Settlement Report: June 19, 2020

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 (kmccarthy@fmep.org)


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 (kmccarthy@fmep.org).


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 kmccarthy@fmep.org


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 kmccarthy@fmep.org.


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 (kmccarthy@fmep.org).


“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)