half, rendering any future Palestinian state discontiguous and non-viable). In Israel’s view, the road replaces territorial contiguity for Palestinians in the West Bank with “transportational continuity,” i.e., the West Bank would still be cut in half, but the two halves are now inked by a road (albeit it a road that cuts Palestinians off from Jerusalem and that leaves travel between the northern and southern West Bank subject to Israeli control). 

Israel Opens National Park on Land Belonging to Al-Walaja

Ir Amim reports that on March 23, the Israeli Nature & Parks Authority would be opening an Israeli national park in the area around the Ein Haniya spring. The spring is a historical part of the al-Walaja village, a Palestinian village located on the southern flank of Jerusalem, and long served as a main sources of water for households, farms, and recreational purposes for the village’s residents. Al-Walaja has long suffered due to its location and its complicated status (much of the village’s lands, including areas with homes, were annexed by Israel in 1967, but Israel never gave the villagers Jerusalem legal residency by Israel – meaning that under Israeli law, their mere presence in their homes is illegal). Today it is acutely suffering from a multi-prong effort by the Israeli government and settlers to grab more land for settlement expansion in pursuit of the “Greater Jerusalem” agenda. This land grab campaign includes past and pending home demolitions, the construction of the separation barrier and bypass roads in a way that seals off the village on three sides, and the denial of planning permits.

The history of this spring is just one example of how the Israeli government pursues land grabs with the facade of legality. As explained by Ir Amim:

“In 2013, in tandem with the construction of the barrier on al Walajeh lands, the Jerusalem District Committee approved an outline plan which designated the 1200 dunams of land as the Nahal Refaim national park in complete disregard of private Palestinian land ownership and traditional Palestinian agriculture in the area.  

As a means of completely sealing off these lands from Palestinian access, including from village residents, the Jerusalem municipality began relocating the checkpoint between Jerusalem and al-Walajeh to a location closer to the village in February 2018. Construction on its relocation was suspended in March of the same year due to budgetary reasons and as a result, the Israeli authorities decided to keep the Ein Haniya site closed until the relocation is complete. Upon inquiry, however, Ir Amim was informed today that the plans for the checkpoint’s relocation have been terminated, and that Palestinian access to the area will remain unobstructed “unless security forces decide otherwise.”  

Keeping the area open to Palestinian access is a significant achievement, which in no small part is due to al-Walajeh farmers’ perseverance despite the many obstacles and threats they continually face. In spite of this, the INPA’s plans include a variety of projects aimed at transforming al Walajeh’s agricultural terraces into an Israeli touristic and recreational destination, replete with hiking trails and outdoor activities, which creates the illusion of an entirely Israeli space. 

The national park extends to the Jerusalem municipal border in close proximity to the area where Israel intends to establish a new settlement on al Walajeh’s lands (Har Gilo West) in the West Bank. In addition to creating contiguity between Jerusalem and the Gush Etzion settlement bloc around Bethlehem, the national park further isolates al Walajeh, turning it into an enclave detached from its Palestinian surroundings. In doing so, Israel advances its entrenchment of control along the southern perimeter, while undermining any prospect of a negotiated agreement in Jerusalem.”

Palestinians File Appeal Against “King’s Garden” Settlement Plan for Al-Bustan, Silwan

Ir Amim reports that Palestinians have filed an appeal to stop the demolition of 70 homes in the Al-Bustan section of the Silwan neighborhood in East Jerusalem. The Palestinians’ appeal responds to a surprising move by the Jerusalem Municipality, made in late February, to request permission from the Court to demolish the homes – demolition which had been frozen by the Courts since 2010 to allow for a negotiated resolution to the situation. For more on the history of this situation, see FMEP’s report from last week.

Additionally,  Ir Amim has published a new, and more detailed, explainer on this case – highlighting the political context in which the Jerusalem Municipality made this decision. Ir Amim writes:

“The municipality’s plan called for the establishment of a touristic and archeological park (Plan 18000: “the King’s Garden”) replete with residential and commercial areas, including hotel space. This planned park would extend the existing national park in the City of David (the hub of Elad’s settler operations) southwards spanning the entire neighborhood of Al Bustan and towards the settler enclave in central Silwan (Batan al-Hawa) where the Ateret Cohanim settler organization is active. Since 2010, the plan has not advanced likely due to local and international opposition. However, the municipality’s objection to extension of the freeze signifies its intent to reactivate the plan, consistent with the acceleration of similar Israeli measures over the past year after being emboldened by the Trump Administration…

Beyond the severe humanitarian toll lie the acute demographic and political implications. The “King’s Garden” plan is yet another measure to transform the area into a sprawling Israeli tourist site, while further erasing its Palestinian presence.  Silwan is one of the focal points of state-backed ideological settler activity. Settler groups threaten to displace over 800 Palestinians with the goal of establishing settler strongholds in the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods as a means to dismantle the viability of a political resolution on the city. Touristic settlement initiatives serve to reinforce residential settlement by connecting otherwise isolated settler compounds to create a contiguous ring of Israeli control (see map below for illustration), while artificially increasing the Israeli Jewish presence in the area via Israeli tourists visiting the sites. If advanced, the “King’s Garden” would essentially constitute a seamless extension of the City of David’s touristic attractions, further eroding the character of the neighborhood and its fabric of life, while leading to the forcible transfer of nearly an entire community.”

Bonus Reads

  1. Samantha Power questioned over U.N. 2334 resolution at confirmation hearing” (Jewish Insider)
  2. Save Sheikh Jarrah: Palestinians have a right to remain on their land” (Middle East Eye)
  3. Palestinians in Hebron’s Old City build fence to prevent settlers’ attacks” (Al-Monitor)

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

To subscribe to this report, please click here.

June 19, 2020

  1. High Court Overturns Settlement Regulation Law

  2. Israel Starts Construction on Major New Settler Bypass Road  in East Jerusalem
  3. Israel Announces New Opening Date for Givat Hamatos Settlement Tender
  4. Top Court Orders Israel to Explain Failure to Enforce Building Laws in West Bank
  5. Israel Government Pauses Settler-Backed Excavation in Silwan, Tacitly Acknowledging Impacts on Palestinian Residents
  6. Israel Demolishes Structures in Two Outposts, Arrests 13 Settlers
  7. Israel Continues Prepping for Annexation
  8. With New Phased Plan, Netanyahu Said to Be Ready to Implement Annexation With or Without Gantz’s Support
  9. Gantz Suggests Annexing Two Large “Consensus” Settlement Areas First
  10. Amb. David Friedman Tries, Fails to Broker Annexation Agreement Between Israeli Leaders
  11. Settlers Continue Opposing Key Parts of Trump Plan, But Offer Support for Phased Approach
  12. “Hilltop Youth” Launch Campaign to Stop Trump Plan, Claim Land in Area A of West Bank
  13. Settler Group Raises Concern for the Fate of  West Bank Religious Sites Under the Trump Plan
  14. Bonus Reads

Comments/questions? Contact Kristin McCarthy (

High Court Overturns Settlement Regulation Law

In a ruling issued on June 9th, the Israeli High Court of Justice overturned the Regulation Law, which was passed by the Israeli Knesset in February 2017 in order to create a legal basis to allow Israel to retroactively legalize outposts and settlement structures which had been built on land that Israel acknowledges is privately owned by Palestinians. In overturning the law, the Court found:

  1. The Knesset cannot legislate directly over the West Bank. The Court’s ruling acknowledged that the West Bank is a region under “belligerent occupation,” where the norm for 53 years has been that the Israeli military commander is the temporary, de facto sovereign authority, not the Knesset. The Regulation Law violates this norm.
  2. Palestinians living in the West Bank have the special status as “protected persons” living under “belligerent occupation,” and Israeli settlers do not enjoy the same status (i.e., settlers are not part of the “local population” of the West Bank). This particular statement overturns a previous opinion issued by former High Court judge Salim Joubran in 2017, which said settlers can be considered part of the local population — an opinion which had far-reaching implications for Israel’s rule over the West Bank.
  3. The law violates the right to property and the right to equality, because it only provided a basis for the confiscation of Palestinian land for Israeli use, but not vice versa.
  4. The law does not serve a legitimate purpose. On this point, Peace Now writes: “Most purposes presented by the state for why expropriating Palestinian private land was allowed were deemed illegitimate [by the Court]. Only one was not categorically rejected: preventing harm to the settlers, who would have to leave their houses. In this case, the Court pointed out that there are other ways to mitigate this unfairness (compensation with money and housing), and that it is not proportional to just continue using someone else’s land. “

In a joint statement following the ruling, Peace Now, Yesh Din and ACRI say:

“The Regulation Law was a black mark on the Israeli Knesset and on Israeli democracy, and the High Court of Justice has ruled the obvious: thou shalt not steal. We are proud that we served as the responsible adult that fought tirelessly to stop it. It was our duty to prevent the harm it threatened to Palestinians living under occupation, as well as to the prospects of peace. The law was of a criminal nature, designed to retroactively legalize thievery and allow systematic plundering of land. We have curbed this unsuccessful attempt to expropriate private land of a people, living under occupation by a government they did not choose, for the benefit of new settlements aimed at fragmenting the West Bank. Although the Court avoided ruling on whether the Knesset has jurisdiction to legislate over the Occupied Territories, it deemed that such legislation is problematic (to say the least). This raises a red flag to the peddlers of annexation. Let it be clear: If the Government of Israel goes ahead with its plan to annex, it will authorize the harsh damages the High Court sought to prevent by revoking this law.”

B’Tselem said:

“All lands in the West Bank are Palestinian, and even after today’s HCJ (High Court of Justice) ruling Israel will continue to take over more and more Palestinian land. This reality of ongoing land theft by the State of Israel does not fundamentally change today, nor does it diminish the Israeli HCJ’s role in legitimizing it over the years.”

Does It Matter?

Though the High Court’s ruling this week is a positive development, the state’s need for the Regulation Law has entirely been overtaken by events – possible annexation being one, and the “market regulation” principle being another. 

Annexation (i.e., under Israeli law, transforming land held under “belligerent occupation” into part of the sovereign state of Israel) would likely render moot two of the key arguments cited by the Court in overturning the Regulation Law. Specifically, after annexation, the Court would likely accede both to the Knesset’s right to legislate directly over West Bank land that is annexed, and to the argument that Palestinians living in these areas enjoy no special protected status. Israel would still need to find or create a legal basis to justify confiscating privately owned Palestinian land annexed by Israel (whether to legalize Israeli construction or to justify taking land from Palestinian landowers who reside beyond the line of annexation). 

Whether or not annexation proceeds, Israel has already found and begun implementing an alternative legal tactic to grant retroactively legalization to outposts and settlement structures bult on privately owned Palestinian land. Attorney General Avichai Mandleblit – who opposed the Regulation Law’s legal reasoning, but not its objective – has succeeded in charting out that alternative course via what has been called the “Market Regulation principle.” Mandleblit argues that this principle is “a more proportionate and balanced measure than the arrangement prescribed in the Regulation Law,” providing a narrower legal basis by which Israel can strip Palestinian landowners of their rights (Peace Now estimates that 2,000 structures can be legalized under the “market regulation principle,” compared to 4,000 under the Regulation Law). Of course, this argument overlooks the severe violation of Palestinian rights, the rule of law, and international law inherent in Israel’s decision to in effect erase Palestinian private property rights in the occupied territory to benefit the settlers. 

Lastly, it is important to remember that there is a concerted effort being waged against the High Court by Netanyahu and a constellation of his friends and enemies on the political right. For years, right-wing lawmakers have accused the Court of being a leftist bastion, and those lawmakers have been pushing legislation that would allow the Knesset to overrule the High Court of Justice, specifically connecting that campaign to the fate of the Regulation Law. 

Following the pattern, after the Court’s ruling against the Regulation Law, the Likud Party called the Court’s decision “unfortunate,” saying that the law was “important to the settlement enterprise and its future” and vowing to immediately act to advance a new law with the same goal. Speaker of the Knesset Yariv Levin (Likud) said:

“the Knesset will no longer be silent in light of the ongoing violation of its powers and status. Today, the High Court once again trampled on Israeli democracy and the basic human rights of many of Israel’s citizens, as has become its wrongful practice. The ruling given seemingly without authority is making another rip in Israeli society and will further damage public confidence in the Supreme Court and its judges.”

The Yamina Party also announced that it would once again be advancing legislation to allow the Knesset to override High Court decisions, saying that anyone who opposes the bill “is a leftist.”

Israel Starts Construction on Major New Settler Bypass Road  in East Jerusalem

Israel has started construction on a major new bypass road for settlers – dubbed the “American road” – meant to seamlessly connect settlements located in the north and south of Jerusalem to one another. The road will be accessible to Palestinians, a fact touted as proof of Israeli benevolence, but its clear primary purpose is to entrench Israel settlements, expand Israeli control over all of East Jerusalem, and close off Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhoods from the rest of the West Bank, thereby (further) torpedoing Palestinian hopes of one day establishing a capital in East Jerusalem.

The new road will be five miles long, stretching from the Har Homa settlement in the southern part of East Jerusalem towards the site of the E-1 settlement site located in the West Bank, on Jerusalem’s eastern periphery near the Maale Adumim settlement. It is being built in three sections. The two southern sections are currently under construction, including a towering bridge over Palestinian neighborhoods. Construction tenders for the northern section of the highway, which will include a 1-mile long tunnel just east of the Mount of Olives, are expected to be issued by the end of the year according to an official at the Jerusalem Municipality. It is forecast to cost approximately $250 million USD.

Fadi Al-Hidmi, the Palestinian Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, told Reuters:

“This project cuts off Palestinian neighborhoods within the city from one another…[it] surrounds occupied East Jerusalem to further connect Israeli settlements and sever the occupied Palestinian capital from the rest of the West Bank.”

Terrestrial Jerusalem founder Daniel Seidemann explains:

“What we are seeing here is, again, the seamless integration of the northern West Bank, East Jerusalem under sole Israeli control, and the southern West Bank for the purposes of the settlers. That is the motivation”

Israel Announces New Opening Date for Givat Hamatos Settlement Tender

On June 15th, the Israel Land Authority announced that the tender for construction of 1,077 units in the Givat Hamatos settlement is set to open for bids on August 2nd. The opening of the bidding period was originally set for May 3rd, but was delayed without explanation. If the new date sticks, the bidding period will be open until September 7th.

Peace Now said in a statement:

“Promoting construction in Givat HaMatos is a dangerous step that could ultimately cripple the prospect of peace and a two-state solution. Netanyahu published the tender while in a probational government, without a mandate. The new government must abolish this disaster and stop the tender. It is sad to see that parties in the government which received the votes of the peace camp are giving a hand to move this plan along instead of annulling it for the sake of Israel’s future.”

Terrestrial Jerusalem speculates as to why, after deferring the opening of the tender, Netanyahu might be moving forward now, saying:

“…Givat Hamatos could well become a compensation to the settlers should the government refrain from pursuing annexation or should it decide to limit the scope of annexation. It is difficult to predict how this will play in the government’s calculus but it is difficult to separate the two issues. The possibly looming annexation, the publication of Givat Hamatos tenders and the hearings slated for July for the final approval of E1 are intimately related to the fact that Netanyahu has chosen this timing to move on plans which he had frozen for decades is an indication that these actions may be viewed as anticipatory annexation.”

As a reminder, the Givat Hamatos settlement has been fully approved but not constructed. Located in the southern part of East Jerusalem, Givat Hamatos settlement has long been called a doomsday settlement by parties interested in preserving the possibility of a two-state solution. If the Givat Hamatos settlement is built, the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa in East Jerusalem will be completely surrounded by Israeli construction, severing its connection to the West Bank. 

Top Court Orders Israel to Explain Failure to Enforce Building Laws in West Bank

On June 15th, the Israeli High Court of Justice gave the Israeli government two months to offer an explanation for why it has not opened a criminal investigation into unauthorized construction in the Hayovel outpost, located in the central West Bank.

The Court’s order comes in response to a petition filed by Peace Now in January 2019 asking the Court to stop the illegal construction at the Hayovel site and investigate the criminal involvement of the Binyamin Regional Council in promoting illegal construction. At that time (18 long months ago), the State announced that the police anti-fraud unit and the State Prosecutor’s Office would “examine” the case. The state has failed to launch that “examination,” and is now being ordered to explain why.

Israel Government Pauses Settler-Backed Excavation in Silwan, Tacitly Acknowledging Impacts on Palestinian Residents

In a report released last month, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) said that several months ago it had briefly halted digging on the excavation of the “Pilgrim’s Road” – an excavation backed by the radical Elad settler group and promoted by U.S. Ambassador David Friedman underneath the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem – because the ground around the site began to sink. In order to shore up the collapsing area, the IAA had to build huge underground steel framed structure to hold up the street and buildings above.

Despite years of Palestinians reporting that settler digging was literally undermining and causing damage to their homes and property in Silwan, Elad and the IAA have always denied any connection between the damage and their archeological projects. In a recent report, the Israeli NGO Emek Shaveh – which has routinely reported on the problematic excavation practices utilized in Silwan and their impacts on Palestinians homeowners and residents – found cracks in 38 houses (home to 200 residents) near the dig site.

The IAA attempted to downplay the pause in excavations, telling Haaretz:

“The excavation is being conducted with ongoing engineering oversight combined with technology that continuously monitors the ground. As part of this monitoring, a few months ago a minor shift was detected on the level of the ancient Herodian street (and not on the modern street, which is eight meters above). An examination found that the area does not run under residential homes or structures. As a result of the monitoring, a new engineering solution was immediately applied and has proven effective.”

Israel Demolishes Structures in Two Outposts, Arrests 13 Settlers

On June 15th the Israeli Civil Administration forcibly evacuated and demolished buildings in two unauthorized outposts – Baladim and Maoz Esther – located in the northern West Bank. Haaretz reports that settlers rioted and threw rocks as the Israeli Border Police carried out the demolition orders, leading to the arrest of 13 settlers.

The unauthorized outpost of Moaz Esther has been repeatedly demolished by the Civil Administration, and settlers have repeatedly re-established the outpost without authorization to do so. This cat-and-mouse game was once dubbed “the never-ending evacuation.”

The Baladim outpost – an outpost associated with the radical, violentHilltop Youth” – is located on a hilltop in the northern Jordan Valley and has likewise been evacuated by the IDF and re-occupied by the youth numerous times. It is alleged that settlers from Baladim may have been responsible for the horrific arson attack in the Palestinian village of Duma which killed an infant and both of his parents, and critically wounded his 4-year old brother in July 2015. Background on Jordan Valley settlements and outposts is here.

Israel Continues Prepping for Annexation

While Israeli leaders debate and negotiate what will/won’t happen come July 1st with respect to annexation, the government continues to take preparatory steps suggesting that it intends to implement some degree of annexation on that date.

This week, Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz attempted to form a committee to oversee and coordinate annexation across the government. Israel’s Channel 12 news reports that three former senior IDF officials rejected Gantz’s offer to head that committee, and that Gantz has not been able to stand up such a committee as of yet.

In the Jordan Valley, Palestinians continue reporting new indications that Israel is already implementing annexation. This week Palestinians report a sharp increase in home demolitions, police raids in Palestinian villages, and confiscations. Palestinians also say that Israeli police have hand delivered notices informing them that they will soon be brought under Israeli domestic law. On June 2nd, Palestinian Prime Minister Shtayyeh also noted that for the first time ever, the Isreali Civil Administration directly delivered electricity bills to Palesitnian villages in the Jordan Valley, a move which brings Palestinians more directly under Israeli municipal governance and control.

With New Phased Plan, Netanyahu Said to Be Ready to Implement Annexation With or Without Gantz’s Support 

Israel Hayom reports that Netanyahu intends to enact annexation on July 1st with or without support from Alternative Prime Minister Benny Gantz and (what is left of) his Blue & White party. The newspaper – which is owned by Netanyahu (and Trump) backer Sheldon Adelson and is so closely aligned with Netanyahu that it has long been nicknamed “Bibiton” – reports that Netanyahu will do so via government approval, bypassing entirely a vote in the Knesset. This comes after the announcement by Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel (of Derekh Eretz, a party in the Blue & White bloc) that he would vote in favor of annexation if presented by Netanyahu, giving Netanyahu a majority in the cabinet. The Israel Hayom report further suggests that in the event that Gantz somehow succeeds in stymying the passage of his annexation plan by the Cabinet, Netanyahu will call for new elections. This follows the results of a recent poll showing that Netanyahu’s Likud Party would win a new election by a landslide.

During negotiations this week Netanyahu also reportedly presented Gantz and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman with maps of four alternate options for annexation. According to an Israeli official briefed on the meeting, Netanyahu’s proposed scenarios range from annexing 30% of the West Bank (as provided for under the Trump Plan), to annexing a “symbolic” amount of land (reminder: any annexation, no matter how “small” or “symbolic” is a flagrant violation of international law and can only be considered land theft), to options somewhere in between the two. Israel Hayom reports that none of Netanyahu’s four scenarios completely align with the Trump Plan, suggesting perhaps that Netanyahu has adopted some of the demands made by settlers (e.g., no settlement enclaves, no Palestinian state, no construction freeze).

A June 17th report by Israel Hayom offers a theory that Netanyahu is hopeful that the U.S. will support a phased annexation plan. According to this theory, Netanyahu plans for the first phase – to start on July 1st –  to involve annexing far-flung settlements located deep inside the West Bank. After that, Bibi will reach out to the Palestinian Authority for talks. If the PA refuses to negotiate, he will proceed with the second phase of annexing all remaining settlements and more land across the entire West Bank. Explaining Netanyahu’s rationale behind this plan, Israel Hayom writes:

“There were reportedly several considerations that prompted the prime minister to consider a two-stage plan to implement sovereignty. First, he expects that the revised plan will send a signal to the international community and the region that Israel listens to their criticism and acts cautiously. Second, a two-stage implementation is also expected to suit the White House, which sees the Trump plan as a peace plan rather than a plan for annexation. The Trump administration wants the Palestinians to realize that time is not on their side, so calling on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to come to the table between the first and second stages of the plan’s implementation serves that purpose…There are other reasons why Netanyahu wants to begin the application of sovereignty ‘deep’ inside Judea and Samaria: refraining from applying sovereignty to the Jordan Valley in the first stage could blunt Jordan’s response, which is a concern. Moreover, a broad agreement that the Jordan Valley will remain in Israel hands under any future peace deal already exists, making the valley less urgent than the Judea and Samaria settlements. The same reasoning applies to the large settlement blocs in areas such as Ariel, Maaleh Adumim, and Gush Etzion. All previous peace plans have stated that these blocs would remain part of Israel, whereas the application of Israeli sovereignty to the far-flung settlements would be a weighty diplomatic statement and eradicate the possibility of them being uprooted and evacuated in the future.”

An anonymous cabinet minister made yet another argument in favor of a more aggressive first phase of annexation, telling Army Radio:

“the diplomatic price Israel will pay if it goes to partial annexation is the same as full annexation, so it is not clear what the thinking is behind a partial move.”

Gantz Suggests Annexing Two Large “Consensus” Settlement Areas First

In a separate report by Kan Radio on June 17th suggests Gantz and his Blue & White Party have their own plan which would have Israel annex the Etzion and Ma’aleh Adumim settlement “blocs” on July 1st, in a direct contradiction to the logic underpinning Netanyahu’s plan to annex the more controversial settlements in the first phase of the plan, as described above. Though the report mentions that Gantz’s plan also involves phases, no further details were revealed.  

Earlier in the week, during the three-way negotiations with Netanyahu and U.S. Ambassador David Friedman, Gantz reportedly staked out four key positions for any annexation plan:

  • He is opposed to annexing areas that have a large number of Palestinian residents “in order to prevent friction”;
  • He insists that all Palestinians living in annexed land must be granted citizenship;
  • He wants regional cooperation on annexation (i.e., he wants a plan that would not harm relations with Jordan and that is palatable to the rest of the Arab world, with which Israel has worked for years to court better economic/diplomatic relationships);
  • He wants to be able to say Palestinians get some benefits in return for annexation.

In a surprising announcement, Meretz MK Yair Golan came out in support of the Blue & White plan to annex the Maale Adumim and Etzion settlement blocs, stating:

“If the Israeli government says its supreme goal is to separate from the Palestinians and reach a solution where the Palestinians no longer live under our control, then I will support it.”

Amb. David Friedman Tries, Fails to Broker Annexation Agreement Between Israeli Leaders

The new phased approaches to annexation offered by Netanyahu and Gantz come on the heels of a week of negotiations between the two Israeli leaders, kicked off on June 15th at an unprecedented summit convened by U.S. Ambassador David Friedman. Friedman was apparently unsuccessful in brokering an agreement, and at the end of the week reportedly walked away from the negotiations, telling Gantz and Netanyahu something along the lines of, “This is my number, call me if you manage to agree.” It is unclear what role Jared Kushner, the ostensible leader of the U.S. team, might have played in this week’s events; Kushner is reportedly in favor of delaying annexation, while Friedman is pushing for annexation to move ahead as soon as possible. Discussions between Netanyahu and Gantz are scheduled to resume next week.

Netanyahu’s threat (discussed above) to go ahead with annexation without the support of Gantz contravenes the U.S. call for Israeli unity behind any annexation. It was only one week ago that a senior U.S. official said that it is “highly unlikely” that the U.S. will give a greenlight to annexation that is not supported by Gantz. The Israel Hayom report suggests that Netanyahu hopes the U.S. can get behind one of his proposals, allowing him to proceed with or without Gantz.

Settlers Continue Opposing Key Parts of Trump Plan, But Offer Support for Phased Approach

A recent poll found that 56% of settlers support the Trump Plan, as the settler leadership continues lobbying for more land as negotiations over the annexation map continue. The poll found the 28% of settlers believe the plan is “terrible and must be opposed.”

On June 7th  Netanayahu, Settlements Minister Tzipi Hotovely, and Speaker of the Knesset Yariv Levin met with a group of eleven settler leaders who support the Trump Plan. Participants in the meeting said that Netanyahu promised that he would not agree to the future establishment of Palestinian state, and that he would not agree to any construction freeze for any settlements – addressing two of the three main demands from settlers, even settlers who support the Trump Plan. 

The third key concern/demand from settlers is that the map does not leave Israeli settlements in enclaves surrounded by Palestinian-controlled territory. To that end, settlers from the Yesha Council – which has mostly opposed the Trump Plan – have drawn up their own map, reportedly showing how the construction of a new road system can eliminate the concern about settlement enclaves. 

Notably, settlers who participated in the June 7th meeting confirmed early reports about Netanyahu’s design for a phased annexation plan (different from the phased plan reported by Israel Hayom). According to these reports, Phase 1 will start on July 1st with annexing all the settlements, but leaving the rest of the land allocated to Israel under the Trump Plan, including the Jordan Valley, to be annexed later.

Notably, the CEO of the settler Yesha Council, Yigal Dilmoni, came out in support of a phased annexation plan, while doubling down on the settlers’ conditions for accepting such a plan, saying:

“There must be sovereignty, even if it is in stages, but in no way can there be a Palestinian state, nor a [settlement building] freeze, and no enclave settlements.”

Meanwhile, Yesha Council Chairman David Elhayani continues his no-holds-barred attack on the Trump Plan and its architects, telling Haaretz that he prefers the status quo in the West Bank, and going on to say:

From the beginning, I marked the Americans as a target. I said that [Trump’s special adviser and son-in-law Jared] Kushner had stabbed Netanyahu in the back after the event in Washington, and I later said that Friedman was being deceptive in selling only the sovereignty part without revealing to Israelis that ultimately there’s also a Palestinian state. This was a scam, and it was time to go to Trump – who isn’t familiar with the plan – and tell him: ‘Sir, you’re endangering the security of the State of Israel.’ The Palestinian public is of no interest to them. I’ll tell you what interests them: they want to chalk up some achievement. Kushner wants to bring his father-in-law Trump the achievement of being the greatest leader in the world. No leader since 1948 has managed to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and here, the great Trump arrived and did it! He’ll say, ‘I told you. I’m a businessman and I know how to close deals. This is the deal I closed: Have sovereignty and give a Palestinian state.’ If you met President Trump tomorrow morning and asked him about the details of this plan, do you think he’d know?”

“Hilltop Youth” Launch Campaign to Stop Trump Plan, Claim Land in Area A of West Bank

The Times of Israel reports that dozens of settlers associated with the radical and violent “Hilltop Youth” movement have launched a campaign called “It’s All Ours” that aims to undermine the Trump Plan by staking a claim to areas which the Trump Plan does not give Israel an explicit green light to annex (at least not yet).  This means they are targeting areas where there is a large Palestinian population, mainly areas desingated as “Area A” under the Oslo Accords.

Organizers of the campaign said there will be three phases leading up to July 1st (the first day that the Israeli government can enact annexation, as agreed to in the unity government deal). Phase one saw over 100 settlers posted 5,500 fliers along West Bank road. The flyers warned against “the danger of the division of the land that is on the horizon.” Phase two will launch rallies and marches in the West Bank. For phase three, the settlers plan to establish new outposts in “strategic areas.” 

Settler Group Raises Concern for the Fate of  West Bank Religious Sites Under the Trump Plan

A settler group calling itself “Preserving the Eternal” – which describes itself as a network of entities working to “protect antiquities in Israel and Judea and Samaria,” –  has begun raising alarm, alleging that hundreds of biblical sites in the West Bank are slated to remain in Palestinian territory under the Trump Plan. The group’s leaders accuse the Palestinian Authority of mismanaging the sites and they accuse Palestinians of looting them. The group is in favor of Israel annexing all the sites.

Bonus Reads

  1. “As mammoth high-tech hub is eyed for East Jerusalem, will it benefit locals?” (The Times of Israel
  2. “As East Jerusalem Suffers Powers Cuts, Settlers Were Put on Israeli Grid – but Palestinians Not” (Haaretz)
  3. ‘We’re Totally in the Dark’: Palestinians in Jordan Valley Feel Nobody Wants Them, Just Their Land” (Haaretz
  4. Trump’s “Deal” for Palestinians: Repercussions and Responses”” (Al-Shabaka)
  5. “Diplomatic Pressure Mounts on Israel to Delay Annexation as Long as Possible” (Haaretz)
  6.  “Mapping West Bank Annexation: Territorial and Political Uncertainties” (WINEP
  7. “More Israelis oppose West Bank annexation than support it — survey” (The Times of Israel
  8. “Mapping Netanyahu’s annexation plan: Experts explain a charged, complex process” (The Times of Israel
  9. The Annexation’s Ambassador to Israel” (Haaretz)
  10. “Settler Leader: Trump’s Plan Is a Scam, Netanyahu Will Establish a Palestinian State” (Haaretz)
  11. A radical settler wages war against annexation — but he is far from alone” (The Times of Israel)
  12. “’Annexation could cost Israel NIS 67 billion per year’“ (Jerusalem Post)


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

To subscribe to this report, please click here.

March 13, 2020

  1. Bennet Approves Plans for “Sovereignty Road” In Move Toward Construction of E-1, Annexation of Ma’aleh Adumim Settlement Bloc
  2. Israeli Planning Committee Asks for Changes, More Info on Har Homa & Givat Hamatos Plans
  3. Palestinian Minor Killed by IDF During Clash Over Settlers Entering Palestinian Land Near Nablus
  4. 2019 U.S. State Department Human Rights Report Further Erases Occupation, Denies Palestinian Identity, Affirms Golan Annexation
  5. Reports: U.S. Will OK Annexation “Within Months” Unless Palestinians Negotiate on Basis of Trump Plan (i.e.,  Palestinians Either Agree to Annexation, or They Get Annexation Anyway)
  6. Bonus Reads

Comments or questions – email Kristin McCarthy (

Bennet Approves Plans for “Sovereignty Road” In Move Toward Construction of E-1, Annexation of Ma’aleh Adumim Settlement Bloc

On March 9th, Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennet approved a plan for the construction of a controversial road designed to facilitate Israeli annexation of a huge area of West Bank territory located between Jerusalem and Jericho. The purpose of the road is to enable Palestinians to travel between the northern and southern West Bank through what would be the new massive Israel settlement bloc just east of Jerusalem, while preventing them from entering Israel’s (expanded) territory. The road represents a key element in Israel’s broader plan to annex the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim, the planned settlement of E-1 settlement, and surrounding territory. 

Map by Peace Now

For decades, construction of the E-1 settlement – which is now actively advancing through the planning process – has been adamantly opposed by the international community. A key criticism of that plan is that it would effectively cut the West Bank in half – preventing any two-state solution. The new road has long been Israel’s answer to that criticism, with Israel arguing that it will replace territorial contiguity with limited “transportational continuity” – via a sealed road that is under Israel’s total control. With Minister Bennett’s support and green light, the plan for that road can now be submitted to the Israel Defense Ministry’s High Planning Council for consideration.

If built, a section of the Palestinian-only road is projected to run under the separation barrier (which is not currently built in this area). The rest of the road will run relatively adjacent to the route of the future seperation barrier, in order to prevent Palestinian traffic from coming “near Jewish communities,” in the words of Defense Minister Bennet. This new section of road connects to the infamous “apartheid road” (aka, the Eastern Ring Road) which was opened for Paelstinian traffic in January 2019, and has a high wall dividing Israeli and Palestinian traffic.

In a statement announcing his plan, Bennet gave lip service to the idea that the plan will benefit Palestinians (even as it further cuts them off from Jerusalem, takes more land, and cuts the West Bank in half) while also making clear his real objective:

“[the road] will improve the quality of life for residents in the area, avoid unnecessary friction [for Israelis] with the Palestinian population and most importantly — allow for continued [settlement] construction. We’re applying sovereignty [to the West Bank] in deeds, not in words.”

Peace Now explains the issue with Israel’s design:

“The new road is intended to allow Palestinians to pass under the route of the separation barrier, and to travel ‘inside’ the Adumim Bloc along a wall without entering the ‘Israeli’ side, as in a kind of tunnel. Once the road is paved, Israel can then claim that construction in E1, and the construction of the barrier around the Adumim bloc does not sever the West Bank because the Palestinians have an alternative transport route. This argument is preposterous. A thin line of road connecting separate territorial sections–transportational contiguity–does not meet the needs for territorial viability for the development and livelihoods of Palestinians in the critical Ramallah-Jerusalem-Bethlehem metropolitan area. Without actual territorial contiguity, an independent Palestinian state cannot be established and prosper, and therefore a two-state solution cannot be reached.”

Further, Peace Now said in a statement:

“This is bad news for Israel as it enables annexation toward rendering a two-state solution insoluble. The planned road would allow Israel to cut the West Bank in half, build up E1 and the West Bank barrier, and shut down the possibility of developing a viable Palestinian state.The only roads Israel paved for Palestinians in its 52 years of control over the Territories were designed to allow Israel to build settlements or barriers that block existing Palestinian routes. There is no desire here to improve Palestinian transport, only to expand the settlements.”

Israeli Planning Committee Asks for Changes, More Info on Har Homa & Givat Hamatos Plans 

Ir Amim reports that at a March 8th meeting, the Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee asked for several modifications and required that additional surveys be completed before they approve plans for the construction of the Har Homa and Givat Hamatos settlement plans.

Ir Amim explains:

“There is a big gap between Netanyahu’s far reaching declarations regarding ‘the advancement of thousands of housing units in Har Homa and Givat Hamatos’ and the actual result of the discussions at the committee. It is unclear whether this gap is a result of real planning considerations that have to be resolved or is it a sign that despite Netanyahu’s dramatic announcements the Israeli government nevertheless needs to restrain itself. Ir Amim will try to inquire into the issue.

In any case the advancement of the three plans [2 relating to Har Homa, 1 relating to Givat Hamatos] in one of the most sensitive areas of East Jerusalem after years during which the Israeli government refrained from advancing them is a cause for great concern. If constructed, these new settlements will essentially connect the existing Gilo and Har Homa neighborhoods/settlements and create a contiguous Israeli built-up area along the southern perimeter of East Jerusalem. This will serve to detach Bethlehem and the south of the West Bank from East Jerusalem while isolating the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa. Constituting a long term strategy of Israeli governments, construction of large settlements is employed as a means to fracture the Palestinian space and unilaterally determine the boundaries of Jerusalem to prevent the future establishment of a Palestinian capital in the city.

The fact that the discussion of all three plans ended without a decision to advance any of them is not the norm. But in a few months, the surveys and modifications requested by the committee may be completed and the plans will be discussed again and this time be advanced.

It is important to remember that the Israel Land Authority has also published (on February 24th)  a tender for 1,077 housing units in Givat Hamatos A (on the area of TPS 14295). The tender has not yet opened for bidding and this is currently scheduled to happen on May 3rd. This tender is not contingent upon developments of the Givat Hamatos masterplan described above and can open for bids regardless of whether or not the plan is approved. If the tender does open for bids in May leading to future construction this will be a most negative development with a new settlement in one of the most sensitive places in East Jerusalem.”

Palestinian Minor Killed by IDF During Clash Over Settlers Entering Palestinian Land Near Nablus

A 15-year old Palestinian boy was shot and killed by Israeli military forces on March 11th. The forces were deployed to protect a group of Israeli settlers from the nearby Itamar settlement who had entered Palestinian land to “tour” an area which is believed to be the site of an ancient fortress. The site – “Jabal al-Orma” in Arabic and “Tel Aroma” in Hebrew –  is located in Area B of the West Bank, which under the Oslo Accords is under Palestinian civil control and Israeli security control. 

Two months ago, the Palestinian Municipality responsible for the area designated the site as a tourist destination and began building infrastructure to enhance it. Settler groups accused Palestinians of “taking over” the fortress  (reminder: it is located in Area B) and destroying it. The settler “tour group” that instigated the clash had, in fact, established a temporary encampment at the site a day earlier. The next day, 300 Palestinians arrived at the site to protest. The IDF arrived and reportedly began firing tear gas at the protestors. The ensuing clash resulted in the death of the one Palestinian minor, injuries to 16 other Palestinians (2 serious), and a head injury to one of the settlers.

In a joint report on Israel’s use of archeology as a means for dispossession and pretext for annexation, the NGO’s Emek Shaveh and Yesh Din write:

“In addition to the takeover of archaeological sites by official entities via ostensibly legal means, there is also a phenomenon of invasion and illegal takeover of historic sites by settlers. As part of the overall negligence on the part of the Israeli enforcement authorities with regards to the dispossession of Palestinians of their land by Israeli civilians, there is also a clear failure on the part of the authorities to remove invaders, enforce the law and protect Palestinian rights in cases where historic sites have been invaded or taken over. The enforcement failures in these cases endanger the antiquities, because unqualified persons perform work on these sites without plans and building permits and without supervision.”

2019 U.S. State Department Human Rights Report Further Erases Occupation, Denies Palestinian Identity, Affirms Golan Annexation

The U.S. State Department recently published its “2019 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Israel, West Bank, and Gaza.” 

Building on the significant changes to the structure, tone, and coverage of the 2018 report (text) — which removed the word “occupation” entirely from the report — the 2019 report also:

  • Normalizes Israeli control over the Area C of the West Bank, adding new language which reads:

“The government of Israel maintained a West Bank security presence through the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), the Israeli Security Agency, the Israeli National Police, and the Border Guard. Israel maintained effective civilian control of its security forces throughout the West Bank and Gaza. West Bank Palestinian population centers mostly fall into Area A, as defined by the Oslo-era agreements. The PA has formal responsibility for security in Area A, but Israeli security forces (ISF) regularly conducted security operations there, at times without coordinating with the PASF. The PA and Israel maintain joint security control of Area B in the West Bank. Israel retains full security control of Area C and has designated the majority of Area C land as either closed military zones or settlement zoning areas.”

  • Ceases to refer to Jerusalem’s Palestinian population as “Palestinians” – instead referring to them as “Arab residents.” This change is consistent with the Trump Administration’s ongoing efforts to de-nationalize the Palestinians people and its attempts to undermine their national claim to Jerusalem.
  • Re-affirms the legitimacy of  Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights (which the U.S. officially recognized in March 2019). Whereas the 2018 report included a section entitled, “Israel and the Golan Heights” (alongside a separate section entitled, “West Bank and Gaza”), the 2019 report no longer differentiates between Israel and the Golan Heights at all (as in, the two sections are now entitled, “Israel” and “West Bank and Gaza”).

Reports: U.S. Will OK Annexation “Within Months” Unless Palestinians Negotiate on Basis of Trump Plan (i.e.,  Palestinians Either Agree to Annexation, or They Get Annexation Anyway)

On March 5th, an Israeli news program quoted a senior White House official suggesting that the United States is prepared to approve Israel’s unilateral annexation of 30% of the West Bank “within months” if the Palestinians do not agree to participate in U.S.-led negotiations over the details of the Trump Plan.

The day before, Senior White House Advisor and Trump Plan architect Jared Kushner reportedly told U.S. Senators during a closed-door briefing that the work of the joint Israeli-American committee mapping will take “several more months,” which would appear to align with the comments and timeline laid out by the anonymous White House source. The source further said:

“Nobody can say we didn’t give the Palestinians an opportunity to return to the negotiating table. If they want to come back and talk we are ready for that and we believe we could improve the plan for them. But if they don’t, we will continue moving ahead without them.”

Kushner’s closed-door briefing members for Congress included a powerpoint presentation, slides of which were subsequently leaked. Notably, Kushner’s presentation appeared to argue that the continual expansion of Israeli settlements is one of two factors that has made peace impossible to obtain to this point (the other being the increasing amount international aid to the Palestinian people). 

FMEP President Lara Friedman has a fun Twitter thread commenting on the double-speak in the slides.

Bonus Reads

  1. “Israeli AG’s objection to ICC jurisdiction in Palestine divorced from reality” (B’Tselem)
  2. “Another push to make Qalandia Airport a Jewish settlement” (Al-Monitor
  3. ‘You Want to Kill Me?’ Totally, He Said. ‘Leftists Are Worse Than the Arabs’: Election Day at a Settlement” (Haaretz)
  4. “Palestinian villagers ask why company exploiting West Bank quarry isn’t it on UN list” (Middle East Eye)
  5. “Hebron settlers hold Purim parade while Palestinians locked down for coronavirus” (+972 Magazine)

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

To subscribe to this report, please click here.

January 11, 2019

  1. Israel Opens “Apartheid Road” – Divided Road Eases Settlers’ Access to Jerusalem, Routes Palestinians Around the City,  Significant Step Towards Advancing E-1 Settlement Construction
  2. Israeli Businessman Opens Huge Mall in East Jerusalem Settlement Industrial Zone
  3. In Parting Gift to Settlers, Housing Minister Greenlights Construction of New Settlement Units for Outpost Evacuees
  4. Settlers Blame Obama for Slowed Israeli Population Growth in the West Bank
  5. Israeli Justice Minister Stands with Families of Suspects in Deadly Jewish Terror Attack
  6. Breaking the Silence Launches New Tour of Central West Bank Settlements
  7. Bonus Reads

Questions/comments? Email

Israel Opens “Apartheid Road” – Divided Road Eases Settlers’ Access to Jerusalem, Routes Palestinians Around the City,  Significant Step Towards Advancing E-1 Settlement Construction

A key section of the “Eastern Ring Road” (Route 4370), located in the West Bank on the eastern flank of Jerusalem in the area of the planned E-1 settlement, officially opened to traffic on January 10th. Dubbed the “Apartheid Road” because a concrete wall runs literally down the middle of the highway, separating Palestinian and Israeli traffic, the road allows Israeli-approved traffic from the West Bank (i.e., settlers and the small number of Palestinians who have Israeli-issued permits) to more easily access Jerusalem than ever before — advancing the seamless integration of settlements into Israel proper and the erasure of the Green Line; the other side of the road is sealed, shunting traffic between the northern and southern parts of the West Bank while preventing any access to Jerusalem (East or West).

Map by Haaretz

Ir Amim warns that the opening of this section of the road may signals that Israel is on the verge of issuing building permits for the E-1 settlement plan, which received final approval but has been held up by the political echelon for years due to international pressure. The international community has long opposed E-1, in part based on the argument that territorially, it cuts the West Bank in half, preventing the possibility of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state.

Israeli officials have argued that the now-open road should resolve international objections to building the E-1 settlement, since it preserves “transportational continuity” by providing a route for Palestinians to travel between between the northern and southern parts of the West Bank, as a substitute for territorial contiguity of a future Palestinian state). 

When construction on the road resumed in 2017 after being stalled for a long period, Peace Now explained:

“If the road will be completed…Israel will be able to argue that Israeli construction in the area does not separate the West Bank because there is a transportation route for Palestinians. This argument, of course, is baseless because a thin line of road that connects separated territorial sections (creating ‘transportational continuity’) does not meet the need for the territorial contiguity essential for the development of East Jerusalem and the Palestinian metropolis. Without these territories, a viable independent Palestinian state cannot be built and prosper, and this could mean the death of the two-state solution.”

In a 2008 objection against the road that was rejected by the Israeli High Court of Justice, Adalah explained:

“The road further aims to consolidate and develop the Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and link them directly and conveniently to each other and to West Jerusalem. The road is simultaneously intended to isolate the Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem from the main route of the Eastern Ring Road, from each other and from the West Bank. It would thereby turn these neighborhoods into islands that are isolated – geographically, economically and in terms of transportation – from their immediate surroundings and would end Palestinian geographical contiguity within and around East Jerusalem, thereby precluding any future economic and social development or expansion of these neighborhoods. The plan stands to cut the owners of agricultural land off from their lands, to dramatically reduce the accessibility of schools, health services and workplaces for residents of these neighborhoods, and severely disrupt their family and social lives.”

Ir Amim researcher Aviv Tartarsky said:

“Anyone with eyes in his head understands that it is impossible for years to maintain such a separation regime — it is immoral and impractical.”

At the ceremony marking the opening of the road this week, several senior Israeli government official boasted about the importance of the road. The newly inaugurated Mayor of Jerusalem, Moshe Leon, said:

“the road is a true blessing for residents of Pisgat Ze’ev and French Hill [Israel settlements in East Jerusalem]. Opening this road during high congestion periods will distribute more evenly some of the pressure on existing highways, leading to significant easing…in addition to solving traffic congestion problems, we are strengthening the Binyamin Regional Council [the settlement council in the area north of Jerusalem] and inaugurating the natural link between this area and Jerusalem.”

Israeli Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said the road is:

“an important step in linking Binyamin Council residents [settlers living north of Jerusalem] to Jerusalem and in strengthening metropolitan Jerusalem.”

The Jerusalem Municipality – whose public infrastructure company recently renovated the road, despite the fact that the road is located outside Jerusalem’s Municipal borders (not to mention outside of Israel’s sovereign territory) – issued a statement saying:

“this was a transportation project that came about as a result of cooperation between itself, the Binyamin Regional Council and the Transportation Ministry. The road was rehabilitated by Moriah, with funding from the ministry. It will serve Arab residents, especially those living in the Shoafat refugee camp. It will ease congestion in the Pisgat Ze’ev and French Hill neighborhoods, distributing traffic more evenly.”

Israeli Businessman Opens Huge Mall in East Jerusalem Settlement Industrial Zone

A new Israeli-owned shopping mall opened in the Atarot settlement industrial zone in East Jerusalem, located in sight of Ramallah but inside the security barrier and within Israel’s municipal border, as expanded by Israel after the 1967 war.

The massive new mall is the crown jewel of the shopping empire built by Israeli businessman Rami Levy, who already operates a network of supermarkets in settlements. Like all of Levy’s projects (and settlement industrial zones in general), the new mall is branded as a socially-conscience, “coexistence”-building business initiative, with Levy and government officials praising the fact that the new mall will attract both Israeli and Palestinian shoppers and be home not only to Israeli businesses, but to to a few Palestinian-owned/operated businesses as well.

Levy recently told The Times of Israel:

“I see things from a social angle. What I have built, I built with the social aspect in mind. My instincts and my gut tell me this will be the most prosperous place in the country. There is very high demand for the project due to the size of the surrounding population. I’m not afraid of the security situation… When we started marketing there was a reluctance on the part of the (Israeli) chains because of the location of the project, but at the end of the day they understood the great commercial potential.”

Back when the project was first unveiled, the Israeli watchdog group Who Profits explained the falseness of this “coexistence” branding:

“The Jerusalem mall would mark a new stage in Levy’s involvement in the occupation economy…[which] began with providing services to Israeli settlers and continued with the exploitation of Palestinians as a cheap labor force in his supermarkets. He now appears to be turning his attention to massive construction projects on occupied Palestinian land and the exploitation of a Palestinian captive market in the East Jerusalem…Rami Levy is in a position that would allow him establish a large mall on “virgin land” because the Israeli authorities have prevented Palestinian businesses from competing with Israelis. Levy’s plan would take advantage of the fact that Palestinians do not have other large-scale retail facilities. A flourishing market in Bir Nabala was destroyed by Israel’s wall in the West Bank. And venturing into West Jerusalem is not an option for Palestinians, most of whom live below the poverty line. Although there is every likelihood that the Israeli authorities will portray Levy’s mall as beneficial to Palestinians, there are important facts to be remembered. Palestinians entering his mall will not be exercising the right of a consumer to informed choice. Rather, they will be captive clients — belonging to an occupied people.”

The Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq also wrote in advance of the project’s completion:

“Al-Haq further calls attention to the severe impact that the ‘Rami Levy’ project will have on local residents… and the economy as a whole. Because Israeli authorities rarely issue building permits for Palestinians, individuals living in East Jerusalem neighborhoods near Atarot, like Beit Hanina and Shu’fat, do not and will not have comparable large retail facilities. Smaller businesses will likely be unable to compete with the settlement mall.  Al-Haq reminds business owners that businesses benefiting from Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise, and the violations of international humanitarian and human rights law that it propagates, may be found complicit in aiding and abetting these violations even where they do not positively assist in orchestrating the abuse.”

All of Levy’s stores are a target of Palestinian-led boycott campaign against Israeli goods in the occupied territories. Palestinian businessman Munib al-Masri has recently come under fire for a July 2018 meeting with Levy at one of his settlement supermarkets to discuss the Arab Peace Initiative. Masri defended the meeting, saying that he has undertaken an effort to revive the API to Israelis outside of the traditional peace camp. The Palestinian Boycott National Committee released a statement saying:

“The warm relationship revealed recently between a segment of Palestinian capital and Israeli capital is among the worst kinds of normalization. It gives the occupation-state a fig leaf with which to cover its continued occupation, ethnic cleansing, and racism.”

In Parting Gift to Settlers, Housing Minister Greenlights Construction of New Settlement Units for Outpost Evacuees

In June 2018, despite high profile political opposition and violent resistance by settlers and their allies, the Israeli IDF implemented a High Court order to demolish 17 structures (15 residential units) in the Netiv Ha’avot outpost, which were built without Israeli authorization on land that the High Court ruled is privately owned by Palestinians (leaving most of the illegal outpost still standing).

This week, with Israeli elections in sight, Israeli Housing Minister Yoav Gallant resigned from the Kulanu Party and joined Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud party (and in doing so, forfeited his position as Housing Minister). Before resigning, Gallant delivered a parting gift to Netiv Ha’avot settlers: a last minute decision to fast-track the construction of new settlement units for them in the Elazar settlement.

Map by Peace Now

In addition to Peace Now’s comprehensive recap of the Netiv Ha’avot saga, FMEP has covered the efforts of the Israeli government to exploit the evacuation of settlers from 15 homes in the Netiv Ha’avot outpost as an opportunity not only to advance construction in the Elazar settlement, but also to build an entirely new outpost as “temporary” housing for the settlers. The “temporary” outpost – where 15 mobile homes are parked – and connected to Israeli water, power, sewage, roads, and other infrastructure – is located outside of the borders of the Alon Shvut settlement. That fact did not stop the High Planning Council (a body within the Israeli Civil Administration which regulates planning and building in the West Bank) from approving the plan, noting that “the plan is improper, but we will have to approve it as a temporary solution.” As part of its approval of the plan, the Council ordered the government to take steps towards expanding the borders of the Alon Shvut settlement to include the area on which the outpost has been established, underscoring the meaninglessness of the word “temporary” in this context.

In addition to the new outpost/expansion of the Alon Shvut settlement, the State is also planning to retroactively legalize and expand the Netiv Ha’avot outpost – proving once again that Israel does not punish settler law-breaking, but instead handsomely rewards it.

Settlers Blame Obama for Slowed Israeli Population Growth in the West Bank

According to new data published by the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria, the 2018 settler growth rate came in at 3%, compared to 3.4% in 2017. This is the tenth consecutive year that the settler growth rate has declined. In explaining the numbers, settlers are pointing fingers at former U.S. President Barack Obama, citing his policies opposing settlement construction (which was in line with the policies of every previous U.S. president since 1967) as the reason for the decline in the settler population growth rate. The head of the Council, Hananel Dorani, said:

“We’re happy to see that the number of residents in the area is growing, but in recent years there hasn’t been enough construction in the settlements…the relatively slow rate of construction is the result of, among other things, an eight-year construction freeze [there was no such freeze], and today only small-scale plans are being approved [demonstrably incorrect]. These figures are a shout out to the next government: We will be demanding more of an effort to clear obstacles to construction in Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley. This is the way to continue promoting the settlements and even increase the housing available in Israel, and as a result lowering [housing] prices.”

Israeli Justice Minister Stands with Families of Suspects in Deadly Jewish Terror Attack

Five Israeli settlers from the Rehelim settlement were arrested in connection with the murder of a Palestinian woman in October 2018. The suspects – who are minors and therefore unidentified in the press – are alleged to be responsible for throwing stones at a Palestinian vehicle, resulting in the death of Aisha Rabi, a mother of nine. The Israeli Shin Bet has since come under fire from Israeli politicians for the way it has handled the case, and settler leaders have offered blanket public support for the suspects and their families while leveling harsh criticism at the Shin Bet for its work to close the case. Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked went as far as to meet with the suspects’ parents in a display of solidarity with the families’ in their accusations against the Shin Bet’s work on the case.

Meretz chairwoman and Member of Knesset Tamar Zandberg sharply criticized Minister Shaked for the meeting, saying that Shaked has:

“different standards for Jews and Arabs…Instead of doing soul searching, (Shaked) is making an electoral calculation and running into the arms of families accused of terror.”

Breaking the Silence Launches New Tour of Central West Bank Settlements

The Israeli organization Breaking the Silence has launched a new political tour of the West Bank, focusing on settlements, Israeli government policy, and the goal of the occupation. After previewing the new tour, Haaretz columnists Gideon Levy and Alex Lavec write:

“during this seven-hour journey, an unvarnished picture emerges: The goals of the occupation were determined immediately after the 1967 war. Every Israeli government since, without exception, has worked to realize them. The aim: to prevent the establishment of any Palestinian entity between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, by carving up the West Bank and shattering it into shards of territory. The methods have varied, but the goal remains unwavering: eternal Israeli rule. That goal hasn’t been implemented only by right-wing zealots, but by the very establishment of Israel, its governmental agencies, with the backing of the judiciary and the media. On the road to a million settlers, the first million – all means were justified. Now, as that target draws closer, the central goal is the development of infrastructures. The separate roads, deceptive with their bypass routes, the tunnels and the interchanges, all of these are more fateful than another flood of settlers. They allow every settler to live in relative security, not to see Palestinians and not to hear about their existence, to live cheaply and to get to work in Israel fast. That’s the secret that’s made it possible for 650,000 Israelis to violate international law and norms of justice, to live in occupied areas and feel good about themselves. The occasional few bones that the occupier throws the occupied allows life under the boot to continue without excessive resistance.”

Breaking the Silence continues to run its flagship tours of Hebron and the south Hebron Hills, which attract approximately 5,000 participants each year to see the impact of Israeli occupation policies and radical settlers living in Hebron. Breaking the Silence staff are veteran combatants who speak out about the reality of what it means to serve as an occupying power over the Palestinians. Breaking the Silence has been a central target of the Israeli government in attempts to silence groups critical of Israeli policies by cutting their funding, criminalizing and restricting their operations, and waging smear campaigns against staff members.

Bonus Reads

  1. “Expanding the Limits of Jewish Sovereignty: A Brief History of Israeli Settlements” (Haaretz)
  2. “Israeli Housing Project in West Bank Would Surround Bethlehem with Settlements” (Haaretz)
  3. “Palestinians Are Right to Outlaw Selling Land to Settlers” (The Forward)
  4. “How Israel Usurps Palestinian Land In Calculated Stages” (Haaretz)
  5. “Peace Cast: West Bank Settlements” (Americans for Peace Now)
  6. “Minister Shaked says she changed the judicial system’s mindset” (World Israel News)

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

To receive this report via email, please click here.

October 4, 2017

  1. Bibi Backs Bill to Annex Settlements into Jerusalem’s Municipality (and Cut Out Palestinians)
  2. Tenders for Givat Hamatos to be Issued in Coming Months
  3. Eastern Ring Road Construction Has Started, Enabling Future E-1 Construction
  4. Ambassador Friedman Says Settlements Are Part of Israel, Gives Settlement Growth a Green Light
  5. Putting It All Together: Israeli Actions and U.S. Statements
  6. Update: Amichai Construction Stalled (Again)
  7. Bonus Reads

Comments, questions, or suggestions? Email Kristin McCarthy at

Bibi Backs Bill to Annex Settlements into Jerusalem’s Municipality (and Cut Out Palestinians)

On October 2nd while speaking in the Ma’ale Adumim settlement east of Jerusalem, Netanyahu announced his support for the “Greater Jerusalem” bill, a piece of legislation that proposes annexing 19 settlements into Israel’s Jerusalem municipality while simultaneously creating new municipalities for Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem that fall on the West Bank side of the separation wall. FMEP covered similar legislation in our July 28th Settlement Report. At the event, Netanyahu also promised thousands of new units for the settlement and vowed that it will be a part of Israel forever.

The legislation’s author, Yisrael Katz (Likud) who serves as both the Minister of Transportation and the Minister of Intelligence, explained the bill’s purpose is to “strengthen Jerusalem by adding thousands of Jewish residents to the city, while simultaneously weakening the Arab hold on the capital.” Netanyahu has members of his governing coalition to formally introduce the “Greater Jerusalem” bill by the end of the year.

Jerusalem expert Daniel Seidemann reported previously on the bill in detail here. Writing about this latest development, he observed: “Such a move has correctly been viewed in the past as tantamount to de facto annexation and the erasure of the Green Line…a new and deeply disturbing geopolitical reality is taking shape before our very eyes.”

Tenders for Givat Hamatos to be Issued in Coming Months

Terrestrial Jerusalem reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to allow tenders to be issued for the establishment of the two-state ending Givat Hamatos settlement, in the southern part of Jerusalem. Rumors of these tenders first emerged in August of this year.

Map by Peace Now

If constructed, Givat Hamatos will be the first new government-backed Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem since the establishment of Har Homa in 1997. The settlement will complete the barrier of settlements that sever Palestinian East Jerusalem from Bethlehem to its south, and inside Jerusalem will complete the isolation of the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa from any possible connection to the West Bank. Givat Hamatos will thus prevent a border from being drawn in Jerusalem along the lines of the Clinton Parameters (i.e., according to which Palestinian neighborhoods are part of Palestine and Israeli neighborhoods are part of Israel), and in a manner that permits the emergence of a Palestinian state with a viable capital in Jerusalem.

Eastern Ring Road Construction Has Started, Enabling Future E-1 Construction

Peace Now reports that Israel has started construction on a controversial and highly consequential portion of the “Eastern Ring Road” in the E-1 area. If this section of the road is completed and opened, it will redirect Palestinian traffic around the E-1 settlement area, ostensibly paving the way for construction of the two-state ending settlement. In June 2017, Ir Amim reported that Israel had approved a budget for the construction of this segment of the road.

Map by Peace Now

The “Eastern Ring Road” is often called the “Apartheid Road” because the separation wall runs down the middle of the road, separating Palestinian and Israeli settler traffic. Israel designed the Eastern Ring Road, which is still incomplete after years of stalled construction, to solve several problems it faces in connecting Israeli settlements to Jerusalem.

Peace Now explains:

This road is part of a future road, which, if completed, will allow Israel to build in E-1 and divide the West Bank in two on the pretext that the road provides a solution to the Palestinian need to connect north to south. However, the Palestinian need is not only a question of transportation, but also a question of territory and the possibility to develop the areas at the heart of the West Bank, without which a viable Palestinian state cannot be established.

This start of this new construction comes in the context of other developments that seem to signal a serious intent to move forward with E-1. Specifically, the ongoing Israeli government plans to expel Bedouin living in the area (discussed in detail in last week’s Settlement Report) and Netanyahu’s now open embrace of legislation to effectively annex the area to Jerusalem (discussed above).

Ambassador Friedman Says Settlements Are Part of Israel, Gives Settlement Growth a Green Light

In his first on-camera interview since taking office, U.S. Ambassador David Friedman told an Israeli news outlet that Israel’s settlements are a part of Israel, breaking with 50 years of bipartisan U.S. policy that distinguishes between sovereign Israel and its settlements.

Ambassador Friedman, who personally raised money for the Beit El settlement before taking office, said:

I think the settlements are part of Israel… There was always supposed to be some notion of expansion into the West Bank, but not necessarily expansion into the entire West Bank. And I think that’s exactly what, you know, Israel has done. I mean, they’re only occupying 2% of the West Bank. There is important nationalistic, historical, religious significance to those settlements, and I think the settlers view themselves as Israelis and Israel views the settlers as Israelis.

The U.S. Department of State has not clarified Ambassador Friedman’s remarks, but has said that his comments do not represent a shift in U.S. policy. This is the second time this month that the Administration has had to publicly distance itself from controversial pro-settlement remarks by the Ambassador. However, State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert created more consternation when she was unable to clarify on record how much of the West Bank the U.S. believes to be occupied(though she was asked twice over the past week).

Additionally, days before the interview, Ambassador Friedman and U.S. Special Envoy Jason Greenblatt reportedly told Netanyahu that the U.S. accepts a distinction between what Israel calls its “settlement blocs” and far-flung, isolated settlements. Netanyahu relayed news of the (alleged) major U.S. policy shift during a private meeting with settler leaders. According to meeting participants, Netanyahu also claimed the U.S. Ambassador gave him permission to continue expanding Israeli settlements, but had warned Israel not to go overboard.

As we noted last week, actors in Israel and in the U.S. have been pushing for the U.S. to adopt such a distinction, which would allow Israel to annex the “settlement blocs” outside of the framework of a peace deal. The campaign is further evidenced by a new article written by Eli Lake, quoting Elliot Abrams extensively, defending Ambassador Friedman’s remarks about settlements being a part of Israel and arguing for Israel’s unilateral annexation of the blocs.

As we also noted last week, FMEP President Lara Friedman has written extensively against the normalization and annexation on the so-called settlement blocs. Dating back to 2013 she wrote that this approach:

“…is a recipe not for strengthening the two-state solution, but for imposing a unilateral Israeli vision of a Greater Israel extending beyond the Green Line, adjacent to a balkanized Palestinian entity. Such an outcome may be appealing to Benjamin Netanyahu and his U.S. apologists. It will never be acceptable to the Palestinians and the international community, and it certainly shouldn’t be mistaken for a “solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Americans for Peace Now (APN) is calling on President Trump to fire Friedman. Debra DeLee, APN’s President & CEO, said that Ambassador Friedman’s comments are “outrageous, unacceptable, and flat-out wrong” and that “Americans should be appalled to hear our ambassador parrot this disingenuous argument, in effect revealing himself as a spokesman for the extremist ideological settler population, rather than a faithful representative of the US government.”

J Street also released a statement lambasting the Ambassador’s remarks, saying

Eradicating that distinction and normalizing settlements as “part of Israel” would severely damage the prospects for a two-state solution and undermine the United States’ capacity to act as helpful facilitator in reaching a deal to end the conflict. Such a change in policy would strengthen the position of Israel’s settlement movement and rejectionist right….While the State Department’s clarification is important, it remains unacceptable that the chief American diplomatic representative in Israel continues to misrepresent and undermine long-standing US policy. His statements are a stark reminder of why Friedman’s nomination to be ambassador to Israel faced an unprecedented level of congressional opposition, with a record 46 senators voting against. It is now clear that concerns about Friedman as an official representative of the United States because of his long history of close ideological and financial ties to the settlement movement were well-founded.

Putting It All Together: Israeli Actions and U.S. Statements

A few of the major Jerusalem-area developments over the past couple months include:

  1. The advancement of the “Greater Jerusalem” bill that will annex Israeli settlements to the Jerusalem municipality and cut out Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. [reported above]
  2. The advancement of settlement plans in Palestinian areas of East Jerusalem and surrounding settlements including Ramat Shlomo/Neve Ya’akov. [Terrestrial Jerusalem]
  3. An uptick in evictions and demolitions in Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem (Silwan, Sheikh Jarrah, and Issawiya to name a few) and al-Walajah (part of al-Walajah is inside of the Jerusalem municipality, this is the area  where the threat of evictions and is most acute).
  4. Israel’s stated plan to forcibly relocate the Khan al-Ahmar community from the area near the E-1 and Ma’ale Adumim settlements. [B’Tselem]
  5. News of imminent tenders for the Givat Hamatos settlement and for the expansion of the Nof Zion settlement enclave inside of a Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhood. [Terrestrial Jerusalem & Peace Now]
  6. The resumption of construction of the “Eastern Ring Road” which paves the way for Israel to build in E-1. [Peace Now]

Over the same period, the key statements from Trump Administration officials have been:

  1. Amb. Friedman and Jason Greenblatt reportedly told Israel not to “go overboard” on settlement growth, but gave a clear green light for settlement growth.
  2. In an on-camera interview with Walla Israel, Amb. Friedman said that settlements are a part of Israel and that Israel is only occupying 2% of the West Bank.
  3. Amb. Friedman referred to the “alleged occupation” in an interview with the Jerusalem Post,
  4. The State Department has been unable to explain or clarify Ambassador Friedman’s remarks regarding the amount of the West Bank that Israel is occupying, or the status of Israeli settlements.
  5. The Trump administration continues its refusal to directly comment on any specific settlement announcement, and has yet to do so with this week’s news regarding the “Greater Jerusalem” bill.

The United State’s diplomatic pressure has played an historically important role in dissuading Israel from pursuing two-state ending settlement activity in the Jerusalem area. That diplomatic pressure, it seems, is no longer a factor.

Update: Amichai Construction Stalled (Again)

The construction of the new settlement of “Amichai” has once again stalled. This week the government reportedly declined to expedite the transfer of funds to the contractor building Amichai, instead requiring the contractor to go through the planning process to acquire and additional tender. Until the tender is officially approved by the government, the contractor is unable to continue the construction due to lack of funds.

The new settlement of Amichai was approved earlier this year as a pay-off for the families who illegally established the Amona outpost and were forcibly evacuated earlier this year. Amichai is the first new West Bank settlement to be approved by the Israeli government in the past 25 years.

Bonus Reads

  1. “How Settlers Turn Archeological Sites Into Political Tools” (Al Monitor)
  2. “UN Special Envoy Says Israel Ignoring Demand to Halt Settlements” (Times of Israel)
  3. “Apartheid in Hebron” (Arab American Institute)
  4. “Goods from Israel Settlements Granted Preferential EU Trade Deals” (Middle East Monitor)
  5. “Despite Police Restrictions, MKs Tour East Jerusalem” (Jerusalem Post)


FMEP has long been a trusted resource on settlement-related issues, reflecting both the excellent work of our grantees on the ground and our own in-house expertise. FMEP’s focus on settlements derives from our commitment to achieving lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace, and our recognition of the fact that Israeli settlements – established for the explicit purpose of dispossessing Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem of land and resources, and depriving them of the very possibility of self-determination in their own state with borders based on the 1967 lines – are antithetical to that goal.

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

To receive this report via email, please click here.

June 30, 2017
  1. “Disappointment” So Far for Settlers in the Trump-Bibi Era, But…
  2. Sheikh Jarrah Project Recommended for Deposit for Public Review
  3. Long Delayed “Apartheid Road” Possibly Moving
  4. Beit El Housing to Advance After a Settlers Throw a Tantrum
  5. Bibi Vows that Israel will Keep Ariel
  6. Efrat and “How the Borders of Settlements Expand While No One is Watching”
  7. Yitzhar & Its “Hilltop Youth” Continue to Terrorize Nablus Area
  8. Bonus Reads

For questions and comments please contact FMEP’s Director of Policy & Operations, Kristin McCarthy (

“Disappointment” So Far for Settlers in the Trump-Bibi Era, But…

Israeli Minister of Education Naftali Bennett – and staunch settlement advocate – expressed disappointment with the lack of settlement growth since Donald Trump assumed office. Bennett said, “Unfortunately from our perspective, he [Trump] is sort of going down the same unsuccessful path that his predecessors did…So yes, there is disappointment out there.” When Trump was elected, many settlers hoped that his administration would allow some, if not all, of the most problematic settlement plans to proceed. That includes several projects that, if built, would destroy the possibility of contiguous Palestinian state (Givat Hamatos, E1, etc). These projects have not moved forward…yet.

But Mr. Bennett need not be too disappointed. In fact, there has been a sharp rise in the number of settlement units and plans advanced and in construction so far in the Trump-Bibi settlement era, as detailed extensively by Peace Now and covered by FMEP in last week’s Settlement Round Up.

There are also new alarming developments this week that suggest the floodgates might be beginning to open….

Sheikh Jarrah Project Recommended for Deposit for Public Review

Ir Amim reports that plans for a 6-story Israeli commercial building at the entrance of the Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah have been recommended for deposit for public review. The land designated for this project is adjacent to a plot designated for settlers to build a religious school and dormitories, known as the Glassman Campus project.

Map by Ir Amim

Located just north of Jerusalem’s Old City, Sheikh Jarrah has endured years of aggressive settlement activity by radical settlers, employing various means, including Israel’s court system to strip Palestinians of their ownership rights. Sheikh Jarrah’s plight was featured in a 2013 film by Just Vision, “My Neighborhood.” Just Vision also produced “Home Front,” a series of video interviews with the Palestinian residents and Israeli activists fighting together against settlement expansion in Sheikh Jarrah. For more on Sheikh Jarrah and the protest it sparked, 972+ Magazine has a compilation of resources online here.

Depositing settlement plans for public review is a significant step in the East Jerusalem planning process; it sends a signal that the political echelon may no longer be blocking the advancement of projects in the Jerusalem area that have been considered to be especially inflammatory to Palestinians and Muslims, and detrimental to peace negotiations. This could be an early sign of the opening floodgates.

Long Delayed “Apartheid Road” Possibly Moving

Ir Amim reports that a budget has been approved for construction of the northern part of the Jerusalem “Eastern Ring Road,” following years of delays and protests. If constructed according to existing plans, the northern section of the Eastern Ring Road will have separate lanes for Israeli settlers and Palestinians, with a physical barrier dividing the two. It will not allow the Palestinian lanes to access East Jerusalem. As noted in Haaretz, “This is the only highway in the West Bank that will have a separation wall running right down the middle. For that reason, the plan’s opponents are already dubbing it ‘Apartheid Road.’” Adalah, a legal group for minority rights in Israel, previously filed a petition to block the road’s construction.

Ir Amim notes that this is one of several projects that prepares the way for building in the E-1 area. E-1, as Jerusalem expert Danny Seidemann has long explained, is a “doomsday” project; if implemented, an E-1 settlement will end the possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state and completely sever East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank. The “Eastern Ring Road” seeks to “solve” one of these problems – by providing the Palestinians with “transportational contiguity” between the northern and southern West Bank – even as it would cement the cutting off of East Jerusalem from the West Bank.

Beit El Housing to Advance After Settlers Throw a Tantrum

Late last week, Netanyahu said he will approve the construction of 300 housing units in the Beit El settlement by September. The announcement came after a very public (and embarrassing) series of confrontations with members of his own political party as well as settlers. The leaders of the Beit El settlement threatened to petition the High Court over the issue, and staged a demonstration in front of the Prime Minister’s office to issue the threat. Beit El’s leaders replayed footage of Netanyahu promising to build the units in 2012, after several structures were taken down because they were built on land recognized even by Israel as privately owned by Palestinians.

The Beit El spat erupted after the Jerusalem Post reported an alleged freeze brokered between Israel and the U.S. The report suggested that Israel agreed to stop publishing construction tenders (the final step in the planning process) for all settlements through the end of 2017. The Beit El units had reached that final phase of planning, but would ostensibly not move forward if the report was true.

Beit El has deep connections to the current U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman; Friedman ran a U.S. fundraising effort for Beit El before being appointed Ambassador.

Bibi Vows that Israel will Keep Ariel

At the ground-breaking ceremony for a new medical school in “Ariel University,” Prime Minister Netanyahu vowed, “Ariel will always be part of the State of Israel.” Alongside Education Minister Naftali Bennett, the Prime Minister Netanyahu attended a ceremony dedicating the school to American casino magnate and settlement financier, Sheldon Adelson – who donated funding for the new facility.

As explained last week, the future of Ariel has long been one of the greatest challenges to any possible peace agreement, since any plan to attach Ariel to Israel will cut the northern West Bank into pieces.

Efrat and “How the Borders of Settlements Expand While No One is Watching”

Three structures in the settlement of Efrat were found to have been built outside the border of the settlement’s jurisdiction. Dror Etkes (founder of Kerem Navot, a settlement watch group) petitioned Israel’s Civil Administration (the arm of the Israeli military that is effectively the sovereign authority in the West Bank, and therefore has authority over all construction ithere) over the buildings. This week the Civil Administration confirmed that the buildings were built without permits, had stop-work orders issued against them at the time, and might potentially be built on land recognized by Israel as privately owned by Palestinians. There are no reports of demolition orders against the illegal structures.

Map by B’Tselem

Located south of Bethlehem and west of the route of the separation barrier, Efrat poses many of the same challenges to a peace agreement as Ariel (discussed above). Connecting it to Israel means cutting deep into the West Bank, severing the route of Highway 60 between Jerusalem/Bethlehem and the southern West Bank, and contributing to the near total isolation of Bethlehem.


Yitzhar & Its “Hilltop Youth” Continue to Terrorize Nablus Area

Recent arrests of Yitzhar settlers have not deterred the terror coming from Yitzhar and/or its Hilltop Youth, with this week’s target being the Palestinian village of Burin. On Sunday, Rabbis for Human Rights documented 45 olive trees in Burin that were destroyed and spray painted with the words “revenge.” The suspected hate crime was precipitated by a violent clash between Yitzhar settlers and the Israeli army during the razing of an illegal structure in the settlement. On Wednesday, settlers from Yitzhar set fire to an olive grove – burning over 400 trees – according to the Israeli Army. Video of the incident shows masked settlers clashing with Israeli soldiers.

This week’s violence follows a warning to Yitzhar’s leaders from the Shin Bet earlier this month to keep the “Hilltop Youth” who call Yitzhar their home under control. In response, Yitzhar’s governing body has taken several actions, including forcing the youth to sign a code of conduct under threat of expulsion. But the code of conduct did not stop one Hilltop Youth religious leader and teacher at a yeshiva in Yitzhar – Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburg – from urging his students to “cause a revolution” without getting caught because it is “a shame to waste time in prison.”

Israel’s Ynet news agency reports that the terror tactics of the Hilltop Youth are increasingly targeting Israeli security forces in the West Bank and Jerusalem. One Hilltop Youth whines, “all we want to do is sit on the hill. Just imagine how we feel each time a detective destroys our tent or confiscates our stuff. We have no peace and quiet.” And from a soldier’s perspective on his time serving in the Yitzhar area: “The scariest thing in the area was to clash with Jews. Give me an Arab terrorist and I’ll know how to deal with him. Give me a Jew who is throwing stones at me and I’ll simply flee.”

A lawyer with Yesh Din, an Israeli organization deeply involved in protecting the area from Yitzhar settlers, said “violence will not cease if there is no real deterrence, protection for Palestinians, a thorough investigation, prosecution of offenders and an imposition of significant penalties.” Though the Shin Bet has said it take the matter seriously, the violence continues. Yesh Din’s legal work documents the impunity with which settlers perpetrate crimes: A March 2017 report reveals only 8.2% of allegations of crimes committed by settlers in the West Bank result in indictments.

Bonus Reads

  1. City on a Hilltop: American-Jewish Settlers“ w/ Dr. Sara Yael Hirschhorn, Ori Nir, and Lara Friedman (A podcast by Americans for Peace Now, June 25, 2017).
  2. Settlements: The Real Story, by Gershom Gorenberg (The American Prospect, Summer 2017)