Settlement Report: May 22, 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.

May 22, 2020

  1. New Israeli Government Sworn In: Gantz & Netanyahu Continue to Back Annexation & the Trump Plan
  2. New Israeli Government Sworn In: The Cast of Ministers Relevant to Settlements/Annexation
  3. Settler Groups in Public Disagreement Over Trump Plan
  4. ICYMI: Sec. State Pompeo Went to Israel Last Week
  5. Israel Expropriates Land, Green Lights Building Permits for “Humanitarian Access” to Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs/Ibrahimi Mosque
  6. Israeli Demolitions in al-Walajah, Displacing Palestinians to Make Way for New Israeli Park
  7. High Court Rejects Regulation Incentivizing Artists Performing in Settlements
  8. Violence on the Rise
  9. Breaking the Silence Breaks Down What Annexation Will Mean on the Ground
  10. Al-Haq Report: Israeli Annexation of Jerusalem Since 1948
  11. B’Tselem Report: Jewish Supremacy on Display in Issawiya
  12. Human Rights Watch Report: Israeli Land Policies Strangle Palestinian Communities in Israel
  13. Bonus Reads

Questions/comments? Email Kristin McCarthy (kmccarthy@fmep.org)


New Israeli Government Sworn In: Gantz & Netanyahu Continue to Back Annexation & the Trump Plan

The new Israeli government was sworn in on Sunday, May 17th. The message from the government’s leaders – Netanyahu and Gantz – remains that they are firmly and unequivocally behind the plan to advance annexation, in accordance with the Trump Plan.

In his inaugural address, Prime Minister Netanyahu said:

“The time has come to apply sovereignty to Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. This won’t distance peace, it will bring it closer. The truth is — and everybody knows it — that the hundreds of thousands of settlers living in Judea and Samaria will remain there, no matter what arrangement is reached. The only reason the whole issue of sovereignty is on the agenda is because I promoted it personally for the last three years, both overtly and covertly.”

In his inaugural address, Alternate (and, theoretically, future) Prime Minister Benny Gantz said:

“Alongside this and for its sake, we will maintain our strength, to seize regional opportunities in general, and to advance the US government and US President Trump’s peace plan and everything it contains.”

New Israeli Government Sworn In: The Cast of Ministers Relevant to Settlements/Annexation

In addition to Netanyahu and Gantz, key figures in the new government’s drive for annexation will likely be:

  • Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), who is Israel’s “Settlements Minister.” This is a new cabinet position invented by Netanyahu and Gantz. Hotovely will serve in this role for the first nine months of the government and then be replaced by Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) for the second nine months (of course, if Israel annexes all the settlements, this role either won’t need to exist anymore or its mandate will have to change). It is unclear if this ministry will take power away from the Defense Ministry (and its Civil Administration), which has typically been the central address for managing most issues related to the settlements.
  • Gilad Erdan (Likud), who is Israel’s new Ambassador to both the United Nations and the United States. Erdan will hold both offices simultaneously for the first nine months of the government. Shortly following his swearing in, Erdan reiterated his well-established support for annexation, saying he believes Israel has a “biblical right” to the land. 
  • Avi Nissenkorn (Blue & White) who is Israel’s new Justice Minister. Israel’s Justice Minister has historically played an important role in issuing legal opinions which provide Israel a domestic legal rationale for land seizures and settlement activities. The Justice Ministry is also a key because it has been (at least in recent years) increasingly oppositional to the role of the Israeli Supreme Court. Netanyahu has directly confronted the Supreme Court, and former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked accused the Court of (among other things) being “overly concerned” with Palestinian rights.
  • Gabi Ashkenazi (Blue & White), who is Israel’s new Foreign Minister, and who will theoretically take over the job of Defense Minister during the second nine months of the government (assuming Gantz rotates over to become Prime Minister). Ashkenazi has made clear his support for annexation, even while giving lip service to concerns about relations with allies and in the region. On May 18th he, said: “We’re facing significant regional opportunities, primarily President [Donald] Trump’s peace initiative. I consider this plan a significant milestone. President Trump presented us with a historic opportunity to shape the future of the State of Israel and its boundaries for decades to come…The plan will be advanced responsibly, with full coordination with the United States and maintaining all of the State of Israel’s peace agreements and strategic interests.” 

Key Government Figures Outside of the Coalition

  • Naftali Bennett, Ayelet Shaked, Bezalel Smotrich (Yamina Party). Relegated to the opposition, Bennett and company have come out swinging – taking shots at Netanyahu for allegedly betraying right wing values and vowing to fight tooth and nail against the Trump Plan. Bennett has charged that Netanyahu is making a fatal mistake by supporting the Trump Plan because it would mean that Israel has acknowledged and accepted the concept of a Palestinian state (notwithstanding that, under the Trump Plan, what is available to the Palestinians does not meet even the most modest definition of a state). Bennett said that recognitionis a point of no return. One can’t recognize and then un-recognize Palestinian statehood. It’s like un-cooking scrambled eggs…I will oppose anything that allows for acceptance or recognition of a Palestinian state.”

Settler Groups in Public Disagreement Over Trump Plan

Settler leaders form a key interest group outside of the central government (though many settler leaders serve on municipal councils) — a group that will play a key role in the deliberations around annexation. And with the swearing in of the new government that embraces the Trump Plan, disagreements among settler leaders are beginning to become more clear.

Like the Yamina Party, the official settler leadership body – known as the Yesha Council – passed a resolution on May 21st criticizing several aspects of the Trump Plan, without stating its outright opposition to it. While acknowledging it as a “positive change in U.S. policy towards settlements,” the resolution goes on to:

  • Assert that annexation does not require American approval;
  • Reject recognition of – or agreement to recognize in the future – a Palestinian state;
  • Reject any construction freeze in any of the settlements and outposts;
  • Reject the creation of enclaves.

Following the passage of the resolution, Yesha Council chairman David Elhayani said:

“For years, the Yesha Council has been working to apply sovereignty [in the West Bank], and we’ve gone from a situation in which almost no one talked about the subject or was aware of it to the unprecedented situation where the prime minister and the US president discuss an agreement that includes sovereignty. However, we will not agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state in the heart of the Land of Israel. If the result of the [Trump] agreement is to establish a terror state in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), include the creation of isolated enclaves and a freeze on construction, we are ready to give up sovereignty, despite all the hard work and resources we have invested in the issue in recent years.”

In opposition to the Yesha council’s statement, a group of settler mayors – representing major settlements like Efrat and Ariel, as well as settlements that, due to their population, have extra weight politically (like Alfei Menashe, which is home to many retired senior IDF officers) — organized their own statement calling for support of the Trump Plan. The statement – led by Efrat Mayor Oded Revivi – was signed by the mayor/chairmen of Ariel, Megilot, Oranit, Alfei Menashe, Elkana, and Har Adar.

ICYMI: Sec. State Pompeo Went to Israel Last Week 

On Wednesday, May 13th, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo travelled to Israel for an 8-hour visit to meet with leaders of the new Israeli government (which was set to be sworn in the next day, though that was delayed until Sunday the 17th). In response to an unconvincing statement by the State Department concerning the trip’s purpose – which was officially about coordination on fighting COVID-19 and Iran –  an avalanche of speculative media coverage preceded and trailed Pompeo’s trip, trying to suss out what the trip was truly about, with many focusing on annexation or confronting Israel’s growing ties to China. In response, a State Department official who travelled with Pompeo told the press after Pompeo departed: “[we can] dispel the notion that we flew halfway around the world to talk about annexation…that was not the purpose of the trip…This wasn’t the top line.”

Media speculation that annexation was on Pompeo’s agenda was fueled by an interview Pompeo gave to Israel Hayom one day prior to his trip. When asked directly by a reporter if he planned to ask Israel to delay annexation, Pompeo declined to answer but reiterated his prior comments stressing that annexation is an Israeli decision. And then, on the day that Pompeo arrived in Israel, an anonymous “senior U.S. official” told Israel’s Channel 13 news that the U.S. had passed a message to Israeli leaders that annexation does not have to happen on July 1st.

In a press conference following their meeting, Pompeo appeared to again suggesting that Israel could (or should) delay annexation. Appearing alongside Netanyahu, Pompeo said (to Bibi):

“We’re now some months on from the day that you came to Washington when President Trump announced that Vision for Peace when you were there. There remains work yet to do, and we need to make progress on that. I’m looking forward to it.”

Not long after, Pompeo told the press:

“We spoke of ways to advance the peace plan, Trump’s peace plan.”

Reading into these comments, the New York Times ran pieces suggesting that Pompeo told Netanyahu that the U.S. wants him to delay annexation. In the article, Crisis Group analyst Ofer Zalzberg suggested that Pompeo sought to re-establish a role for Benny Gantz in the government’s consideration of annexation (after Gantz forfeit such a role as part of the coalition deal). Adding to the chatter around delay, Channel 13 News in Israel even reported that Gantz and Ashkenazi voiced concerns about annexation during their meeting with Pompeo, though both Gantz and Ashkenzi have continued to publicly promote the plan (see section above).

Israel Expropriates Land, Green Lights Building Permits for “Humanitarian Access” to Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs/Ibrahimi Mosque

On May 13th, the IDF Commander issued an expropriation order to take control of an area outside of Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs/Ibrahimi Mosque in order to build an elevator and wheelchair ramp leading to the site. The land is owned by the Islamic Waqf and is under the municipal jurisdiction of the Palestinian-run Hebron Municipality, according to multiple agreements signed by Israel and the Palestinians concerning the governance of the site. Israel’s expropriation order violates the terms of the Hebron Protocols.

Four days later, on May 17th, the Israeli Civil Administration deposited for public review plans for the project, starting the clock on a 60-day period during which the public can submit objections to the plan.

Emek Shaveh writes:

The project is presented as a response to a humanitarian need but the settlers and the government are in fact creating a precedent of expropriation from the Waqf and construction at a shared holy site. Moreover, according to the Oslo Accords, the tomb comes under the auspices of the Hebron Municipality who have not consented to the plan.”

Palestinian Authority Minister for the Civilian Affairs Hussein al-Shiekh tweeted in response:

“today the so-called Israeli Minister of Defense signed a decision to confiscate [and] annex parts of the Ibrahimi campus in Hebron, which is a violation of the Hebron protocol, an end of the agreement signed between the PLO and Israel [and] a continuation of the #annexation project in the [West Bank and] #Jerusalem”

Israeli Demolitions in al-Walajah, Displacing Palestinians to Make Way for New Israeli Park

On May 18, Israeli forces demolished six structures (three homes and three agricultural buildings) in the Palestinian village of al-Walajah, in an area of the village that is within the expanded Israeli municipal borders of Jerusalem and also inside ofthe Nahal Rephaim National Park. Israel established the park in 2013 on al-Walajah’s land. Ir Amim reports that the demolitions are part of the Israeli government’s plans to open a new visitors center in the park for Israelis in the near future.

The demolitions were carried out by Israeli authorities, despite circumstances that should have required them to be delayed — including the fact that the Palestinian homeowners were unaware that demolition orders had been issued against their property. Moreover, on March 18th the Israeli Justice Ministry declared that residential demolitions would be suspended during the coronavirus crisis (and such has been the case for the past 2 months in East Jerusalem). Further, Israel customarily pauses demolition orders during the month of Ramadan (which is about to end). 

For decades, the Israeli government has carried out a multi-prong effort to push Palestinians off of their land in al-Walajah. This has included demolition campaigns, construction of the separation barrier along a route that encircles the village and cuts residents off from their land, refusal to grant building permits, and the declaration of state parks over lands on which Palestinians have lived for generations. 

High Court Rejects Regulation Incentivizing Artists Performing in Settlements

On May 13th, the Israeli High Court of Justice overturned a controversial government regulation which conditioned the amount of federal funding for arts and cultural institutions (orchestras, theaters, choirs, etc) on their willingness to perform in West Bank settlements. The program was put in place by former Culture Minister Miri Regev. It incentivized arts institutions to perform in the settlements (an act of normalization and de facto annexation) by offering a 10% bonus to cultural groups which perform in the settlements, while reducing grants by 33% for groups unwilling to perform in the settlements.

The Court’s ruling came in response to a 2016 petition filed by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI); the petition claimed the regulation violated the right to freedom of expression and conscience.

Justice Hanan Melcer said:

“Refraining from appearing in a controversial region constitutes an expression of opinion and such an expression merits protection. The right to freedom of expression obligates the authorities not to discriminate between people or institutions on the basis of their views and requires them to remain neutral.”

For a fantastic re-telling of Miri Regev’s controversial and dramatic tenure as Culture Minister, see this article by Al-Monitor. In the new unity government, Regev was sworn in to serve as Israel’s Minister of Transportation for the first nine months, and will then serve as Israel Foreign Minister. Regev will be a member of the Israeli security cabinet for the entire duration of the government (18 months).

Violence on the Rise

On the evening of May 21st, settlers from the radical Yitzhar settlement – homebase of the violent “Hilltop Youth” – instigated clashes with Palestinians from the nearby village of Hawwara. The settlers were throwing rocks at Palestinian vehicles along the main road to the village, and Palestinians then gathered and responded by throwing rocks at the settlers. Israeli police arrived to disperse the crowd, directing stun gun fire at the Palestinians.

The head of the Hawwara village council told Haaretz that Palestinian property, including cars and store fronts, were damaged by the settlers.

The incident follows an apparent Palestinian-perpetrated attack (or attempted attack) on Israeli forces near Hawwara earlier this week. Many analysts are now noting the persistent occurrence of violent clashes throughout the WEst Bank, including the death of an Israeli soldier during an IDF night raid in Jenin, the death of a Palestinian youth in Hebron also during a nighttime raid by the IDF, an apparent car-ramming attack, and now the events this week.

Breaking the Silence Breaks Down What Annexation Will Mean on the Ground

In a policy paper, Breaking the Silence co-founder Yehuda Shaul answers several key questions about what annexation might look like, and how the legal structure of Israel’s control over Palestinian life in the West Bank will be transformed. Read the full paper here.

Shaul explains that following annexation:

  • Planning and construction for the settlements will no longer be regulated by the Defense Ministry, where political considerations at times intervened to stop controversial settlement plans. When settlement construction comes under Israel’s domestic bureaucratic procedures, plans for expansion of settlements are expected to move more quickly.
  • The state of Israel will no longer have an existing legal basis for removing settlers from the West Bank (in the hypothetical scenario in which the state should choose to do so). Since 1948, the state has said (at least formally) that the settlements are “temporary” and that they fulfill a “military need.” When Israel evacuated its Gaza settlements, it did so pursuant to a military order saying that the settlements no longer serve a military need, and can be removed. The Court was then able to violate the civil rights Israel affords to its settlers in order to carry out the evacuation. Following annexation, the settlements will no longer be connected to any “military need” and will certainly no longer be held as a “temporary” endeavor, removing power from the government to carry out evacuations should it so choose.
  • Settler municipal bodies will enjoy increased autonomy and power over Palestinians living in annexed land. This means that Palestinians could be paying taxes to the settler bodies, and relying on their benevolence for construction planning, building permits, and other services, etc. Palestinians would likely enjoy no representation in those municipal bodies, which would also have the authority to enforce demolition orders against Palestinians.
  • The bureaucratic process of combining two regimes (the Israeli government and the Israeli military command) to govern the newly annexed territory will take a lot of legislation and it will require Israel to form a complex and massive structure to police the borders of Israeli territory. 
  • The Absentee Property’s Law and declarations of newly annexed land for “public use” will be the key legal tools Israel uses to take privately owned Palestinian land on a massive scale.

The paper also establishes that annexation of West Bank land will mean apartheid. Annexation under the Trump Plan would leave Palestinians living in fragmented enclaves within the Israeli state, without any rights in Israel (i.e. Apartheid). Even if Israel grants some rights to the subset of Palestinians living in the territory annexed to Israel (the report details 5 scenarios Israel might consider), that does not change the overall legal status of the new regime as an apartheid system, where people are granted or not granted rights primarily based on ethnicity.  

Al-Haq Report: Israeli Annexation of Jerusalem Since 1948

In a new report, entitled “Annexing A City: Israel’s Illegal Measures to Annex Jerusalem Since 1948,” Al-Haq examines Israel’s annexation of West Jerusalem in 1948 and East Jerusalem in 1967, and the many Israeli policies which have sought to shore up those annexations in the intervening years.

Al-Haq writes:

“Indeed, Israel’s actions towards the city, from beginning to move its Government ministries to West Jerusalem in 1949, to redrawing the municipal boundaries of the city in 1967, have all been aimed at establishing irreversible facts on the ground before concrete action is taken by the international community. Accordingly, Israel’s policies and practices imposed today in occupied East Jerusalem, ranging from residency revocations to house demolitions, form part of a continuing effort to displace and dispossess Palestinians in Jerusalem, thereby feeding into Israel’s calculated efforts to alter the legal status, character, and demographic composition of the city, in violation of its protected status under international law.”

B’Tselem Report: Jewish Supremacy on Display in Issawiya

In a new report, entitled “This is Jerusalem: Violence and Dispossession in al- ‘Esawiyah,” B’Tselem describes life in the Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya (aka al-‘Esawiyah). In it, B’Tselem analyzes how Israeli policies have aimed and succeeded at dispossessing Palestinians in Issawiya through deliberate neglect, lack of planning, and an ongoing police campaign in the neighborhood aimed at harassing residents. 

B’Tselem writes:

“Since annexing East Jerusalem, Israel has viewed the Palestinians who live there as an unwanted addition. The policy it implements in these neighborhoods – which is particularly blatant in al-‘Esawiyah – is aimed at incessantly pressuring the residents. In the short term, this is meant to oppress Palestinians in the city, control them and keep them poor, underprivileged and in a state of constant anxiety. Given Israel’s declared intention to ensure a Jewish demographic supremacy in Jerusalem, the long-term goal of this cruel policy appears to be to drive Palestinians to breaking point, so that they “choose” to desert their homes and leave the city. This conduct clearly demonstrates the demographic considerations that guide Israel’s actions: preferring Jewish citizens over unwanted Palestinian residents. Accordingly, the Israeli authorities incessantly harass the entire Palestinian population of Jerusalem, including the blatant example reviewed in this report: the 22,000 people who live in al-‘Esawiyah. This abuse, which is the result of an ongoing policy led by all Israeli governments since 1967, lays bare Israel’s priorities in the only part of the West Bank it has – as yet – taken the trouble to formally annex: no equality, no rights, and not even reasonable municipal services. Instead, state authorities use their power in the annexed territory to cement the superiority of one group over another.”

Human Rights Watch Report: Israeli Land Policies Strangle Palestinian Communities in Israel

In a new report – entitled “Israel: Discriminatory Land Policies Hem in Palestinians” Human Rights Watch documents how policies which have Israel’s occupation policy extened beyond the occupied territories – and also serve to tighly constrict the growth and development of Palestinian cities inside of Israeli borders. 

Eric Goldstein, acting Middle East executive director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement:

“Israeli policy on both sides of the Green Line restricts Palestinians to dense population centers while maximizing the land available for Jewish communities. These practices are well-known when it comes to the occupied West Bank, but Israeli authorities are also enforcing discriminatory land practices inside Israel.”

Bonus Reads

  1. “Annexation is not just about stealing land — it’s about expelling Palestinians“ (+972 Magazine)
  2. “Land grab and deportation: A leading Israeli lawyer’s annexation prediction” (Middle East Eye)
  3. “Jerusalem Day Obscures The Reality of Modern Jerusalem” (Daniel Seidemann for T’ruah)
  4. “What’s the Real Purpose of Israel’s Annexation Plan?” (Hagai El-Ad in Haaretz)
  5. “For Medicinal Purposes The Israeli Military Sector and the Coronavirus Crisis” (Who Profits)
  6. “EU Countries Mull Slapping Sanctions on Israel to Deter West Bank Annexation” (Haaretz)
  7. “Israel expands settlement projects around Hebron’s mosque” (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 14, 2019

  1. Court Rules in Favor of Israeli Settler Group, Against Greek Orthodox Church, un Battle Over 3 Claiming Old City Properties
  2. Israel Gave German Construction Giant More Palestinian Land for Quarrying
  3. Settlers Retaliate Against Palestinians for Israel’s (Rare) Demolition of Outpost Buildings
  4. IDF Cuts Budget for Civilian Security Guards in Settlements
  5. New International Crisis Group Report on Israel’s Ongoing Annexation of East Jerusalem
  6. Shadowy Group Wants to Go After All Companies Not Currently Operating in the Settlements – Starting with McDonald’s
  7. European Court of Justice Issues Opinion Upholding EU Differentiation Policy
  8. Anger [& Joy] at U.S. Ambassador Reiterating Support for Israeli Annexation of West Bank Land
  9. Bonus Reads

Questions or comments? Contact Kristin McCarthy at kmccarthy@fmep.org.


Court Rules in Favor of Israeli Settler Group, Against Greek Orthodox Church, un Battle Over 3 Claiming Old City Properties

Ending a nearly 16-year legal battle, on June 11th the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the  settler group Ateret Cohanim has legal rights to three prized properties in strategic locations in the Old City of Jerusalem, including two famous hotels currently operated by Palestinians. Until now, the properties were owned by the Greek Orthodox Church, which had been fighting to invalidate the transactions at the root of the settlers’ claim to them.

As a reminder, Ateret Cohanim is a radical settler organization working to increase the presence of Israeli Jews living inside Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem – including in the Old City. Ateret Cohanim, along with its compatriots in the Elad settler group, is also leading efforts to take over land and evict Palestinians from their homes in the Silwan neighborhood.

The properties awarded to Ateret Cohanim by the Israeli High Court are:

  1. The Petra Hotel, a four-story building near the Jaffa Gate, one of the key entrances to the Old City. Under the ruling, Ateret Cohanim has a valid 99-year lease with an option for an additional 99 years afterwards. The price Ateret Cohanim paid in the transaction the Church said was improper? A meager $500,000, far below market value.

  2. The Imperial Hotel, located directly across the street from the Petra Hotel – meaning that a radical Israeli settler group now controls a substantial amount of land at a key entrance to the Old City (the Jaffa Gate). The Imperial Hotel is a two-story building. Ateret Cohanim’s lease for the Imperial Hotel is also for 99-years with an option for 99 more. The price paid in, again, a transaction the Church argued was improper and invalid? $1.25 million  – far higher than the price paid for the Petra Hotel but still well below the fair market value of the property.

  3. Beit Amziya, a building in the Bab a-Kuta neighborhood of the Muslim Quarter of the Old City.  Ateret Cohanim paid $55,000 for this property, again, far below fair market value.

The legal battle over the properties dates back to 2004, when the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate agreed to sell the three properties to a foreign real estate company under three separate contracts. It did so not knowing that the radical settler group Ateret Cohanim was behind the transaction. News of the sales made headlines in early 2005.

Upon the revelation that Ateret Cohanim was the real buyer, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate was deeply embarrassed and immediately sought to retain control of the properties. The Patriarchate alleged that the transactions involved corruption and bribery, arguing that the legal documents had been signed without permission by a finance employee. Dismissing the church’s arguments, this week the Supreme Court upheld prior rulings that the signatures on the lease documents were valid, with the finance employee acting as a legal proxy of the Patriarchate.

The Greek Orthodox Church has received significant blowback from the sale of these properties. In January 2018, Palestinians protested in Bethlehem in an attempt to block the arrival of Patriarch Theophilos III for Christmas celebrations.

In response to the Supreme Court’s ruling, multi-denominational Christian leaders in Jerusalem issued a rare joint statement criticizing the Court’s action. The statement says:

“The actions of this radical group do not only mean an assault on the property rights of the Greek Orthodox Church, but an assault on the status quo protections for all Christians in this holy city of Jerusalem and deeply threatens the Christian presence in our beloved Holy Land. An attempt to undermine the presence of one church here undermines all the churches and the wider Christian community around the world. We reaffirm our belief that a vibrant Christian community is an essential element in the preservation of Jerusalem’s historically diverse society and a prerequisite for peace in this city; Jerusalem must maintain its multicultural and multi-religious mosaic character, being home to the three monotheistic religions.”

Israel Gave German Construction Giant More Palestinian Land for Quarrying

Kerem Navot has produced government documents showing that in February 2019 the Israeli Civil Administration – the arm of the IDF that is effectively the sovereign ruler over the West Bank – signed over rights to 25 acres of Palestinian land to the German construction company HeidelbergCement. The purpose? To expand the Nahal Raba quarry, located on 145 acres of Palestinian land near the Elkana settlement in the West Bank.

HeidelbergCement is the world’s largest cement producer and has a global footprint. In a comprehensive brief, the Israeli organization Who Profits details the situation of the Nahal Raba quarry and the larger context of Israel’s illegal exploitation of natural resources in the West Bank:

“The Nahal Raba quarry is a 600 Dunam aggregate quarry, owned and operated by Hanson Israel [which HeidelbergCement owns]. The quarry is located in Area C of the West Bank and is licensed by the Israeli Civil Administration. The adjacent Palestinian village of Alzawiyah owns the Palestinian land on which the quarry is situated. This land was taken by Israel’s Civil Administration after declaring it to be state land, despite the fact that it was privately owned by the Palestinian villagers in the adjacent town of Al-Zawiyah. As mentioned by Human Rights Watch in its recent report, Occupation Inc., in 2004 Israel built the separation wall in the area to encompass the quarry from the east, unlawfully diverting the route of the wall into occupied territory beyond the pre-1967 armistice line. Today, the quarry is enclaved into Israeli territory, while the separation wall separates the village of Zawiyah and its rightful owners from their land and quarry. Article 55 of the Hague Regulations (1907) establishes that ‘the occupying State shall be regarded only as administrator and usufructuary’ of the natural resources of the occupied territory, and therefore it is prohibited from exploiting them for commercial purposes. Moreover, Article 43 of the Hague Regulations has been interpreted as obliging the occupying State to exercise its powers for the benefit of the residents of the occupied area.”

In 2009, the Israeli NGO Yesh Din submitted a High Court petition demanding that Israel end all mining and quarrying activities in the West Bank, observing that the activity constitutes a brutal economic exploitation of occupied territory for Israel’s exclusive economic interests. In December 2011, the High Court rejected the petition, giving permission for the continuation and expansion of Israel-regulated quarrying in the West Bank. Yesh Din’s 2017 report, “The Great Drain: Israeli Quarries in the West Bank,” provides a comprehensive accounting of the damage imposed on Palestinians by quarrying activities.

Settlers Retaliate Against Palestinians for Israel’s (Rare) Demolition of Outpost Buildings

Palestinians in the Einabus village woke up on June 13th to find the words “Price tag [for the] Yitzhar evacuation” spray painted on the town mosque and adjacent buildings, and several car tires were slashed. The tagged phrase suggest the settlers have taken revenge on the Palestinian village in respose to these demolition of illegally built settlement structures near the radical Yitzhar settlement by Israeli security foces last week.

Following documentation of the damage by Yesh Din, the IDF announced it had opened an investigation into the incident.

This price tag attack is just the latest in a string of violent attacks by settlers on Palestinian villages in the Nablus region. Over the past few weeks, settlers have set several fields on fire and were caught on video hurling stones at Palestinian school, homes, and cars.

IDF Cuts Budget for Civilian Security Guards in Settlements

Ynet reports that the IDF Central Command has informed settlements that budgetary constraints are forcing it to reduce the number of  civilian guards working in several settlements across the West Bank. The reductions will see eight security outposts eliminated completely, including posts in the Kiryat Arba settlement in Hebron. A security officer from Kiryat Arba said in response: “This is abandonment of human life, and the Defense Ministry must come to its senses as soon as possible,”

The IDF said that:

“It’s clear to everyone the reduction in the number of guards in not ideal, but – all things considered – it’s necessary.”

New International Crisis Group Report on Israel’s Ongoing Annexation of East Jerusalem

In a new report, the Crisis Group provides a comprehensive overview of Israeli settlement and annexation policies affecting East Jerusalem, starting with Israeli actions in the immediate aftermath of 1967 through to present day. The report, entitled “Reversing Israeli’s Deepening Annexation of Occupation,” calls on the international community to stop Israel’s creeping annexation of East Jerusalem and reverse decades of intentional neglect designed to push Palestinians out of East Jerusalem and adjacent areas.

Shadowy Group Wants to Go After All Companies Not Currently Operating in the Settlements – Starting with McDonald’s

Following up on FMEP reporting last week, Haaretz has new details on the organization behind a new drive to ban McDonald’s from participating in the Israeli government’s tender process — because McDonald’s doesn’t operate in any Israeli settlements.

The group, named “Forum of Disabled IDF Veterans for Israel’s Security,” is not registered in Israel as a charitable organization. It thus has the luxury of operating in near total secrecy – not required to disclose who is behind the effort or funding it.

In a statement, the group made its ambitions clear:

“We want every company that isn’t interested in opening branches over the Green Line to be prevented from competing on these tenders. We’ll reach everyone.”

Sources told Haaretz that the group is made up of only a handful of activists, all of whom are disabled veterans of the IDF, and works primarily in cooperation with larger pro-settlement, pro-annexation groups like Im Tirtzu and Ad Kan. The group has hired Rosenbaum Communications to steer the campaign against McDonald’s, though the funding source for the project is unknown.

European Court of Justice Issues Opinion Upholding EU Differentiation Policy

On June 13th, an advocate general for the European Court of Justice (the top court for the EU) issued a legal opinion holding that products made in the Israeli settlements must be clearly labeled as such. The ruling upholds the enforcement of European Union’s legal obligations with regard to the settlements (a policy known as differentiation). The labelling requirements, as required by EU law, necessarily distinguish between sovereign Israeli territory and Isareli settlements built illegally in the occupied territories.

The  new legal opinion, which is not binding but nonetheless sets the tone for rulings to come, was issued in response to a petition filed by Psagot Winery, located in the Psagot settlement, which argues that French labelling laws discriminate against its products by requiring them to specify the origin of their wine. Rejecting that argument the advocate general stressed that EU law requires labelling products based on their true origin in order to give customers the necessary information to make informed purchasing decisions.

Psagot Winery is part of a broad global effort to blur the legal context around Israeli settlements, pushing nations to treat Israeli settlements as indistinguishable from sovereign Isareli territory.

Anger [& Joy] at U.S. Ambassador Reiterating Support for Israeli Annexation of West Bank Land

Coming quickly on the heels of Jared Kushner’s disastrous interview with Axios, Ambassador David Friedman attracted even more outrage over his recent interview with the New York Times in which Friedman reiterated his support for Israeli annexation of land in the West Bank (a position he has held, clearly, since long before becoming ambassador). The interview sparked a barrage of media coverage, worldwide concern about the possibility of unilateral Israeli annexation of its settlements, glee among pro-annexationist lawmakers in Israel, and indignant rationalizing by American Greater Israel apologists like Alan Dershowitz.

Notably, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu – who in the waning days of his April election promised to extend Israeli sovereignty over the settlements – has not commented on Friedman’s statement. Haaretz columnist Anshel Pfeffer observed:

“The easiest way for Netanyahu to counter the settlers’ demands while keeping them in his coalition was to complain about pressure from the Americans. That was his answer every time he was asked why Israel wasn’t building more settlements or evicting more Palestinians. Friedman has taken away Netanyahu’s excuse. It is certainly no coincidence that Netanyahu — usually so quick to praise the slightest gesture coming from the Trump administration — has yet to say a word publicly about the interview. Friedman has done Netanyahu no favors. In less than 100 days — assuming the right wing/religious bloc wins another majority in 2019’s second election, which is almost a certainty — Netanyahu will be more vulnerable than ever.”

Bonus Reads

  1. “A high-tech facelift takes the sting out of an Israeli checkpoint — but not out of the occupation” (Washington Post)

  2. “The Fate of the Palestinians” (LobeLog)

  3. “WATCH: What occupation looks like in the Jordan Valley” (+972 Mag)

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 7, 2019

  1. Visualizing 52 Years of Occupation and Settlement Growth
  2. Settler-Backed Jerusalem Cable Car Project Advances, Despite Objections from Public & Experts
  3. One Spring Tells the Tale of How Israel Settlement Councils Succeed in Taking Over More and More Palestinian Land
  4. Netanyahu Appoints Pro-Annexation Settler Leader as Key Settlement Advisor
  5. McDonalds: Either Open in Settlements or Face Sanctions Under Anti-Boycott Law
  6. Bonus Reads

Questions or comments? Contact Kristin McCarthy, kmccarthy@fmep.org.


Visualizing 52 Years of Occupation and Settlement Growth

On the 52nd anniversary of the Israeli occupation, the human rights group B’Tselem published a remarkable interactive visualization of the devastating impact that Israel’s occupation policies have had on contiguity of Palestinian space in the West Bank and Gaza. Along with the portal, entitled “Conquer & Divide: The Shattering of Palestinian Space,”B’Tselem writes:

“Ever since 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, it has marshaled all its legislative, legal, planning, funding and defense authorities in order to fragment Palestinian space, dividing it into dozens of separate sections, which are easier to rule and exploit, and in order to break up Palestinian social and spatial fabric: In the West Bank, Israel minimized Palestinian presence, condensing it into dozens of densely populated and unconnected enclaves, while exploiting the majority of West Bank resources for its own benefit. In addition, Israel annexed thousands of hectares of West Bank land, which it then placed within Jerusalem’s municipal borders. In the Gaza Strip, nearly two million Palestinians are essentially imprisoned on a small bit of land in appalling conditions, due to the Israeli policy of cutting off Gaza from the rest of the world, including from the West Bank. This interactive map follows a timeline illustrating the implementation of the various measures Israel has implemented to achieve this reality.”

Settler-Backed Jerusalem Cable Car Project Advances, Despite Objections from Public & Experts

On Monday June 3, 2019 the Israeli government’s National Infrastructure Committee (NIC) elected to ignore all public objections submitted against the settler-backed plan for a cable car in Jerusalem, approving the plan and paving the way for it to be submitted for final approval by the government.

Following the NIC’s decision, the Israel NGO Emek Shaveh asked the Israeli Attorney General to postpone a government discussion on the plan until after the elections, citing concerns about a transitional government exercising power – concerns backed by Israeli Supreme Court precedent.

As FMEP has previously covered, the Jerusalem cable car project is an initiative of the Elad settler organization (which is building a massive tourism center – the Kedem Center, which will be a stop along the cable car’s route – in the Silwan neighborhood). The cable car project is intended to further entrench and advance settler activities and tourism sites inside Silwan, while simultaneously delegitimizing, dispossessing, and erasing the Palestinian presence there.

One of the many (rejected) complaints filed against the cable car project was submitted by Emek Shaveh. Signed by Israeli intellectuals and hundreds of residents, it expressed deep concern regarding the irreparable damage that the construction of a cable car will wreak on the historic archeological landscape and environment surrounding the Old City and the harm it will do to the residents of Silwan. In addition, the objection argued that, while marketed as a “solution” to transportation needs around the Old City, the cable car plan has nothing to do with actual transportation needs, but rather is designed to implement the settlers’ agenda in the area. Emek Shaveh writes:

“Besides destroying the view of the Ben Hinnom Valley and the Old City walls along its planned route, the cable car is a political project intended to strengthen the Elad Foundation’s hold on Silwan and is central to development plans by the Israeli government and settler organizations for East Jerusalem.”

Jerusalem expert Daniel Seidemann tweeted in response to the project’s advancement:

“This crass disney-fication is a crime against Jerusalem, regardless of politics. It’s also part of the settler scheme to turn Silwan into a pseudo-biblical theme park.”

And in a piece in The Forward, entitled “Israel Is Using Archeology To Erase Non-Jewish History,” two experts at Emek Shaveh write:

“The exploitation of archaeology in Jerusalem has been spearheaded by the Elad Foundation, a group of settlers turned archaeology entrepreneurs, who are using ancient sites to take over land and shape the historical narrative. Elad, which emerged 30 years ago with a mission to settle Jews in Palestinian homes in the neighborhood of Silwan, manages the popular archaeological park, the City of David. Visitors to the site are treated to a heavily biblical narrative where discoveries that resonate with the story of King David or the Kingdom of Judea are highlighted. The fact the archaeologists dispute the evidence of a kingdom in the 10th century BCE often goes unmentioned. Furthermore, not many of the half a million people who visit the park annually know about life in the Palestinian neighborhood since Elad arrived on the scene. They will probably never hear about how Elad took over 75 homes in the neighborhood, or closed off virtually the last of the public areas used by the residents and annexed it to the archaeological park. With an annual budget of approximately 100 million shekels, the Elad Foundation now commands several excavation projects in the City of David, including tunnels along an ancient Roman street, which it is marketing as a Second Temple era pilgrims’ route to the Temple. It has recently branched out to establish new projects within the Old City and in other areas throughout the Historic Basin. But Elad couldn’t have done it on their own. If at first they were greeted with mistrust by the authorities in the 1990s, today they have an open door to many government agencies and ministries. From the Israel Antiquities Authority, which is in charge of most of the excavations at the City of David, and the Nature and Parks Authority, which subcontracted Elad to run the site, to the minister of tourism, who is aggressively advancing a cable car to link West Jerusalem to the City of David, to the mayor of Jerusalem, the government and all the relevant agencies are committed to the project of shaping a large tourist zone dedicated to the First and Second Temple periods.”

One Spring Tells the Tale of How Israel Settlement Councils Succeed in Taking Over More and More Palestinian Land

Deep in northern West Bank, near the settlement of Eli, settlers have illegally taken control over a natural spring they call “Ma’ayan Hagvura,” Hebrew for “Spring of Courage.” To claim the site, the Mateh Benyamin Regional Council – which is funded by the Israeli government – financed and carried out its “upgrading,” actively guard the area, and continue to promote it as a destination in nearby settlements. The regional council did all of this despite the fact that the spring is located on Palestinian land in an area that is outside of of its jurisdiction. By doing so, the settlement council has de facto extended the borders of its jurisdiction and increased the amount of land under its control – and in the process seized more natural resources from the Palestinians.

The situation of the spring near Eli is not unique. It is in fact just one of dozens of West Bank springs settlers have taken over.  And in case after case, the Israeli Civil Administration – which is responsible for enforcing all planning and building laws in the West Bank – has failed to intervene to prevent the settlement councils from taking land beyond their jurisdiction and violating the rights of Palestinians.  Haaretz writes:

“The Civil Administration knows that the lack of law enforcement leads to the regional councils operating in many areas that are not under their jurisdiction, but it claims it has no authority to enforce the ordinance. ‘Their jurisdiction does not include closed areas or private land’ says the Administration, ‘even if the area is included in maps defining the regional council’s jurisdiction. The boundaries are examined from time to time and are updated according to circumstances. The regional councils are only authorized to operate within their defined jurisdictions.’”

In addition to the dozens of natural springs settler councils have taken over in this manner, an investigation by the Israeli settlement watchdog Kerem Navot reveals that settlement councils have used similar tactics to illegally take over 50,000 acres of land in the southern Hebron hills, and 200,000 acres in the Jordan Valley. Based on its findings, Kerem Navot estimates that, according to Israeli law, fully half of the territory settler councils control has been taken illegally (according to international law, all control of land by Israeli settlers is illegal). Kerem Navot writes in detail:

“…[there are] six regional councils in the West Bank: Samaria, the Jordan Valley, Binyamin, Gush Etzion, Megillot, and Mount Hebron…Each of these councils has a separate map of jurisdiction, signed by military commanders of the West Bank. These maps, which have not yet been updated nearly 40 years after their signing, include a total area of 2,675,000 dunams, or approximately half of the total area of the West Bank. However, comparing these maps with the language of Order 783, noted above, indicates that nearly half of the areas included in the regional councils maps, are either private Palestinian-owned territories or land included in military firing zones (there is considerable overlap between these two groups, which was offset to calculate the area set to be cleared from the maps): two categories, which can’t be included in the regional councils’ territory according to the order.”

In 2012 OCHA published a report on the seizure of Palestinian springs specifically, detailing the humanitarian impact on Palestinians well-being in addition to the loss of land. OCHA writes:

“The impact of the above practices and policies is not limited to those directly affected by settler violence and property losses. The continuous encroachment on Palestinian land for the purpose of settlement expansion is a key cause of humanitarian vulnerability of the Palestinian population and the most significant reason behind the ongoing fragmentation of the West Bank, which undermines the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.”

Netanyahu Appoints Pro-Annexation Settler Leader as Key Settlement Advisor

Settler leaders were surprised, and initially upset, when Prime Minister Netanyahu fired Kobi Eliraz from his post as the adviser on settlement affairs in the Israeli Defense Ministry, where he had served for the past five years. Their mood likely changed again a few days later when, Netanyahu – who is acting Defense Minister – appointed Avi Roeh as Eliraz’s successor.

Roeh previously served as the Chairman of the settler Yesha Council – an umbrella group that coordinates and leads settlement relations between settlers and the government – and has remained an outspoken figure in Yesha strategy since leaving that role in 2017, typically playing the role of Netanyahu’s ally in quieting settler fury at perceived government inaction for the settlements. Roeh has called for the annexation of the West Bank and for one million Israeli Jews to move there.

Roeh’s appointment may not completely appease the settlers. He does not have the government expertise for which the settlers loved Eliraz, particularly when it comes to understanding and managing the levers of government needed to advance settlement construction. Moreover, many settlers reportedly believe that Eliraz was an innocent victim of Netanyahu’s vendetta against former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman (for whom Eliraz worked). Lieberman, it should be recalled, was a key figure in blocking Netanyahu’s efforts to form a new governing coalition, leading to yet another Israeli elections scheduled for September 2019.

Prior to the appointment of Roeh, the Yesha Council published a letter asking Netanyahu to reverse Eliraz’s firing, and suggesting that Eliraz’s absence will hinder government efforts to retroactively legalize outposts. The letter notes:

“Kobi has taken care of Israeli settlement and its residents with great professionalism. He is credited for many advancements [on our behalf] in the fields of construction, infrastructure development, security and more.”

The Times of Israel observes, significantly, that the Yesha Council was able to get every single settlement Mayor to sign the letter, explaining:

“The Yesha Council in recent years has struggled to get all of its members on board with its initiative, but the umbrella group’s ability to gather the signatures of every Israeli mayor beyond the Green Line is testament to the broad respect that Eliraz holds among settler leader.”

As of this writing, there has been no official reaction from the Yesha Council to the appointment of Roeh.

McDonalds: Either Open in Settlements or Face Sanctions Under Anti-Boycott Law

Yossi Dagan, the head of the settlers’ Samaria Regional Council, is demanding that the Israel ban McDonald’s from operating in Ben Gurion airport, claiming that the franchise owner (who happens to be a co-founder of the anti-settlement watchdog Peace Now) is violating Israel’s punitive anti-boycott law by refraining from opening a branch in a settlement.

In a letter to the Israeli Transportation and Finance Ministries, Dagan argued that McDonald’s must be barred from participating in the tender process for the airport, where McDonald’s currently operates. In response, the Transportation Ministry said it “does not deal with commercial tenders at the Airports Authority,” and the Finance Ministry said “the issue does not concern us.”

Dagan’s contention stems from a 2013 decision by Omri Padan, the McDonald’s franchisee, to decline an offer to open a McDonald’s branch in the Ariel settlement. At the time, Padan stated that it had always been McDonald’s policy not to operate beyond the 1967 Green Line.

Praising Padan and McDonald’s, Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy writes:

“McDonald’s has issued a resounding statement: The West Bank and Gaza aren’t here. It has said yes to Israel, no to the occupation, which counts for more than 1,000 protest signs at a demonstration. The franchisee never had a license in a piece of land to which Israel also never had a license.”

Israel’s anti-boycott law – passed in 2011 – was specifically designed to make it illegal for Israeli citizens to advocate or engage in a boycott of Israel or settlements. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel explains:

“The purpose of the law is, first and foremost, to squelch legitimate boycotts against goods produced in the settlements. In so doing, it seriously undermines a means of protest that is non-violent, legitimate, legally recognized and accepted worldwide (including in Israel), while violating the freedom of speech, freedom of dissent, and freedom of association of Israeli citizens.”

In addition to the boycott law, Israel passed an amendment to the Entry Law in 2017, which gives Israel an avenue to punish non-Israeli citizens for their association with boycotts of Israel or Israeli settlements. The amendment authorizes the Israeli interior minister to refuse entry to activists or representatives of organizations who publicly call for a boycott of Israel or the settlements. Famously, Israel tried and failed to bar American student Lara Alqasem from entering the country under the new Entry Law provision. Israeli is currently trying to deport Human Rights Watch director Omar Shakir from Israel based on that law.

Bonus Reads

  1. “Palestinians Prove Fraud, Regain Land After Decades” (Al-Monitor)
  2. “Jerusalem’s No Man Land: Chaos and anarchy in the Kafr Aqab neighborhood” (Times of Israel)
  3. “Israel’s Annexation Drive Requires Fighting for Justice in One State” (Middle East Eye)

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 15, 2019

  1. State Submits Defense of Mitzpe Kramim Outpost Legalization to High Court, Peace Now Petitions to Join the Case
  2. Civil Administration Employees Go on Strike, Delaying Approval of 4,500 New Settlement Units
  3. 47% of Palestinian Land Expropriated by Israel for “Security Needs” Has Been Given to the Settlements
  4. Transportation Ministry Denies Involvement in Jerusalem Cable Car Project, Calls it a “Tourist Cable Car”
  5. State Department Formalizes Occupation Denial as Official U.S. Policy; Israeli Politicians Immediately Plan for Annexation
  6. For the First Time, AIPAC National Policy Conference to Host Settler Leader
  7. Wind Power & Israel’s Occupation of the Golan Heights
  8. Bonus Reads

Questions/comments? Email kmccarthy@fmep.org


State Submits Defense of Mitzpe Kramim Outpost Legalization to High Court, Peace Now Petitions to Join the Case

On March 10th, the state of Israel submitted a written argument to the High Court of Justice in defense of its plan to expropriate land that it acknowledges is privately owned by Palestinians in order to retroactively legalize the Mitzpe Kramim outpost.

The state’s argument was previously accepted by the Jerusalem District Court in an August 2018 ruling, which paved the way for the High Court to resume its consideration of a petition against the Mitzpe Kramim outpost, submitted by the registered Palestinian landowners in 2011.

In both cases the state’s argument relies on the “market regulation” principle, which the Israeli Attorney General invented as a legal basis for retroactively legalizing settlements and outposts built on land that even Israel recognizes as undeniably owned by Palestinians.

According to the “market regulation” principle, in cases where all relevant parties – in this case, the government, the World Zionist Organization, and the settlers – acted “in good faith” in the course of events that lead to the establishment of the unauthorized outpost on privately owned Palestinian land, the ownership of that land can legally be given over to the settlers. It is notable that the Palestinians are not considered relevant parties in this analysis (even when they and human rights groups alerted Israeli authorities in real time of the illegal building taking place – challenging the very idea of “good faith” mistakes).

The state’s March 10th argument also attempts to explain why the landmark  1979 Elon Moreh ruling, which explicitly prohibits Israel from building settlements on land expropriated for military purposes, should not apply to the Mitzpe Kramim case, given that the outpost was allegedly built in “good faith” based on the settlers’ belief that the land in question was part of a military seizure order from the 1970s (this belief was incorrect – the land was/is recorded in the Israeli Land Registry as privately owned by Palestinians from the village of Deir Jarir).

Also on March 10th, Peace Now filed an application to join the Mitzpe Kramim High Court case as a “friend of the court,” citing the organization’s professional expertise on the subject matter. In the application, Peace Now explained the potential devastating ramifications of the “market regulation” principle, and challenged the notion that “good faith” can be attributed to the Israeli parties involved in illegally building the Mitzpe Kramim outpost. Peace Now’s main points on the case are:

  1. The broad implications of the ruling – Peace Now has submitted to the court a list of 132 settlements and outposts where nearly 7,000 housing units have been built on private Palestinian land, stretching over 10,000 dunams. This is in addition to thousands of dunams or even tens of thousands of dunams taken from their owners by settlements for infrastructure, agriculture, and so on. The ruling is likely to serve as a precedent for the massive land grabs that the state has carried out over the years in the settlements.
  2. Land Management by the Custodian of Government and Abandoned Property in Judea and Samaria – A description of a series of failures in the General Director’s actions led to the many “errors” in the allocation of land that is not owned by the state. Some of the failures were presented in official government reports and by the state comptroller, which attest to historic failures and oversights that have not been corrected to this day.
  3. Land management by the Settlement Division, not done in “good faith” – Extensive information on the activities of the Settlement Division on land allocated to it (and land not allocated to it) and in many cases of allocations granted without authorization.
  4. The nature of the “market” for which the “market regulation” is applied – In fact, there is no “market” or “normal trading life” in transactions of the kind that the state manages in the territories. There is no ongoing trade, certainly not in “state lands” allocated by the state to settlers and transactions between the state and the World Zionist Organization (the umbrella organization that includes the Settlement Division). Moreover, there is no possibility – even theoretically – of the opposite situation: seizing privately owned land for Jews and transferring it “by mistake” to Palestinians. Nor is there a governmental body in the area that expropriates private land from Jews. Only one side is consistently discriminated against, as evidenced in the data according to which 99.76% of the allocated state land in the West Bank was given to the Israeli population, and while less than a quarter of a percent was allocated to Palestinians since 1967.

FMEP’s Annexation Policy Tables track the ongoing legislative, political, and legal transformations happening in the Israeli government to justify the expropriation of Palestinian land for settlements. As a reminder, the “market regulation” principle was promoted by Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who offered it as an alternative to the legal basis provided in the “Regulation Law” to legalize unauthorized outposts and settlement construction.

Civil Administration Employees Go on Strike, Delaying Approval of 4,500 New Settlement Units

The Times of Israel’s settlement correspondent Jacob Magid reports that employees of the Israeli Civil Administration – the Israeli legal body that runs the West Bank, operating under the Ministry of Defense – will resume a strike for improved compensation and working conditions. Employees of the Civil Administration went on strike in July 2018 over the same set of issues.

The strike, if it happens, may delay the next meeting of the Civil Administration’s High Planning Committee (the body which regulates all planning and building in the West Bank), scheduled for next week. The committee is expected to advance 4,500 new settlement units.

47% of Palestinian Land Expropriated by Israel for “Security Needs” Has Been Given to the Settlements

Graph by Kerem Navot

A new report by Kerem Navot has revealed the extent to which military seizure orders have been used to expropriate privately owned Palestinian land in the West Bank not for military or security purposes, but to advance the settlements.

The report – entitled, “Seize the Moral Low Ground: Land Seizures for ‘Security Needs’ in the West Bank” – provides detailed data on how land taken by Israel via military seizure orders is currently being used. Important and illustrative data points include:

  • Under international law Israel, as the occupying power, may seize private Palestinian land for military purposes, but such seizures must be temporary in nature (the land must be returned to its owners when it is no longer being used for the purposes for which it was seized) and the owners must be compensated for the period of the seizure.
  • From 1967-2014 Israel issued 1,150 military seizure orders, taking nearly 25,000 acres (just over 100,000 dunams).
  • 67% of land seized by military order is privately owned by Palestinians.
  • 47% of the total land seized by Israel by military orders  is currently used to serve the needs of the settler population.

The new report also provides a fascinating explanation of how Israeli courts have at times held that the establishment of a civilian settlement on land seized for security needs is a valid use of that land, holding that settlements promote Israeli security. This was the case in a 1980 ruling on the Beit El settlement, which held that the civilian settlement of Beit El, constructed on land seized for military purposes, should be viewed as a security asset. Regarding this concept, the judge wrote:

“Israel, a small country within the long narrow confines of the Green Line, is surrounded, very regretfully, by countries that do not hide their hostility toward it. It is doubtful whether this situation, into which I will not go into detail, has any parallel in the history of humankind. … It is therefore reasonable to assume that in this unique situation, which requires supreme alertness to precede any possible calamity if, where, and when it may flare up, it is necessary to make use of exceptional solutions as well. … One of these solutions — and the topic of the discussion before us — is the creation of a Jewish civilian presence at particularly sensitive points. … I am aware of the fact that we are referring to a civilian population. … Against this backdrop, I accept Major General Orly’s claim that a civilian presence at these sensitive points is the necessary solution.”

This legal argument appears to directly contradict the landmark Elon Moreh settlement ruling in 1979, in which the courts barred the state from using privately owned Palestinian land that had been seized for security needs in order to build civilian settlements.

The report is available online here.

Transportation Ministry Denies Involvement in Jerusalem Cable Car Project, Calls it a “Tourist Cable Car”

The Israeli Transportation Ministry has publicly confirmed that it is not involved in the development of the Jerusalem cable car project, contradicting the Israeli Tourism Ministry, which has pitched the project as a transportation solution for traffic congestion around the Old City.

Map by Terrestrial Jerusalem

In response to an inquiry from the Israeli NGO Emek Shaveh – a prominent critic of the cable car’s settler-linked agenda and damaging impact on Jerusalem’s archeological integrity – an official at the Transportation Ministry said, “We have no information on the cable car project. This is a tourist project not a transport one.” That fact was confirmed by The Times of Israel, which received the following response to their own inquiry: “This is a tourist cable car, and therefore the Ministry of Transportation is not involved in the project.”

The non-involvement of the Transportation Ministry only compounds the secrecy and unusual circumstances surrounding Tourism Minister Yair Levin’s promotion of the cable car project. In addition to circumventing the normal planning process for such large-scale, landscape-altering construction projects in and around the Old City, the Jerusalem Development Authority (JDA) – the quasi-governmental body that is leading efforts to implement the plan – continues to refuse requests to release the “economic feasibility report” outlining critical details about the cable car plan. The JDA said that the publication of the report would “disrupt the project’s progress” and “harm” the tender process.

Emek Shaveh filed a petition with the Jerusalem District Court to compel the release of the economic feasibility report, only to be told by the court that the respondents to the petition (the JDA and the Tourism Ministry) do not have to respond to the petition until the Fall, well after the April 2nd date for public comment.

In a statement issued in March 2019, Emek Shaveh wrote:

“The fact that the developers of the cable car project are concealing such important information from the planning committees casts a dark shadow over the project. It is no secret that the project was presented  in the National Infrastructure Committee, because it obviously would not have passed in the planning committees. Even in a governmental committee that is their own playing field, the project’s developers have to scheme in order to get it approved. The cable car initiative is a destructive plan that clashes with the unique character of Jerusalem as an historic and holy city for three religions. Spurred by the political interest of strengthening the settler organization “Elad,” the Israeli government is willing to compromise the Old City walls, the skyline of the Historic Basin and its antiquities – and dares to call it tourism. We, at Emek Shaveh, together with a coalition of organizations and people, will do everything we can to object to and stop this plan, which will harm World Heritage assets that were entrusted to the State of Israel.”

Emek Shaveh attorney Eitay Mack said:

“The public has access neither to a transport plan nor to an economic plan. This is a populist project, which hasn’t been thought through and risks becoming a white elephant.”

As FMEP has previously covered, the Jerusalem cable car project is an initiative of the Elad settler organization (which is building a massive tourism center – the Kedem Center, which will be a stop along the cable car’s route – in the Silwan neighborhood). The cable car project is intended to further entrench settler activities and tourism sites inside Silwan, while simultaneously delegitimizing, dispossessing, and erasing the Palestinian presence there.

State Department Formalizes Occupation Denial as Official U.S. Policy; Israeli Politicians Immediately Plan for Annexation

Under the close guidance of U.S. Ambassador David Friedman, the U.S. Department of State’s annual report on human rights covering events in 2018 does not recognize the West Bank and Gaza as occupied territory. The 2018 report also marks U.S. recognition of the Golan Heights as “Israeli-controlled” rather than “Israeli-occupied,” as previous administrations had addressed the Syrian territory.

Following the report’s release, and widespread press coverage of the language change, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (who are campaigning for the next Knesset as the co-leaders of The New Right party) announced that they will be introducing a bill to annex Area C of the West Bank. Making the connection to the U.S. policy shift clear, Bennett said:

“Now that the United States no longer sees Judea and Samaria as an occupied territory, there is no reason to wait [on annexing Area C] any longer. Half a million Israelis have to stop being second-class citizens. In Ariel, Ma’aleh Adumim and Ofra Jewish citizens discriminated against because they chose to settle the land. I would like to thank President Trump for the tremendous change in the administration’s position, it is a correct step in the right direction.”

Shaked added:

“It is time to apply sovereignty in Area C. The declaration of the United States obliges the State of Israel to make bold and courageous decisions that will help Israel’s security and full equality of rights for all its citizens.”

Ambassador Friedman has spent his two-year tenure pushing for and implementing pro-settlement policy changes, which is in line with his belief that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are not illegal and that occupation is a matter of allegations and opinions. Reflecting Ambassador Friedman’s talking points, a State Department official told Haaretz:

“We retitled the human rights report to refer to the commonly used geographic names of the area the report covers.”

The 2017 State Department report laid the groundwork for the wholesale elimination of occupation from the State Department lexicon this year. It was the 2017 report – issued in 2018 by Acting Secretary of State John Sullivan – that altered the titles of the two sections covering Israel and the Palestinians, from “Israel” and “The Occupied Territories” to “Israel and the Golan Heights” and “West Bank and Gaza.” The 2017 report did acknowledge Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967, though reference to and criticism of the occupation was severely neutered compared to previous reports (including the 2016 report issued by the newly inaugurated Trump Administration under Secretary of State Rex Tillerson).

Hanan Ashrawi, member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said in a statement:

“After the release of the so-called Human Rights Report by the US State Department, it is now abundantly clear that the Trump administration is gearing all branches of the government to whitewash the Israeli occupation and its pervasive violations of human rights. The ‘report’ also decontextualizes the reality by omitting the inescapable fact of Israeli occupation of Palestine, reflecting this administration’s infatuation with an alternative yet fallacious version of reality and legality…The intention of this publication is clear. It is to exonerate Israel from its indisputable human rights violations, while deliberately attempting to depict the racist policies and attitudes of the Israeli government as benign despite the fact that they deny the Palestinian people’s humanity, nationality, and narrative. In its zealous pursuit to justify and mainstream the right-wing agenda in Israel, the Trump administration has made a mockery of the Human Rights ‘Report’ and reaffirmed its complicity in the promotion and support of human rights violations against the Palestinian people.”

Debra Shushan, Director of Policy & Government Relations at American for Peace Now, told FMEP in reaction:

“Denying occupation doesn’t change the reality of occupation. As for the Golan Heights, US acceptance of Israeli annexation there is a gateway drug to recognizing annexation of West Bank. If the administration, with support from some Congressional Republicans, is willing to recognize the violation of international law with regard to Syrian territory annexed by Israel, why not recognize annexation of other territories Israel occupied in 1967? Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked are taking the State Department report as a US decision that ‘US no longer sees Judea and Samaria as occupied territory’ and pledge to introduce legislation to annex Area C in first week of next Knesset session. If Netanyahu retains the prime ministership he’s likely to agree to anything to get a right-wing coalition to support immunity for him so he can stay out of jail. This report, and the broader Trump/Friedman policy of which it is part, could have huge consequences.”

Also commenting from the U.S., Eugene Kontorovich – head of the international law department at the Kohelet Policy Forum, a right-wing pro-settlement organization, who has long argued that Israel is not occupying Palestinian territorysaid:

“This year’s report for the first time does not use the inaccurate legal description ‘occupation’ to refer to Israel’s presence in the West Bank or Golan…This is a massive change in how America relates to the conflict. It is coming to understand that while Israel and the Palestinians have a dispute, international law does not provide the answers to that dispute. The report also for the first time expresses skepticism at the claims and submissions of anti-Israel groups, whose poorly documented allegations had previously been accepted as gospel.”

As a reminder, Kontorovich self-identifies as a key figure in the drafting of “anti-BDS” (but actually, anti-free speech/pro-settlement) laws in the United States. Kontorovich has also testified multiple times to U.S. Congress, including in support of moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem; in support of Congress legislating U.S. foreign policy, including with regard to Jerusalem; on the impact of the BDS movement, and in support of U.S. recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, a push which gained even more momentum in Congress this week when Senator Lindsey Graham visited the Golan Heights alongside Netanyahu and Amb. Friedman.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) also commented on the significance of the Human Rights Report’s language. A spokesman for the Senator told Jewish Insider:

“Sen. Cruz believes that it is in the United States’ national security interests to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Anything that moves in that direction is a welcome step, but we must do more. He will continue advancing his legislation, introduced with Sen. Cotton and Rep. Gallagher in the House, to establish that it is the policy of the United States to recognize Israel’s sovereignty. Any policy short of full recognition is a policy that falls short of securing American national security interests.”

For the First Time, AIPAC National Policy Conference to Host Settler Leader

The American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) will host settler leader Oded Revivi at the upcoming AIPAC national policy conference in Washington, D.C. Revivi will speak on a panel entitled, “The Future of Judea and Samaria.” Revivi is the former head of the Yesha Council, an umbrella group that represents all settlements in the West Bank; he currently serves as Mayor of the Efrat settlement and the foreign envoy of the Yesha Council. In September 2018, Revivi proudly boasted about his role in illegally establishing a new outpost on privately owned Palestinian land.

With respect to his invitation, Revivi told the Jerusalem Post:

“AIPAC has finally realized that they cannot ignore half-a-million people living in Judea and Samaria, who are becoming more and more attractive to the audience of AIPAC.”

AIPAC denies that Revivi’s official role in the conference marks a change in policy; AIPAC publicly supports the two state solution – a position which produced an awkward public fight between settlers leaders – who do not support a two state solution – and AIPAC last year. An AIPAC spokesman said:

“At every policy conference, we have scores of speakers from across the political spectrum — including those with diverse views on settlements — and this year is no different..we do not take a position on settlements.”

At the 2018 AIPAC policy conference, several prominent Israeli politicians held pro-settlement, pro-annexationist discussions on the margins of the AIPAC conference – but were not part of the official program. Mondoweiss notes that there are growing ties between AIPAC and the Yesha Council, and that AIPAC delegations (including Congressional delegations) regularly meet with Revivi while in Israel and the West Bank.

Wind Power & Israel’s Occupation of the Golan Heights

The Israeli NGO Who Profits has released a new report entitled, “Greenwashing the Golan: The Israeli Wind Energy Industry in the Occupied Syrian Golan.” The report details Israeli commercial wind farms currently under development in the Golan and their role in exploiting Syrian land, strengthening illegal settlements and normalizing the Israeli occupation. The report also exposes the involvement of private international and Israeli corporations, including the involvement of the U.S.-based multinational General Electric and the Israeli publicly traded companies Enlight Renewable Energy, Minrav Group and Energix Renewable Energies.

Bonus Reads

  1. “BBC Global Questions – Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’” (YouTube/BBC)
  2. “VIDEO: Sabbagh Family Faces Imminent Eviction in Sheikh Jarrah” (YouTube/Ir Amim)
  3. “70% of Israeli Jews Find Israeli Control Over the Palestinians as Immoral” (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 1, 2019

  1. As Elections Approach, Here’s Two Settlement Plans Bibi Might Advance to Win Votes/Deflect Pressure
  2. Palestinians March in Hebron on Anniversary of Goldstein Massacre
  3. U.S. Charities Are Financing Radical, Violent Hilltop Youth Settler Movement
  4. Bonus Reads

Questions/comments? Email kmccarthy@fmep.org


As Elections Approach, Here’s Two Settlement Plans Bibi Might Advance to Win Votes/Deflect Pressure

Terrestrial Jerusalem published a comprehensive analysis of how Jerusalem-related issues, including settlement plans, could become a factor in the current Israeli elections campaign. Danny Seidemann writes:

“On the eve of Israel’s national elections and the possible launching of Trump’s so-called ‘peace plan,’ concerns raised in January 2017 regarding the most sensitive and ambitious settlement and settlement-related projects are more relevant than ever…the common denominator to the issues on which we [Terrestrial Jerusalem] are focusing below is this: each is something of a banner under which the ideological right has decided to march. As a result, there is no doubt that these issues will figure prominently in election rhetoric, towards the goal of forcing an already susceptible Netanyahu’s hand.”

Seidemann goes on to lay out likely actions Netanyahu might take, including action on two specific settlement plans:

  • “E-1: E-1 is a settlement planned for an area on East Jerusalem’s northeastern flank (beyond the city’s municipal borders), designed to cement a contiguous block of settlements stretching from Maale Adumim to the city’s east, through Neve Yaacov and Pisgat Zeev to the north, and extending to Givat Zeev, to the northwest (download map here).We have described in several reports the dire threat the implementation of E-1 would  cause to the two-state solution, primarily by dismembering a potential future Palestinian state into two non-contiguous cantons and sealing off East Jerusalem from its environs in the West Bank…implementation of E-1 today still depends solely on Netanyahu giving the green light for the publication of the plans. Once he does, the clock will start ticking toward construction; assuming Netanyahu and his government obey normal planning rules, this clock will run for up to a year — between the resumption of planning and the publication of tenders for construction. Once the green light is given, it will be very difficult (but not impossible) to prevent the publication of tenders.”

  • “Givat Hamatos: As we explained in our January 2017 analysis, plans for construction in Givat Hamatos have been fully approved, but tenders have not yet been published: tenders for the construction of up to 1500 of the 4500 units could be published literally at any time, based on the whim of Netanyahu. As elections approach, the chances that Netanyahu will give the order to publish these tenders rises exponentially — and the significance of him doing so cannot be overstated. In planning terms, the publication of tenders is a Rubicon that, once crossed, is a point of no return, since at that point, third-party rights (purchasers) become involved. In short, the publication of tenders, effectively, would make the construction of Givat Hamatos a virtual certainty. While E-1 is larger in scope and has greater notoriety than Givat Hamatos, the danger posed by the latter is in some respects greater. Assuming Netanyahu and his government follow normal planning rules on E-1, any decision he takes on E-1 will in effect by a trip-wire that will give the world as long as a year in which to engage to try to prevent actual construction. With respect to Givat Hamatos, a move by Netanyahu won’t be a trip-wire, but rather the beginning of a series of detonations that cannot be stopped.”

Palestinians March in Hebron on Anniversary of Goldstein Massacre

On February 22nd, hundreds of Palestinians and international activists led a march towards Shuhada Street in downtown Hebron to commemorate the 29 victims of Israeli-American settler Baruch Goldstein, who opened fire on worshippers in the Ibrahimi Mosque/Tomb of the Patriarch 25 years ago. The march was also a protest against Israel’s policy of segregation (a word that fails to capture the damage done to the fabric of Palestinian life in the heart of Hebron) that was implemented following the massacre. +972 Mag reports:

“…protestors marched toward Checkpoint 56, which separates the part of the city governed by the Palestinian Authority from the Israeli-controlled area. They carried signs calling for the return of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) – the only observer group in the city with an official international mandate. In late January, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided not to renew the group’s mandate, effectively expelling the observers from the city after 22 years of monitoring the human rights situation there…Israeli soldiers were stationed along the route of the protest, on the side of the city allegedly controlled by the PA, already before the protest began. When the crowd of demonstrators approached Checkpoint 56, soldiers pushed them back. At another checkpoint, close to the Tel Rumeida area, soldiers fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets at a group of protestors who were hurling stones – against the organizers’ request to keep the protest peaceful. Soldiers also fired stun grenades at a group of journalists.”

U.S. Charities Are Financing Radical, Violent Hilltop Youth Settler Movement

An investigation has revealed that a U.S. charity, The Charity of Light Fund, is the U.S. arm of an Israeli organization called Chasdei Meir that funds the radical and violent Hilltop Youth settler movement. Journalist Mairav Zonszein explains that Chasdei Meir, which is not registered as a tax exempt organization in Israel, recently issued a donation receipt thanking the donor (who made the donation in order to glean more information about the group’s operations) for “helping keep the residents of the outposts in Judea and Samaria warm.” Zonszein goes on to report:

“According to the Israeli outlet Ynet, Chasdei Meir has been linked to the coordination in 2011 of settler violence against Palestinians known as ‘price tag’ attacks, as well as financing settler youth who inhabit illegal settlement outposts and plant trees there as a way of claiming ownership over the land.”

Zonszein’s report lays out how Chasdei Meir and the Charity of Light Fund are part of a larger network of shadowy groups and figures that have found ways to direct U.S. tax-deductible donations to the settlement enterprise as well as groups that ascribe to the racist, nationalist ideology of Meir Kahane and the political party he founded, Kach. The Kach party, which is on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations, recently joined forces with Prime Minister Netanyahu, who brokered a political marriage between the Otzma Yehudit (“Jewish Power”) party, which is the current incarnation of the Kach party, and the Jewish Home party, in the hopes of winning sufficient votes to form a coalition that will keep him in power.

Bonus Reads

  1. “A Violent Gang of Young Settlers Haunts Palestinians” (Haaretz)

  2. “Under Occupation, Water is a Luxury” (Haaretz)

  3. “Israel’s Termination of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron” (Al-Shabaka)

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.

March 30, 2018

  1. 2017 – A Record Year in Settlement Expansion
  2. Hebron Settlers Leave One Disputed Property, Only to Enter Two More
  3. Settlers Celebrate Moving to Amichai, the First New Government-Backed Settlement in 25 Years
  4. Housing Minister on Annexation: Settlements are a Non-Negotiable Security Asset, Israel Must Keep Building
  5. Ambassador Friedman: U.S. Will Not Intervene To Stop Israeli Annexation
  6. After Annexing Settlement Universities, Israeli Education Ministry Moves to Censor Campus Criticism of Settlements/Occupation
  7. Terrestrial Jerusalem Report: “The Creation of a Settler Realm in and Around Jerusalem’s Old City”
  8. Al-Shabaka Policy Brief: Israel’s Annexation Crusade in Jerusalem
  9. Yesh Din/Emek Shaveh Report: “Appropriating the Past: Israel’s Archaeological Practices in the West Bank”
  10. Emek Shaveh Report: The Jerusalem Cable Car Undermines the History & Multiculturalism of the Historic Basin
  11. You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: Settler Lands Helicopter at Qalandiya Checkpoint (in Attempt to Seize It)
  12. Bonus Reads

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


2017 – A Record Year in Settlement Expansion

In its annual report on settlement activity, the settlement watchdog group Peace Now documents two significant facts about settlement growth in 2017 – the first year in the era of the Trump Administration era. Peace Now figures show that there was a large spike in new settlement starts compared to previous years; and second, most of these new construction starts are located in areas that are beyond the area that Israel can realistically expect to retain under any negotiated two-state agreement.  

Specifically, Peace Now reports that in 2017, construction began on 2,783 new settler housing units,
an increase of around 17% over the yearly average rate since 2009. In terms of location of these new starts, Peace Now found that:

  • More than three-quarters of the new housing starts are in settlements located deep inside the West Bank, beyond what would be a realistic border for a negotiated two-state agreement.
  • Fewer than one-fifth of the new construction starts are located in areas west of the security barrier, as currently constructed (i.e., in settlements already de facto annexed to Israel by the barrier).
  • At least one out of every ten of the new settlement starts is illegal according to Israeli laws (all settlements are illegal under international law), with most located in illegal outposts. 

Director of the Peace Now Settlement Watch project, Shabtay Benet told i24News,

“If in the past, the government had focused on construction and housing within the blocs, it appears that the government is [today] openly working toward a reality of annexation.”

In addition, Peace Now documents in detail other major 2017 settlement-related developments, including:

  • the establishment of  three new illegal outposts in 2017: “Neve Achi” (near Ramallah ), “Kedem Arava” (near Jericho), and “Shabtai’s Farm” (south of Hebron).
  • the establishment of the new “legal” settlement of “Amichai,” which is the first new settlement built with government approval in 25 years.
  • Construction of a major new bypass road to link settlers more seamlessly to Jerusalem,
  • The seizure by Israel of nearly 1,000 dunams of Palestinian land near Nablus in order to begin legalizing outposts in the area.
  • The approval by the Israeli government of 31 new units for settlers in the heart of the Palestinian city of Hebron.

The report also provides a timeline of data showing the fluctuation of Israeli government policy regarding outposts from 1996-2017. The data indicate that a 2006 pledge by Netanyahu to cease funding the construction of new outposts (a pledge that followed the publication of the government-mandated report on outposts known as the Sasson Report) expired in 2012, at which time the government began allowing (if not supporting) the construction of new outposts. Since 2012, 16 new outposts have been built and allowed to remain, some of which are now in the process of being retroactively legalized by the government. 

The full report is available online here.

Hebron Settlers Leave One Disputed Property, Only to Enter Two More

After nearly eight months of illegally occupying a disputed property in Hebron, more than 100 settlers left the Beit Machpelah/Abu Rajab building. The High Court has ruled that the settlers must leave the residence while the Justices’ consider a case regarding rightful ownership of the property – a case that is not expected to wrap up in the near term.

In tandem with the departure of the settlers, the new head of the Israeli Army’s Central Command, Maj. Gen. Nadav Padan, signed an order declaring the area around the property – which is across the street from the the Tomb of the Patriarchs/Al-Ibrahimi Mosque – as a “closed military zone,” where civilian access is forbidden. Ostensibly intended to prevent the settlers from re-entering the property, the order will inevitably further restrict freedom of movement for Palestinians, who already face acute limitations resulting from segregated and closed-off streets, a maze of checkpoints, harassment by settlers living in the middle of the city, and the heavy IDF presence guarding a few hundred Israeli settlers living amidst ~150,000 Palestinians in Hebron.

Map by Peace Now

Undeterred (or emboldened) by their experience with the Beit Machpelah/Abu Rajab building,  Hebron settlers subsequently broke into and occupied two additional properties in downtown Hebron (which settlers are calling “Beit Leah” and “Beit Rachel,” and which Palestinians call the “Zaatari Compound,” after the Palestinian family who owns the buildings). Like in the case of the Beit Machpelah/Abu Rajab building, ownership of these two properties is disputed, with settlers claiming to have purchased the properties lawfully from Palestinian owners, and the Palestinians denying having sold them. And like the past nearly eight months in the case of the Beit Machpelah/Abu Rajab building, the settlers are for now being allowed to stay in the two disputed properties, under the protection of the IDF, in violation of Israeli law. 

Breaking the Silence – an Israeli NGO recently barred from giving tours in Hebron – told The Times of Israel that the removal of the settlers from the Beit Machpelah/Abu Rajab building was “appropriate” but:

“Still, this is just only a drop of water in the sea of illegal invasions that we guarded as soldiers… For 50 years, settlers have been establishing facts on the ground and we are being sent to guard them at the expense of the Palestinians.”

With respect to the two new properties occupied by the settlers, Peace Now said:

“The settlers’ recent break-in into the Zaatari compound constitutes just the latest in a slew of such unauthorized incidents in Hebron. Their strategy is clear. Since they have failed thus far to obtain the ownership rights legally, instead they must resort to illegal means to establish facts on the ground by squatting, knowing that the right-wing government will be reluctant to attract negative publicity from its base by evicting settlers, and will in turn attempt to delay the eviction or perhaps find a way to legalize the take-over. Fellow Israeli citizens must not give in to this emotional blackmail, and the authorities must evict these squatters without delay.”

Settlers Celebrate Moving to Amichai, the First New Government-Backed Settlement in 25 Years

Settlers who were removed from the unauthorized Amona outpost last year held a ceremony March 26, 2018, marking the day that they moved into Amichai, the new settlement that was promised to them as compensation. Amichai is the first new settlement built with government approval in 25 years. The leader of the law-breaking Amona settlers, Avichai Boaran, said at the ceremony:

“After a long wait and a stubborn struggle – tomorrow it happens. Amichai residents enter their new community! We are looking forward to entering our new homes, which we were able to establish with the blood of our hearts, with determination and faith, love for the land and for Zionism.”

The settlers will be housed in temporary mobile homes while construction continues in the settlement. The Master Plan approved for Amichai permits 102 units on a hilltop in the Shiloh Valley, a third of which face additional legal proceedings as a result of petitions filed by Palestinian landowners.

As  FMEP has covered many times in the past, Amichai is the first of two new settlements approved by the Israeli government in early 2017 as pay-off to settlers who were forced to leave the Amona outpost by the High Court of Justice. That Amona outpost was established without authorization from the Israeli government and was located on private Palestinian land; the government of Israel fought for years to retroactively legalize it, but eventually was forced by the High Court to evacuate its residents (evacuation that some residents resisted violently). The establishment of Amichai clearly demonstrates that settler law-breaking not only goes unpunished, but is handsomely rewarded by the Israeli government, and that establishing illegal outposts is an effective route to establishing new settlements.

Housing Minister on Annexation: Settlements are a Non-Negotiable Security Asset, Israel Must Keep Building

Minister of Housing and Construction, Yoav Galant (Kulanu), told settler leaders that he believes Israel must bolster the settlements, calling them “non-negotiable [security] assets” that Israel must always maintain “full control” over. Galant’s remarks were made during a meeting with leaders of the Yesha Council (a settlement umbrella group) during which he also bragged about doubling the budget for settlement construction. He said:

“The Ministry of Construction and Housing, headed by me, has invested twice the budgets of the previous government in planning and development in Yehuda and Shomron.” [Note: “Yehuda and Shomron” means Judea and Samaria, the biblical names for the area in the West Bank]

Yesha Council Chairman Chananel Dorani thanked Minister Galant for his support, saying:

“Minister Galant leads the Housing Ministry to important goals and objectives for the development of the State of Israel, the area of Yehuda, Shomron and the Jordan Valley is a suitable space for massive construction and dispersal of the population of the country. I am thankful for your consistent support for the settlement, for the ideal, but also for the actions.”

Ambassador Friedman: U.S. Will Not Intervene To Stop Israeli Annexation

In an interview with an Israeli Orthodox newspaper this week, U.S. Ambassador David Friedman was quoted as suggesting that the U.S. was ready to replace President Abbas if he refused to play ball with U.S. efforts. Friedman subsequently claimed he was misquoted. He did not, however, suggest that he was misquoted on another subject that came up in that interview: possible annexation of part of the West Bank. Friedman was asked in the interview if the U.S. would support partial annexation of the West Bank. Friedman reportedly answered:

“On these issues, Israel ought to decide for itself, we will not intervene with the government in Jerusalem regarding its way of handling the conflict. We will definitely express our opinion when asked, but we’ll avoid unnecessary involvement in decision making.”

Friedman’s remark come amidst a growing wave of legislation and legal opinions pushing Israeli annexation schemes forward, none of which the U.S. has publically intervened to stop, or even criticize. To date, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has held at bay the most forthright  annexation legislation – like a bill to annex Ma’ale Adumim/E-1, the “Greater Jerusalem Bill,” a Jordan Valley annexation bill, and the Likud-inspired the “Annexation/Sovereignty Bill” – always citing concerns about coordinating with the United States. Friedman’s comments, which were neither clarified nor contradicted by anyone in Washington, suggest that the Trump Administration would not object to legislation of this kind moving forward.

Simultaneously, Netanyahu has allowed annexation to proceed on several more subtle fronts, including: giving government support to the “Ariel Bill” (now law) which effectively annexed settlement universities and colleges; giving government support to a bill that would transfer jurisdiction over West Bank land disputes from the High Court to the Jerusalem District Court (where a pro-settlement judge was recently installed by Justice Minister Shaked); defending the “Regulation Law” and, at least seemingly, beginning to implement it against the dictates of a court-ordered injunction; finding additional legal bases (1 and 2) to retroactively legalize outposts; installing radical settlers in government posts tasked with handling land disputes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem; and much more. These annexation policies are, of course, in addition to the day-to-day settlement construction on the ground that is gobbling up more and more West Bank land (documented in detail in Peace Now’s comprehensive report on settlement activity in 2017, discussed above).

Americans for Peace Now responded to Friedman’s latest pro-settlement, pro-annexation remarks, saying:

“Friedman is a loose cannon, whose statements on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict routinely upend longstanding US foreign policy. Given Friedman’s advocacy on their behalf, it is not difficult to see why settler leaders see President Trump and his Middle East team as sent by God.”

After Annexing Settlement Universities, Israeli Education Ministry Moves to Censor Campus Criticism of Settlements/Occupation

A month after bringing settlement universities under Israeli sovereign control (affectively annexing them), the Israeli Council of Higher Education advanced a new code of ethics that seeks to ban professors in all Israeli universities from criticising settlements or the occupation.

The new code has five principles, most having to do with preventing discrimination based on political views and affiliation. The principles include clauses prohibiting lecturers from calling for or engaging in activity that promotes an academic boycott of Israel or its academic institutions (some of which are now in the settlements), and another clause that prohibits faculty from promoting the idea of boycotting Israel.

Israel’s Association of University Heads (VERA) slammed the move as an attempt to politically censor academia, saying they will not “serve as political thought police for the government.” The statement from VERA, representing the heads of Israeli universities, goes on to say:

“We are already seeing a dangerous deterioration on the edge of the abyss with regards to freedom of expression and academic freedom, as is customary in dark countries and not in a country that claims to be a democracy. [We] do not accept the dictation from ‘the top’ and do not intend to serve as a tool for narrow political interests. We will continue to fight for academic freedom, free speech and freedom of expression in the democratic State of Israel.”

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who requested the new code, called the statement from VERA “puzzling” and turned logic on its head to defend the new code from criticism, saying:

We must keep the world of academic free of politics and foreign interests. Complete academic freedom – yes. Promoting political agendas and calling for a boycott – no. We are in fact limiting the freedom of condemnation and increasing the freedom of expression, so the academic discourse in Israel remains free of politics and discrimination. At the gates of academia, leave politics outside.”

Now that the new code has been adopted, the Council for Higher Education is seeking input from universities. After the input is collected, the Council will review and amend the code before bringing it up for a final vote. The Council said it aims to have the code adopted by universities by 2019, with required reporting on efforts to implement its provision due to the Council in 2020.

Terrestrial Jerusalem Report: “The Creation of a Settler Realm in and Around Jerusalem’s Old City”

Terrestrial Jerusalem published a comprehensive look at how Israel is creating a “settler realm” in Jerusalem. The report opens,

“taken as a whole, the array of ongoing projects and plans centered on the Old City and its immediate hinterlands represents an unprecedented move to fundamentally change the character and fabric of life in these areas, turning them into – as we’ve termed it in the past – a Disneyland-style area in which one historical and religious narrative, the Jewish one, predominates and marginalizes/erases all others.”

Map by Terrestrial Jerusalem

The report focuses on 12 recent and ongoing projects that are taking place largely in the context of a 2005 decision of the Sharon government – following its withdrawal from Gaza – to pursue, “a thinly veiled scheme to consolidate the settlers’ control over the public domain in the Old City and its environs.” At that point, an ad hoc, what had been an incremental settler campaign to establish Jewish hegemony over East Jerusalem became a multi-million-shekel per year government-backed endeavor to fortify a Jewish Israeli settler control over all areas of East Jerusalem and the Old City.

Commenting on the settler regime, Terrestrial Jerusalem founder Daniel Seidemann writes:

“While these are all recent developments, they reflect the culmination of a process that has been going on for many years. The data … further illustrate the predominant role played by Elad and the JDA [the Jerusalem Development Authority] in advancing settlers’ control over East Jerusalem, and the complicity of the State in doing so, as detailed in the Comptroller Report published on November 2016 (see our analysis here). Indeed, the settler “DNA” has been injected into virtually all of the governmental organs with any relevant authority in and around the Old City: the Israel Lands Authority, the Custodian General, the Absentee Property Custodian, the Israel Police, the Planning Committees, the Jerusalem Municipality, the Ministry of Finance and many more. Similarly, many of the authorities of these governmental agencies have been outsourced to the settlers. The governmental adoption of the settler ideology and the outsourcing of governmental authority create a situation in which the public interest and the settler interest have become virtually indistinguishable. No new master plan has been created, and none is necessary – the brakes that slowed these schemes have merely been removed. Israel remains a feisty, albeit increasingly challenged democracy: when it comes to the Old City and its visual basin, it morphs into something highly reminiscent of a regime.”

Al-Shabaka Policy Brief: Israel’s Annexation Crusade in Jerusalem

A new report from Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network, titled “Israel’s Annexation Crusade in Jerusalem: The Role of Ma’ale Adumim and the E1 Corridor,” paints a picture of Israeli policies building towards the eventual annexation of the settlements bordering Jerusalem, paying particular attention to the history and centrality of the Ma’ale Adumim and E1 settlement areas. Though Netanyahu has delayed the outright annexation of these settlements by blocking the passage of the “Greater Jerusalem Bill,” Al-Shabaka’s brief examines several other bills, projects, resolutions, and regulations that effectively advance the annexation more subtly.

The report’s author, Zena Agha, concludes with key recommendations emphasizing the need to more stridently highlight and oppose the Israeli settlement enterprise and the creeping annexation inherent in recent policies. Agha writes,

“Since it is evident that the Trump administration will not be the restraining force on the right-wing coalition in the Knesset, nations other than the US as well as international bodies must apply pressure on the Israeli government to ensure any annexation bill is costly. Palestinian civil society and the Palestine solidarity movement must go further in raising awareness of how close the Israeli settlement project is to the point of no return in their current and planned campaigns with policymakers.”

Yesh Din/Emek Shaveh Report: “Appropriating the Past: Israel’s Archaeological Practices in the West Bank”

In a new joint report documenting a 4-year project, Emek Shaveh and Yesh Din reveal how Israeli organizations used a guise of archaeological preservation to dispossess Palestinians of privately owned land across the West Bank since 1967. The report, titled “Appropriating the Past: Israel’s Archaeological Practices in the West Bank,” introduces the topic by explaining:

“Israel continues to use its position as the administrator of archaeological sites in the West Bank as a means to deepen its control over West Bank land, to expand the settlement enterprise, and extend the policy of dispossession of Palestinians from their lands and cultural assets. Although the takeover of land through archaeology is not the main method of achieving Israeli control over land, it is significant because of its symbolic aspects and impact on public awareness.”

The report goes on to document several examples of how archaeology is used to advance settlements. Those include:

  • Gerrymandering the jurisdiction of settlements to include antiquity sites, as in the case of the Anatot-Almon settlement and the Tel-Alamit antiquity site;
  • Illegally invading of antiquity sites, as in the case of the Ain al Qaws spring near Nabi Saleh; and,
  • Using archaeological excavations to retroactively justify the establishment of new settlements, as in the case of the Shiloh settlement and the now evacuated Amona outpost.

The report concludes:

“By controlling all aspects of archaeology – the excavations, management of the sites, the interpretation of the nds, and which knowledge is disclosed to (or concealed from) the public – Israel appropriates the archaeological treasures uncovered in the West Bank and exploits them in order to sustain a narrative of continued Israeli control over the OPT.”

The report is available online here.

Emek Shaveh Report: The Jerusalem Cable Car Undermines the History & Multiculturalism of the Historic Basin

In a recent paper, the Israeli NGO Emek Shaveh analyzes the detrimental impacts of the new Israeli cable car project, including the dispossession and tangible economic consequences facing Palestinian Jerusalemites.

The paper concludes:

“The cable car is an experimental project driven by political interests in the most important and sensitive site in our region – the Old City of Jerusalem. Although this project is presented to the public as a response to transportation and tourism needs, its goal is political – strengthening Israel’s hold on East Jerusalem with a national-religious narrative and by “establishing facts on the ground” that will erase the chances of a historic compromise in the Holy Basin and the rich cultural diversity of the city. The cable car will also seriously damage the historical nature of the Old City and corrupt its famous beauty, which attracts visitors from all over the world.”

FMEP has tracked the planning process for the cable car, a project promoted by the settler group Elad. Elad aggressively pursues the eviction of Palestinians and the growing presence of Jewish Israelis across East Jerusalem, but particularly in the Silwan neighborhood where the Kedem Center is being built to serve as the final stop of the cable car line. The project has been harshly critiqued by the international community.

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: Settler Lands Helicopter at Qalandiya Checkpoint (in Attempt to Seize It)

This week, Yedidya Meshulami – a settler living in an illegal outpost near Nablus – attempted to usurp the Israeli Army and take control of the Qalandiya checkpoint by landing his personal helicopter nearby, declaring “I don’t care what they do to me, I’ll take it [the checkpoint] over.” Israeli security forces arrested Meshulami and seized his helicopter (shortly thereafter he was released to house arrest;  it goes without saying that had he been a Palestinian seeking to take over the checkpoint by any means whatsoever, he would still be in custody). The Qalandiya checkpoint is the most heavily trafficked checkpoint in the West Bank, through which 26,000 Palestinians (who are lucky enough to have permits to enter Israel) pass en route to Jerusalem on a daily basis.

Meshulami landed his helicopter at the site of the defunct Atarot airport, situated on a strategic strip of land between Jerusalem and Ramallah near the Qalandiya checkpoint he hoped to take control over. Rumors concerning plans to build a settlement at the Atarot site have been rumbling for over a year, fed by the Knesset’s decision to allocate millions of shekels to the project last October. Developing the airport into an Israeli settlement would deprive a future Palestinian state of the only airport in the West Bank, would cut through many Palestinian neighborhoods, and would further sever East Jerusalem from a Palestinian state (acting like E-1 on Jerusalem’s northeast flank, and like Givat Hamatos on Jerusalem’s southern flank).

Meshulami, lives in an unauthorized outpost called “Alumot” near the settlement of Itamar, south of Nablus. Meshulami helped establish the outpost in 1996 after serving in the Israeli Air Force and, despite lacking permits, he personally built an airstrip in the outpost in 2013. According to reports this week, Israeli security forces had previously revoked Meshulami’s pilot license for flying over the West Bank without a permit. Two days after his arrest, the IDF raided the illegal airstip and seized a second helicopter. They also found an ultralight plane that will reportedly be seized in the coming days.

Bonus Reads

  1. VIDEO: Times of Israel Settlements Correspondent Jacob Magid discusses internal settler dynamis w/ Ron Kampeas (FMEP)
  2. “Settler Violence Against Palestinians Is on the Rise, but Goes Regularly Unpunished” (Haaretz)
  3. “Israel’s government and the settlers want terror.” (Haaretz+)
  4. “Israel’s Separation Barrier: Legitimate in theory, malicious in practice” (Times of Israel)

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.

February 15, 2018

  1. Longtime Settler Leader Appointed to Head Government Team to Legalize Outposts
  2. Plans Advance for Settlement Expansion, Including “Unusual” Plan for the Netiv Ha’avot Outpost
  3. De Facto Annexation: Israel Extend  Domestic Law to Settlement Colleges & Universities
  4. Bibi Blocks Settlement Annexation Bill, But Signals Something Bigger
  5. Updates on Jerusalem Settlement Activity
  6. Lara Friedman: Stop Parsing Trump’s ‘Word Salad’ on Settlements
  7. Bonus Must-Reads

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


Longtime Settler Leader Appointed to Head Government Team to Legalize Outposts

Despite criticism from the High Court of Justice, this week the Prime Minister’s office finalized the appointment of settler leader Pinchas Wallerstein to head a government team tasked with leading the process of retroactively legalizing illegal outposts across the West Bank. As FMEP reported when Wallerstein’s appointment was first announced in late October 2017, Wallerstein has been prosecuted for knowingly violating Israeli law by building a sewage plant near the Ofra settlement on private Palestinian land; has admitted to issuing forged building permits for settlement construction without the authority to do so; and has admitted to lying (again) to government authorities to expedite the construction of the (since evacuated) building the Amona outpost.

The team Wallerstein will now lead is tasked with developing legal cases – likely based on new legal precedents and opinions (here, here, and most recently here) established by Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit that support the appropriation of private Palestinian land for a public good – to “regularize” outposts (i.e., convert outposts built in violation of Israeli law into official “legal” settlements). The government has already begun to the lay the groundwork for Wallerstein’s work: a leaked recording that surfaced in mid-January revealed that a small team within the Defense Ministry has spent months identifying 70 outposts across the West Bank that it believes can be retroactively legalized.

With this appointment, Wallerstein — who has worked full-time to strengthen settlements since 1979 — will lead government-backed effort to shape the ever-evolving legal mechanisms for justifying, in the eyes of Israeli courts, the appropriation of as much private Palestinian land as possible in order to expand and entrench Israeli settlements and outposts. And notably, the legalization of these outposts will mean, in effect, that while for years Israel committed to not establish new settlements, new settlements were in reality being established continuously through unofficial means.

Plans Advance for Settlement Expansion, Including “Unusual” Plan for the Netiv Ha’avot Outpost

This week, the High Planning Council of the Israeli Civil Administration (the arm of the Israeli Defense Ministry that is the sovereign over the West Bank, governing all aspects of life) advanced several plans to expand settlements and outposts across the West Bank.

Settlement watchdog Peace Now notes that the approvals include plans both for the creation of new settlement “areas” (expanding the footprint of settlements in the West Bank) and expansion within the existing footprints:

  1. A plan to build a hotel and race track for tourists in the Jordan Valley, near the Petza’el settlement (approved for deposit for public review).
  2. A plan to build a gas station and school in the outpost of Mitzpe Danny, located east of Ramallah, in the middle of the West Bank (approved for validation).
  3. A new outpost to “temporarily” house mobile homes for the residents of the Netiv Ha’avot outpost (approved the validation) – more below).
  4. A plan for 68 new units in the Elazar settlement near Bethlehem (approved the validation).
  5. A plan for a new cemetery to be located south of Qalqiliya (discussed but decision to deposit for public review postponed).

The Defense Ministry tried to minimize the significance of these approvals, calling them “non-residential” or “less significant,” because the High Planning Council is only supposed to convene a few times a year, per a reported agreement with the United States. The High Planning Council met once already this year, and is not due for another (what the Defense Ministry might call “significant”) meeting until April.

Peace Now responded to the plans the Defense Ministry’s claim with a statement saying,

“The government is building new settlement areas under the guise of ‘insignificant’ plans that will not include housing units. This is an old trick used to establish new settlements without calling them that by name. All of these plans—the construction of a hotel and tourist complex in the Jordan Valley, an educational campus in an illegal outpost, and even a cemetery as the first stage in the construction of a new industrial zone—in actuality create new settlements. The Netanyahu government has lost all the brakes on the road to de facto annexation of the West Bank, and it continues to distance Israel from the prospects for peace and the two-state solution.”

The plan for the Netiv Ha’avot outpost bears further explanation:

  • Map by Peace Now

    As noted above, the High Planning Council this week approved the validation of a plan to establish a new settlement site to “temporarily” house residents of the Netiv Ha’avot outpost who are facing a court-ordered eviction from Netiv Ha’avot because the outpost was built without permits, and sits partially on private Palestinian land.

  • The plan moved ahead after Israeli authorities dismissed an objection brought by Peace Now and Palestinian residents of the village of Al-Khader, whose land the plan affects.
  • According to the approved plan, Israel will place 15 mobile homes at the selected site — connected to Israeli water, power, sewage, roads, and other infrastructure — located near, but not within, the borders of the Alon Shvut settlement.
  • When the High Planning Council initially approved the advancement of this plan in October 2017, it noted that “the plan is improper, but we will have to approve it as a temporary solution.” At the time, the Council ordered the government to go about expanding the borders of the Alon Shvut settlement to include the land.
  • Because the mobile homes will be put on land that is outside of any settlement border, the plan in effect creates a new outpost.
  • Under the approved plan, the new homes will be allowed to stay in that location for three years. However, based on past practice, it can be expected that within that time, or at the end of those three years, the site will “regulated” by Israel to become a permanent area of Israeli settlement.

FMEP has covered the many unfolding storylines in the Netiv Ha’avot drama repeatedly and in detail, but as a reminder: in 2016 the Israeli High Court of Justice ordered the demolition of the Netiv Ha’avot outpost. As of now, 15 structures in the outpost are scheduled to be demolished next month, though efforts are still ongoing to save the structures from complete demolition. High ranking officials in the Israeli government, including Yesh Atid’s leader Yair Lapid, have supported the outposts campaign not only to save the 15 structures but to retroactively legalize the entire outpost. If the latter campaign succeeds, it will mean that the newly approved mobile home site will be available for additional settlers to inhabit for at least three years.

De Facto Annexation: Israel Extend  Domestic Law to Settlement Colleges & Universities

The Knesset this week passed a bill that extends the state’s jurisdiction outside of its borders, bringing colleges and universities in settlements under the authority of the Israeli Council for Higher Education, among other things paving the way for establishment of a medical school funded by US settlement backer (and key Netanyahu and Trump supporter) Sheldon Adelson. FMEP previously reported on this bill and its implications on Feb. 1, 2018 when it passed first reading in the Knesset (a signal that the ruling coalition had approved its passage). Though limited in its direct impact, the bill’s authors and supporters have effectively created the rhetorical and legislative space in which the extraterritorial application of Israeli law is no longer questioned, nor is the ultimate end goal of annexing as much West Bank land as possible.

Unsurprisingly, the Trump Administration offered no criticism of the move.

Making clear the underlying goal of the initiative, Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) said:

“From the application of sovereignty on Ariel University [let us proceed] to the application of sovereignty on Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria!”

Similarly, a leader of the Yesha Council (the umbrella organization representing Israeli settlements), Shiloh Adler, said:

“Just as there is no reason why Ariel University should be managed by a different council for higher education, we hope that the Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley will soon be placed under Israeli sovereignty just like all other Jewish communities in the State of Israel”

PLO Spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi responded with a statement saying the bill:

“…represents another dangerous step in the annexation of the occupied West Bank…All settlements are illegal and constitute a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and a direct violation of international law and conventions, including UNSC resolution 2334. Israel is thereby demonstrating its intent to prolong and consolidate its military occupation by working to ‘legalize’ the presence of extremist Jewish settlers, institutions and settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory.”

Bibi Blocks Settlement Annexation Bill, But Signals Something Bigger

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week intervened to block a vote in the Israeli cabinet on whether to lend government support to a bill in the Knesset that seeks to extend Israeli domestic law to “areas of settlement in Judea and Samaria.” The bill is modelled on a resolution adopted in January, with Netanyahu’s support, by the Likud Central Committee. That resolution calling for the formal annexation of the settlements.  

In explaining his decision to block the vote at a Likud faction meeting, Netanyahu pleaded with his party to hold off on settlement annexation while he coordinated the matter with the White House, stating that he has been in discussions with the Trump Administration about “applying sovereignty” to the settlements for “some time.” A White House spokesman for Jared Kushner (who officially leads the Trump Administration’s Israel-Palestine peace efforts) strongly denied that the U.S. had engaged in any discussions with Israel about plans to annex the West Bank. The statement did not weigh in on those plans, instead reaffirming the U.S. commitment to brokering peace. Reportedly, U.S. officials privately told the Israeli government to put out a correction of Netanyahu’s statement and a senior Israeli official later released a statement partially walking back Netanyahu’s claim, suggesting instead that Netanyahu has kept the U.S. informed about various proposals in the Knesset (there are several annexation proposals that have already passed and some that are still pending).

Ignoring the kerfuffle, several MKs called on Netanyahu to ignore U.S. statements and proceed with annexation.

Americans for Peace Now released a statement saying,

“The Trump Administration must be unequivocal in both its public statements and its private discussions with Israeli officials that the United States regards annexation as entirely unacceptable.”

J Street released a statement saying,

“It would be completely irresponsible for the Trump administration to contemplate endorsing unilateral annexation in any way. US officials should be strongly warning Israel that such a move would be unacceptable — not holding discussions that could give annexation the green light.”

Updates on Jerusalem Settlement Activity

Ir Amim reports that the Jerusalem Local Planning and Building Committee met last week to privately discuss three plans for new East Jerusalem settlement projects, all on the Mount of Olives. The three plans were all drafted by the head architect of the Elad settler organization [learn more about Elad, here]. The meeting was an attempt to circumvent the standard planning process that governs construction projects in Jerusalem – a process which requires public hearings. 

Map by Haaretz

Two of the plans relate to the proposal for a new promenade connecting two settlement enclaves (Beit Orot and Beith Hahoshen) located inside the Palestinian neighborhood of A-Tur, the construction of which will require the expropriation of private Palestinian land.

The third plan is for a visitors’ center (to be run by Elad) abutting the Mount of Olives Cemetery – a plan rumored to be moving forward in June 2017. At that time, Peace Now slammed the plan, saying:

“Dragged by settler organizations, the Israeli government is willing to go out of its way to approve this sensitive plan through a highly unusual procedure. In the current political context, to establish a visitor center next to a mosque and 300 meters away from Temple Mount/Al-Haram A-Sharif is to play with fire. A visitor center in this sensitive area could have far reaching implications on the future of the two state solution and the possibility for a compromise in Jerusalem.”

Ir Amim researcher Aviv Tatarsky told Haaretz:

“Over the past two years we have witnessed increased settlement activity under the guise of tourism and heritage initiatives around the Old City. The Old City and the neighborhoods around it are the home of 100,000 Palestinians…On one hand the authorities make it hard for residents to get building permits and deny them adequate services. On the other, they are advancing in dubious ways initiatives aimed at serving the settlement organizations in the eastern part of the city.”

Lara Friedman: Stop Parsing Trump’s ‘Word Salad’ on Settlements

In an interview with Adelson-financed Israeli daily newspaper Israel Hayom, President Trump said, “The settlements are something that very much complicates and always have complicated making peace, so I think Israel has to be very careful with the settlements.”

When asked about the significance of Trump’s criticism of settlements, FMEP President Lara Friedman said:

“He didn’t raise the issue of settlements, he was asked about it and gave a word salad response that implies nothing….There was nothing that indicated that there will be any pressure on Israel in response to the settlements. Since this administration came in, what they say has matched what their feet are doing. They are suggesting policies that are sympathetic to the Israeli right and far-right. There is nothing in [the interview] that contradicts their policy.”

Bonus Must-Reads

  1. [Op-ed] “Take a look around. This is what annexation looks like” (+972 Mag)
  2. [Op-ed] “No chance for peace while settlers dream of holy war” (Al-Monitor)

 


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.

January 4, 2018

  1. Likud Votes for Unilateral Annexation of West Bank Settlements
  2. Knesset Set to Discuss Application of New Laws to the Settlements
  3. Knesset Passes Jerusalem Law Designed to Block Peace Agreement
  4. Israel Builds New Unauthorized Outpost to Temporarily House Amona Outpost Evacuees
  5. Israeli High Court Issues Stop-Work Order on Illegal Outpost, But Agrees to its Eventual Legalization
  6. Israel Complicit in Establishing 14 New Outposts Since 2011
  7. The JNF is Working with a Settler Group to Evict Palestinians in East Jerusalem
  8. Israeli Government Approves EU Trade Agreement that Excludes Settlements

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


Likud Votes for Unilateral Annexation of West Bank Settlements

On January 1st the Likud Central Committee voted unanimously to approve a resolution calling on party leaders (including Prime Minister Netanyahu) to allow unlimited construction in settlements and to take steps to formally annex all Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The Likud party is the head of the governing coalition in Israel, with the largest number of seats in the Knesset and the control over the office of the Prime Minister.

The resolution reads:

On the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the regions of Judea and Samaria [the West Bank], including Jerusalem our eternal capital, the Likud Central Committee calls on the Likud’s elected officials to act to allow free construction and to apply the laws of Israel and its sovereignty to all liberated areas of Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria.

Haaretz notes that in the past, Netanyahu intervened to prevent resolutions like this one from coming up for a vote, over concerns that such votes could elicit international blowback. This time, he refrained from doing so. The Trump Administration offered no comment on the Likud vote.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi criticized the decision via Twitter: “Knesset approval of amended Basic Law on #Jerusalem & decision by ruling party 2annex settlements & impose sovereignty on West Bank are null & void under Intl law. Israel continues 2adopt illegal unilateral decisions that deny region the peace it deserves & is in world interest.”

For its part, the Palestinian Authority slammed the resolution, with President Abbas promising consequences and arguing that the resolution has “the blessing” of the United States, whose ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, has reportedly requested the State Department cease using the word “occupation” to describe the situation in the West Bank and Golan Heights (the State Department spokeswoman later said that the U.S. policy has not changed on that regard).

J Street also linked Likud’s actions to the environment created by President Trump and his envoys, saying

President Trump bears responsibility for laying the groundwork and providing cover for these steps [by Likud]. By breaking with decades of bipartisan policy and refusing to support the two-state solution or seriously opposing settlement expansion, his administration has given a green light to the destructive plans of the settlement movement. By unilaterally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in advance of a peace agreement, the president has told the Netanyahu government that it is free to act with contempt for the peace process and for the Palestinians, and without fear of rebuke from the United States.

Knesset Set to Discuss Application of New Laws to the Settlements

The Jerusalem Post reports that the Knesset House Committee has instructed committees to discuss whether bills passed by the Knesset will be applied to settlements in the West Bank. Extending Israeli domestic law to the settlements is tantamount to annexation.

Hardline, anti-two-state, right-wing MKs – including Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and House Committee chairman Yoav Kisch – have lead the charge to annex the settlements by extending Israeli domestic law, arguing it would end what they describe as “discrimination” against Israeli citizens based on their place of residence.

Slamming the move, left-wing Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg stated:

There is a territory that is outside of Israel’s borders, and what you’re suggesting is to have two parallel legal systems in the same land, where the only measure that determines which system applies to whom is a person’s race. This has a name, and you know what it is.

The House committee’s instructions this week were a half measure to force the annexation discussions, after an aborted attempt in 2017 to change the official rules of the Knesset to require bills to state whether they apply to the settlements, a rule change that the Knesset’s legal counsel advised against.

Israeli settlements, being in occupied territory, are currently under Israeli military rule, although Israeli civilians living in settlements already come under Israeli civilian law. As noted by FMEP’s Lara Friedman in testimony before the UN Security Council in October 2016:

…Israeli law follows Israeli citizens who enter or live in the Occupied Territories. This means that Israeli settlers live under Israeli law – no different than if they were living inside Israel – while Palestinians live under military law. This policy has created a dangerous and ugly political reality in the occupied territories – a reality in which two populations live on the same land, under different legal systems, separate and entirely unequal, with the governing authority serving one population at the expense of the other.

One population is comprised of privileged Israeli citizens, enjoying the benefits of a prosperous, powerful state, with their rights guaranteed by a democratic government accountable to their votes. The other population is comprised of disenfranchised Palestinians, living under foreign military occupation explicitly designed to protect and promote the interests not of Palestinian residents of the territories, but of Israeli settlers.”

Knesset Passes Jerusalem Law Designed to Block Peace Agreement

On January 1, 2018 the Israeli Knesset passed a law requiring a supermajority of votes in the Knesset to approve the transfer of any parts of Jerusalem (in its expanded borders, as determined by Israel immediately after the 1967 War) to a foreign power. Authored by the far-right Jewish Home Party, the amendment passed with a slim 64-52 majority. Jewish Home’s leader Naftali Bennett, who also serves as the Minister of Education in the current coalition government, declared that the vote shows Israel will keep control of all of Jerusalem forever.

A Palestinian Authority spokesman said the legislation, in addition to the Trump Administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, is ”a declaration of war on the Palestinian people.”

The Knesset refrained from simultaneously passing another controversial measure that would enable Israel to alter the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem – a proposal meant to pave the way for formally excising Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem that are located beyond the separation. The New York Times reports that Netanyahu directed the measure be removed from the legislation up for votes. For further background on both Jerusalem measures, see this report from Jerusalem expert Danny Seidemann. 

Israel Builds New Unauthorized Outpost to Temporarily House Amona Outpost Evacuees

The Israeli Civil Administration has resumed construction on what is, in effect, a new illegal outpost meant to temporarily house settlers who were evacuated from the illegal Amona outpost last year. Following their evacuation, the Amona settlers refused – even temporarily – to relocate to the interim site near Ofra. Construction then stopped, but restarted this week.

Located northeast of Ramallah, near the Ofra settlement – and within spitting distance of where the evacuated Amona outpost once stood – the work is happening without permits and on land that Israel expropriated from private Palestinian owners for “public use.” The Amona evacuees are awaiting the construction of their new settlement, called Amichai, in the Shiloh Valley. Amichai will be the first official new settlement established with government approval in 20 years. Assuming the Amona evacuees eventually move from the new outpost to Amona, it should be assumed that the “temporary” site will turn out to be a new site permanently  inhabited by other settlers.

Israeli High Court Issues Stop-Work Order on Illegal Outpost, But Agrees to its Eventual Legalization

On January 2nd, Israel’s High Court of Justice ordered construction at the Adei Ad outpost to stop – but only until the Israeli government completes the process of retroactively legalizing the outpost and its structures (which first required the Israeli government to suspend the rule of law). The Court said that the government must do so within nine months, which is the timeframe Prime Minister Netanyahu specified last year when he announced that Israel will expropriate the land of Adei Ad by declaring it as “state land.” Once the area is declared to be “state land,” Israel will then be able to begin the process of official planning, which will transform the illegal outpost into an authorized settlement.

Although much of the Adei Ad outpost is built on land that had already been expropriated through the same means, part of the outpost is on land the status of which us contested. The Israeli NGO Yesh Din represents Palestinian land owners in the petition which led to the stop-work order. Yesh Din explains the week’s news, writing:

In January 2018, the High Court ordered a freeze on all construction in Adei Ad and sharply criticized the State’s conduct regarding the outpost, including its handling of the petition. The court rejected the petitioners request to have the entire outpost evacuated, but gave the State only nine months to authorize the outpost, on the provision that at that date, another petition could be filed to have some of the structures evacuated. HCJ president (retired) Naor made it clear that allowing the State to consider authorizing the outpost in this case must not be taken as a carte blanche by the court for the future. In the ruling, she wrote: “The conclusion must not be that expressing a general interest in retroactively authorizing illegal construction is enough to justify the granting of such requests in future, as a carte blanche for continued disregard for the law.”

See Yesh Din’s full report on the Adei Ad outpost, “The Road to Dispossession: A case study -the outpost of Adei-Ad.”

Israel Complicit in Establishing 14 New Outposts Since 2011

Map by Haaretz

Haaretz is reporting data that shows that the government of Israel has helped establish at least 14 outposts in the West Bank since 2011, even though the government was supposed to have ceased the practice in 2005, under Prime Minister Sharon.

Dror Etkes, founder of the settlement watchdog Kerem Navot, told Haaretz that settlers have strategically chosen to build new outposts on West Bank land that was expropriated by Israel as “state land,” knowing that such outposts would stand a greater chance of being retroactively legalized than those built on land that Israel might recognize as being privately owned by Palestinians. Etkes explained that outpost builders do not, however, limit themselves to state land, saying:

They take over as much surrounding land as possible, including private land, which they steal by other means, such as cultivation or barring access [to the Palestinian landowners]….It’s methodical, and they know exactly what they’re doing.

 

The JNF is Working with a Settler Group to Evict Palestinians in East Jerusalem

In Silwan (known to Israelis as the City of David), the Jewish National Fund (JNF) is working to evict Palestinians from their home in order to sell the property to the settler organization Elad. Elad’s mission is to establish Jewish hegemony over Jerusalem, and focuses its activities intensively on Silwan, both in terms of taking over properties and gaining control of the public domain through control over parks, tourist facilities, and archeological sites (see this report from Ir Amim for further background on Elad and its activities).

Map by Haaretz

The Sumreen family has been fighting for 27-years to prove its rightful ownership of its Silwan home, which the settlers and the JNF challenge based on the fact that one of the Sumreen patriarchs lives in Jordan. Based on his residence there, Israel declared him an “absentee” and took over the rights to the building, despite the fact that members of the Sumreen family still lived in the home.

Peace Now’s Hagit Ofran, who has been helping the family, charged that:

KKL [the Hebrew name for the JNF] has turned from the Jewish National Fund into the Settler National Fund. For 26 years, KKL has been embittering the lives of the Sumreen family with expensive, exhausting lawsuits and has tried over and over to evict it from its home in Silwan. KKL is playing a central role here in an ugly process of using the Absentee Property Law on the basis of dubious testimony, all to give Palestinian assets to Elad.

This is not the first controversy surrounding the JNF’s activities in Silwan, or even over the JNF’s role in the campaign to evict this particular family, which last peaked in 2011. For background, see this report on +972, as well as this commentary from Peace Now’s Hagit Ofran. Notably, controversy over the issue in 2009 prompted the JNF to issue a denial of any role in the efforts; this denial was contradicted by the facts, including the actual wording of the eviction order.

Israeli Government Approves EU Trade Agreement that Excludes Settlements

Despite opposition from some coalition and Knesset hardliners, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and all relevant ministers approved a new trade deal with the European Union that excludes Israeli settlements from its terms. Miri Regev, Israel’s Minister of Culture and Sports, had filed an objection regarding the deal before it was finalized. Regev has now filed a complaint with the Cabinet Secretary, saying her objection was ignored and that she was misled regarding the ability to discuss the terms of the deal.

By approving the deal, Prime Minister and his cabinet ministers acquiesced to the EU’s policy of rejecting the conflation of Israel and settlements (sometimes referred to as “differentiation”) – a policy that Netanyahu and other Israeli officials have disingenuously labeled a “boycott” of Israel). The Israeli government, which is investing millions more in fighting differentiation and international boycotts of both settlements and Israel, had previously threatened to halt cooperation with the EU [in effect, boycott Israel-EU cooperation] over the EU’s refusal to treat settlements as part of Israel.

 

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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.

November 22, 2017

  1. Israeli AG Support for Land-Grab Paves Way for Legalization of [at least] 13 Outposts
  2. Israeli AG Approves Retroactive Legalization of “Mistaken” Land Theft
  3. Israeli AG to Present Argument on the “Regulation Law” This Week
  4. Threatened Eviction of Another Palestinian Bedouin Community in E-1
  5. Israel Fast-Tracks Jerusalem Cable Car Project Despite Political Concerns
  6. Settlers Fight for the “Right of Return” to Illegal, Inaccessible West Bank Settlements
  7. Bonus Reads

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


Israeli AG Support for Land-Grab Paves Way for Legalization of [at least] 13 Outposts

Map by Haaretz

The far-reaching implications of the legal opinion issued last week by Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandleblit, in the context of a case dealing with the Harsha outpost, are becoming alarmingly clear. Haaretz reports that the opinion will pave the way for Israel to retroactively legalize 13 unauthorized outposts, many of which are deep inside of the West Bank. The 13 outposts (and many others) were all built without Israel’s permission on pockets of state land, surrounded by privately owned Palestinian land. Roads leading to these outpost – without which the outposts cannot be fully planned and legalized – were (or will be), by necessity, built on land owned by Palestinians. This opinion paves the way (pun intended) for that to happen.

Dror Etkes, founder of the anti-settlement group Kerem Navot, notes that the impact of the decision is actually far greater than reported by Haaretz: “The real number of [affected] outposts is over 60.” Etkes adds,

The story [is] that the settlers are striving to resolve, with Mandleblit’s help, involves hundreds (yes hundreds!) of roads that have been illegally paved for decades around settlements and outposts, on land that even Israel recognizes as privately-owned. Now, with a little creativity and a lot of nerve, a legal mechanism has been invented to enable settlers to retroactively authorize the road system, without which the national land grab enterprise championed by Israel in the West Bank, can’t function.

Notably, several outposts that spun off from the Itamar settlement are among those that could benefit from this new legal precedent. Near Nablus, Itamar’s hilltop outposts form a contiguous land bridge – with roads connecting them – from Itamar to the Jordan Valley. Itamar’s residents are notorious for their ultra-nationalism.

Israeli AG Approves Retroactive Legalization of “Mistaken” Land Theft

Attorney General Mandleblit has endorsed an argument, made for the first time since 1967, in a legal brief submitted this week in Court by the Israeli government, that paves the way for Israel to expropriate privately owned Palestinian land inside the Ofra settlement, and potentially in other places as well. The land in question was “mistakenly” included as part of the settlement. The State filed the brief this week in response to a legal challenge to the Ofra settlement’s Master Plan. 

Map by Haaretz using Google Maps

The case centers on a “mistake” which happened when the Ofra settlement master plan was approved; Israel argues that at the time it did not know that some of the land in the area had not been declared “state land” (suggesting, at best, extraordinarily faulty due diligence in the planning process, and at worst, a policy of treating Palestinian land ownership claims as irrelevant). In 2016, the State acknowledged Palestinian claims to the land and announced its intention to rectify the problem by re-drawing the settlement’s master plan.

With this new argument, the State, backed by the Attorney General, has reversed the 2016 commitment and is instead moving to formally expropriate the Palestinian plots, arguing that the Ofra settlers acted in good faith based on the government’s approval of the Master Plan (i.e. that settlers should not be punished for the State’s mistake). Earlier this year, AG Mandleblit suggested this exact argument (that land stolen by mistake, in good faith, could be legalized as long as the Palestinian owners were compensated) as an alternative law for the Knesset to pass instead of the Regulation Law, which he opposed.

Commenting on the AG’s opinion, Tawfiq Jabareen, the lawyer representing the Palestinian petitioners, told Haaretz:

Attorney General Mandelblit is continuing to destroy the status of the rule of law and severely undermine Palestinian property rights in the occupied territories.

Israeli AG to Present Argument on the “Regulation Law” This Week

On Nov. 23rd, Attorney General Avichai Mandleblit is expected to present his argument on the “Regulation Law” to the Supreme Court. As we reported previously, Mandleblit was staunchly opposed to the Regulation Law, arguing that the law is unconstitutional and refusing to defend the law against legal challenges mounted by several civil society groups earlier this year. At the time the law was being considered, Mandleblit proposed an alternative legal strategy to accomplish the same goal: the retroactive legalization of Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank. 

Map by Peace Now

Mandleblit has been expected to argue forcefully against the law, which provides a new legal basis for the retroactive legalization of outposts and agricultural land seizures, with Palestinian owners provided “compensation” (but no choice in the matter). Following the opinion Mandleblit issued last week regarding the Harsha outpost case (implications of which we detail above), and given his recent support for the retroactive legalization of land theft for the benefit of the Ofra settlement (detailed above), it is quite possible that his opposition to the retroactive legalization of land seizures has softened.

If upheld, the Regulation Law can be used to retroactively legalize 55 outposts and 4,000 unauthorized settlement structures by expropriating over 8,000 dunks of privately owned Palestinian land.

Threatened Eviction of Another Palestinian Bedouin Community

The wave of IDF-ordered evictions continued this week, with the Jabal al-Baba bedouin community only the latest to be affected. The approximately 300 residents were ordered to leave their encampment near the Maale Adumim/E-1 settlement area east of Jerusalem within 8 days. The Jabal al-Baba community has been living in the area since 1948, after it was expelled from the Negev.

The Jabal al-Baba community is the second bedouin community in the Maale Adumim/E-1 area to be faced with eviction this year. In August, Israel escalated its longstanding threat to forcibly relocate the Khan al-Ahmar bedouin community to a site near the Abu Dis garbage dump – a move that B’Tselem warns will constitute a war crime. FMEP has covered the story in detail, including as it relates to the prospects for the construction of the doomsday E-1 settlement.

Israeli actions to remove Palestinian bedouin communities from Area C are not confined to the Jerusalem area. On November 1st, the Israeli army ordered the eviction of an entire bedouin community in the northern Jordan Valley.

Israel Fast-Tracks Jerusalem Cable Car Project Despite Political Concerns

Haaretz reports that Israeli planning authorities are moving ahead with plans to build a controversial cable car line in East Jerusalem, despite growing opposition. As FMEP reported in July, the planned cable car line is designed to facilitate tourism to Jewish sites in East Jerusalem while preventing tourists from encountering Palestinians. It features a stop at the settler-run Kedem Center, which was built in the Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan.

Jerusalem expert Daniel Seidemann explained

There are four worrisome aspects to this project. Without reference to political matters or religious sensitivities, this is a crime against Jerusalem. Disrespect for the unique value of the city and another example of the ‘disneyfication’ of Jerusalem under [Mayor Nir] Barkat. Someone who loves Jerusalem could not conceive of such a project. [The idea that] someone can send a cable car 150 meters away from the Al Aqsa Mosque is smoking the wrong thing….[the project] is another example of how the public interest and the interests of Jerusalemites are being subverted for the good of the settlers of Silwan, with the final station shamelessly at the Kedem Center, serving the narrow ideological interests of the settlers….[the project is] a clumsy attempt to unify the divided city by means of engineering gimmicks.

Settlers Fight for the “Right of Return” to Illegal, Inaccessible West Bank Settlements

Israeli settlers are angling to return to four settlements – Ganim, Kadim, Sa-Nur and Homesh – that were dismantled in 2005, as part of Ariel Sharon’s disengagement plan. Settlers have long insisted they will “return” to the sites.

In this latest effort, they are focusing on the argument that the land has not been used since they abandoned it. Falling in Area C, and therefore under the full authority of Israel’s Civil Administration, the former settlements remain vacant despite Palestinian desire to develop it. The Jenin Municipality, which has nominal jurisdiction over the location, reportedly wants to develop the areas but has not yet applied for the necessary Israeli permits; applying to do so, in any case, would almost certainly be futile, given that Israel issues virtually no permits for Palestinian construction in Area C. In the meantime, the sites have become a garbage dumpsites.

Two or the sites – Ganim and Kadim – can only be accessed by driving through the Palestinian city of Jenin, raising security issues that make their redevelopment into settlements a remote possibility. Sa-Nur and Homesh, in contrast, are easily accessible by settlers. Earlier this year settlers and supporters, including right-wing Israeli lawmakers, gathered at the site of Sa-Nur demanding that the government let them return. At the site of Homesh, radical settler youth are already squatting, have established a yeshiva (religious school) and actively prevent Palestinian access.

Bonus Reads

  1. “How Israeli settlers turn archeological sites into political tools” (Al-Monitor)
  2. “Ombudsman: Settlement council doctored tenders to reward right-wing NGOs” (Times of Israel)

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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.

October 26, 2017

  1. Assault on Jerusalem [And a Negotiated Solution], Part 1: Cabinet to vote Sunday on “Greater Jerusalem [Annexation] Bill,”  with Netanyahu’s Backing
  2. Assault on Jerusalem [And a Negotiated Solution], Part 2: East Jerusalem Settlement Enclave in Jabal Mukaber Set to Triple in Size
  3. Assault on Jerusalem [And a Negotiated Solution], Part 3: First New East Jerusalem Settlement in Decades, Atarot, Is Inching Closer Towards Construction
  4. The New U.S. Settlement Policy: Expand at Will, but Don’t Surprise Us
  5. Israeli Justice Minister Personally Involved in Drafting State Responses to Settlement Petitions before the High Court of Justice
  6. Updates: Netiv Ha’avot and the “Settler Security Package”
  7. Bonus Reads

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


Assault on Jerusalem [And a Negotiated Solution], Part 1: The “Greater Jerusalem [Annexation] Bill” is Set for a Vote on Sunday with Netanyahu’s Backing

The Israeli Knesset reconvened on Monday for it finals session of the year; in addition to a litany of anti-democratic bills [Americans Peace Now published an excellent explainer of those bills here], Netanyahu has reportedly signalled the Knesset to pass the “Greater Jerusalem Bill” [text here]. With Netanyahu’s approval, the bill is expected to be come up for a vote in the Cabinet on Sunday, October 29th, and after that to be sent to the Knesset.

If passed into law, the “Greater Jerusalem Bill” will:

  1. Map by Peace Now

    Effectively annex a an enormous area of the West Bank into Israel’s Jerusalem Municipality, including not only the settlements but huge areas of adjacent land designated by Israel as belonging to the settlements. Peace Now has a map of the settlements/land  that will annexed [click for greater detail].

  2. Include as part of Jerusalem settlements/lands located far from the current borders of Jerusalem, extending deep into the West Bank nearly to Jericho (the Palestinian city located on the border with Jordan) and including settlement located closer to Hebron than to Jerusalem.
  3. Effectively annex the area of the planned E-1 settlement, the same area where the Khan al-Ahmar community continues to await the fate of Israel’s plan to forcibly relocate them (a war crime) out of the area.
  4. Redraw the borders of the Jerusalem Municipality to cut out several Palestinian neighborhoods that are legally part of  the Municipality but that Israel elected to leave on the West Bank side of its separation barrier (these neighborhoods would have new “sub-municipalities” created for them).

PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi stated bluntly “such efforts represent the end of the two-state solution.”

The anti-settlement watchdog Peace Now writes,

The bill states that its implementation would allow to maintain a “demographic balance” between Jews and Palestinians in Jerusalem, and will allow for the expansion of construction of housing units and industry in the area. It is clear that the idea is to allow rapid settlement construction in settlements near Jerusalem and create facts on the ground which will prevent the chance for a two state solution, and at the same time excise Palestinian neighborhood by the formation of “sub-municipalities” or if you will, Bantustans, devoid of resources which will allow them to be self-sufficient.

J Street writes that passage of the bill,

would be a major step in Israel’s ongoing, de facto annexation of territory throughout the West Bank – and pose a massive threat to the possibility of ever achieving a two-state solution. If carried out, Israel would be crossing a major red line by unilaterally imposing its own solution to a vital final status issue.

In addition to the “Greater Jerusalem Bill,” a second bill regarding Jerusalem is also on the Knesset’s winter docket. If passed, this bill would amend Israel’s Basic Law to require a supermajority – 80 out of 120 votes – in the Knesset to approve any deal that transfers sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem to a foreign entity. This gives the Knesset veto power over any future peace deal reasonably assuming that the Palestinians will not agree to cede all of Jerusalem (it’s historic capital and home to sacred religious and national sites) to Israel.

Americans for Peace Now explains,

If passed into law, this measure would be unmatched in the Israeli legal code. No other Israeli government executive decision requires a two-thirds majority. This legislation would tie the hands of future governments in negotiating peace and will grant a de facto veto to representatives of the Israeli public’s anti-peace minority. The bill passed an initial vote and will need to pass three additional readings to become law. The absurdity is that the law, if passed, will surely garner significantly fewer than the 80 votes it demands for a future decision on Jerusalem.

Earlier this month, when these two bills were first unveiled, Terrestrial Jerusalem’s founder Danny Seidemann warned:

Cumulatively, these … initiatives constitute an effort to implement the most radical changes in the status of East Jerusalem since the Israeli annexation in June 1967, and threaten to profoundly detrimental impacts on the prospects of a future political agreement. Indeed, it is difficult to overestimate their significance. Together they would create a radically new geopolitical reality in Jerusalem and its environs.

Ir Amim also cautions:

The bills have not surfaced in a vacuum; they complement a series of recent initiatives calculated to impose crucial territorial-political facts on the ground under the guise of “municipal moves.” They would preempt chances of a political resolution to the conflict, weaken the urban fabric, and ratchet up tensions in Jerusalem.

Assault on Jerusalem [And a Negotiated Solution], Part 2: East Jerusalem Settlement Enclave in Jabal al-Mukaber Set to Triple in Size

In addition to the wave of settlement approvals by the Israeli High Planning Council last week [read last week’s Settlement Report here], on Oct. 25th, the Jerusalem Municipality issued conditional building permits for 176 new units in the Nof Zion settlement enclave. The permits are pending until the settlers submit proof of ownership papers; the missing paperwork has delayed the issuance of the permits since the plan was first leaked in early September (it’s not clear what has changed to allow for them to be issued now).

Map by Peace Now

Nof Zion is inside the Palestinian neighborhood of Jabel al-Mukaber in occupied East Jerusalem. The new units will nearly triple the size of the enclave, making it the largest of its kind in East Jerusalem.

When reports of the building permits for Nof Zion surfaced earlier this year, it sparked outrage and concern over unrestrained settlement growth in East Jerusalem and its impacts on the future of Jerusalem. The same concerns are now more urgent and alarming, as it appears there are no settlement plans too controversial for the Netanyahu government to greenlight.

Ir Amim writes,

The primary objective of the settlers’ infiltration into the Palestinian neighborhoods in and around the Old City is to undermine the possibility of dividing Jerusalem, thereby foiling the possibility of a political resolution on the city and an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The building permits will issue a clear statement that the Israeli government sanctions and supports the establishment of new facts on the ground designed for this purpose.

Assault on Jerusalem [And a Negotiated Solution], Part 3: First New, Government-Backed East Jerusalem Settlement in Decades, Atarot, Inches Closer Towards Construction

In a move described by city  planning experts as “nothing less than fantasty,” the Israeli government has set aside millions of shekels to build 10,000+ units in a new settlement planned at the site known as Atarot, in the northern part of East Jerusalem. If implemented, Atarot would be the first new government-backed settlement established in East Jerusalem since the construction of Har Homa in the 1990s [unless plans to move ahead with the new settlement of Givat Hamatos come to fruition first – in that case, Givat Hamatos would be the first new government-backed settlement established in East Jerusalem since the early 1990s; Atarot would be the second].

Map by Peace Now

The planned Atarot settlement would be located in the northern part of the East Jerusalem, extending to the southern edge of the West Bank city of Ramallah. It would include 10,000+ units for ultra-Orthodox Jewish Israelis. The location for construction is site of the disused Atarot airport. The airport site is an important commodity, reportedly promised to the Palestinians for their state’s future international gateway. Developing the site into a Jewish Israeli settlement would deprive a future Palestinian state of the only airport in the West Bank, dismember Palestinian neighborhoods in the norther part of the city, and sever East Jerusalem from a Palestinian state on this northern flank of the city (acting like E-1 on Jerusalem’s northeast flank, and like Givat Hamatos on Jerusalem’s southern flank).

FMEP first reported on Atarot in April 2017 when the settlement plan was rumored to be  included on the master blueprint of settlements for which  Netanyahu intended to seek U.S. approval. It was expected to be announced in May on the occasion of the Jerusalem Day celebration, but until now, the plan has not advanced.

The plan dates back to 2007; it was pursued by the Israeli government in 2012 but shelved under pressure from the Obama administration. At that time, Peace Now’s Hagit Ofran observed:

Not only that this plan might severely harm the future Palestinian State, destroying the only airport in the West Bank, but it will also cut between East Jerusalem and Ramallah at the heart of many Palestinian neighborhoods: Shu’afat and Beit Hanina in the South, Bir Nabala, Al Judeira, Al Jib, Rafat and Qalandia in the West, Ar-Ram, Dahiyat al Bareed and Jaba’ from the East, and Qalandia Refugee Camp, Kafr ‘Aqab and Ramallah from the North. It seems that what the Givat Hamatos plan is meant to do in the South of Jerusalem (to cut between Bethlehem and East Jerusalem), this plan will, god forbid, do at the North of it. The goal of this plan is clear: to prevent the possibility of a Palestinian State in the West Bank, and thus to kill the two states solution.

This week, Peace Now commented:

This is a crazy plan, both politically and in terms of planning. It is an attempt to drive a wedge into the heart of an urban area of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. Since the neighborhood of Har Homa was established in the 1990s, no new Israeli neighborhood has been built beyond the Green Line in Jerusalem.

Reported New U.S. Settlement Policy: Expand at Will, but Don’t Surprise Us

According to a report posted on Al-Monitor, two months of secret negotiations between the U.S. and Israel have resulted in an unofficial framework for how Israel, with U.S. approval, will advance and expand settlements. The agreement reportedly entails the following:

  1. The U.S. will see all settlement plans Israel has decided to approve before they are advanced bureaucratically (i.e., before moves that allow them to become public).
  2. Israel can approve plans for new settlement units anywhere that is adjacent to an existing unit (read: in any/all/every settlement or outpost).
  3. With respect to the West Bank, there is an unspecified limit on the quantity of new units that each new settlement project is allowed.
  4. With respect to East Jerusalem, there is no limit on the number of units allowed to advance as long as rules 1 & 2 are respected.

It should be noted that the only plan that appears to violate the letter of this leaked deal is the plan for the Atarot settlement in East Jerusalem, which is not adjacent to any existing units (rule #2).

Israeli Justice Minister Personally Involved in Drafting State Responses to Settlement Petitions before the High Court of Justice

Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is coming under fire for her intervention in every case before the High Court related to Israeli settlements and unauthorized outposts. Haaretz reported this week that since being appointed, Shaked has retained the services of a private lawyer to review and redraft each and every state response related to settlements and outposts before that response is submitted to the High Court of Justice. Moreover, the lawyer Shaked selected for this task comes from the notorious far-right, pro-settler group Regavim — a group that devotes its efforts to systematically mapping out and expelling Palestinians from strategic areas in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Negev.
Further Haaretz reporting revealed the Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandleblit and the State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan (whose office ostensibly produces the first draft of state responses that Shaked then edits) have defended Shaked against criticism for this heavy handed political interference in legal matters.

Updates: Netiv Ha’avot and the “Settler Security Package”

  • Map by Peace Now

    The Israeli High Court dismissed a state-backed petition by settlers challenging the planned demolition of  17 structures built wholly or partly on privately-owned Palestinian land in the unauthorized outpost of Netiv Ha’avot. The settlers asked that 15 of the structures only be partially demolished, leaving intact the portions of them that are not on Palestinian land. The Court rejected the request and ordered the structures to be demolished. The entire outpost of Netiv Ha’avot is slated to be razed by March 2018 following a High Court ruling. Just last week, the High Planning Council approved a plan (a plan it called “improper” but approved anyway) to build 17 temporary new homes for Netiv Ha’avot residents on lands between the Elazar and Alon Shvut settlements. This land parcel is outside of either of the settlements’ jurisdictions – in effect, it is another case of rewarding settlers for breaking the law by “compensating” them with the establishment of a brand-new settlement. However, to avoid the appearance that this is the case, the High Planning Council ordered the borders of Alon Shvut to be formally expanded before the structures are built to include the parcel (which would mean that the plan would not, retroactively, violate the new U.S.-Israeli policy understanding reported previously). 

  • Settlers continued to protest Netanyahu even after news last week that the government plans to dispense $939 million in 2019 for the “settler security package” they are demanding. In an attempt to placate the settlers’ demands, Netanyahu met with the settler leaders to speed up his government’s timeline for beginning the West Bank settlement infrastructure projects, outlining a plan to invest $228 million beginning in next year. According to the unwritten plan, the 2018 projects will include paving five new settler-only highways to bypass Palestinian villages.

Bonus Reads

  1. “Dangerously ‘imprecise’ on Israeli settlements” (Americans for Peace Now)
  2. “Unprotected: Detention of Palestinian Teenagers in East Jerusalem” (B’Tselem & HaMoked)
  3. “Settler Leaders Appeal to High Court Over Bypass Road” (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.