Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
To subscribe to this report, please click here.
June 19, 2020
- High Court Overturns Settlement Regulation Law
- Israel Starts Construction on Major New Settler Bypass Road in East Jerusalem
- Israel Announces New Opening Date for Givat Hamatos Settlement Tender
- Top Court Orders Israel to Explain Failure to Enforce Building Laws in West Bank
- Israel Government Pauses Settler-Backed Excavation in Silwan, Tacitly Acknowledging Impacts on Palestinian Residents
- Israel Demolishes Structures in Two Outposts, Arrests 13 Settlers
- Israel Continues Prepping for Annexation
- With New Phased Plan, Netanyahu Said to Be Ready to Implement Annexation With or Without Gantz’s Support
- Gantz Suggests Annexing Two Large “Consensus” Settlement Areas First
- Amb. David Friedman Tries, Fails to Broker Annexation Agreement Between Israeli Leaders
- Settlers Continue Opposing Key Parts of Trump Plan, But Offer Support for Phased Approach
- “Hilltop Youth” Launch Campaign to Stop Trump Plan, Claim Land in Area A of West Bank
- Settler Group Raises Concern for the Fate of West Bank Religious Sites Under the Trump Plan
- Bonus Reads
Comments/questions? Contact Kristin McCarthy (firstname.lastname@example.org)
In a ruling issued on June 9th, the Israeli High Court of Justice overturned the Regulation Law, which was passed by the Israeli Knesset in February 2017 in order to create a legal basis to allow Israel to retroactively legalize outposts and settlement structures which had been built on land that Israel acknowledges is privately owned by Palestinians. In overturning the law, the Court found:
- The Knesset cannot legislate directly over the West Bank. The Court’s ruling acknowledged that the West Bank is a region under “belligerent occupation,” where the norm for 53 years has been that the Israeli military commander is the temporary, de facto sovereign authority, not the Knesset. The Regulation Law violates this norm.
- Palestinians living in the West Bank have the special status as “protected persons” living under “belligerent occupation,” and Israeli settlers do not enjoy the same status (i.e., settlers are not part of the “local population” of the West Bank). This particular statement overturns a previous opinion issued by former High Court judge Salim Joubran in 2017, which said settlers can be considered part of the local population — an opinion which had far-reaching implications for Israel’s rule over the West Bank.
- The law violates the right to property and the right to equality, because it only provided a basis for the confiscation of Palestinian land for Israeli use, but not vice versa.
- The law does not serve a legitimate purpose. On this point, Peace Now writes: “Most purposes presented by the state for why expropriating Palestinian private land was allowed were deemed illegitimate [by the Court]. Only one was not categorically rejected: preventing harm to the settlers, who would have to leave their houses. In this case, the Court pointed out that there are other ways to mitigate this unfairness (compensation with money and housing), and that it is not proportional to just continue using someone else’s land. “
In a joint statement following the ruling, Peace Now, Yesh Din and ACRI say:
“The Regulation Law was a black mark on the Israeli Knesset and on Israeli democracy, and the High Court of Justice has ruled the obvious: thou shalt not steal. We are proud that we served as the responsible adult that fought tirelessly to stop it. It was our duty to prevent the harm it threatened to Palestinians living under occupation, as well as to the prospects of peace. The law was of a criminal nature, designed to retroactively legalize thievery and allow systematic plundering of land. We have curbed this unsuccessful attempt to expropriate private land of a people, living under occupation by a government they did not choose, for the benefit of new settlements aimed at fragmenting the West Bank. Although the Court avoided ruling on whether the Knesset has jurisdiction to legislate over the Occupied Territories, it deemed that such legislation is problematic (to say the least). This raises a red flag to the peddlers of annexation. Let it be clear: If the Government of Israel goes ahead with its plan to annex, it will authorize the harsh damages the High Court sought to prevent by revoking this law.”
“All lands in the West Bank are Palestinian, and even after today’s HCJ (High Court of Justice) ruling Israel will continue to take over more and more Palestinian land. This reality of ongoing land theft by the State of Israel does not fundamentally change today, nor does it diminish the Israeli HCJ’s role in legitimizing it over the years.”
Though the High Court’s ruling this week is a positive development, the state’s need for the Regulation Law has entirely been overtaken by events – possible annexation being one, and the “market regulation” principle being another.
Annexation (i.e., under Israeli law, transforming land held under “belligerent occupation” into part of the sovereign state of Israel) would likely render moot two of the key arguments cited by the Court in overturning the Regulation Law. Specifically, after annexation, the Court would likely accede both to the Knesset’s right to legislate directly over West Bank land that is annexed, and to the argument that Palestinians living in these areas enjoy no special protected status. Israel would still need to find or create a legal basis to justify confiscating privately owned Palestinian land annexed by Israel (whether to legalize Israeli construction or to justify taking land from Palestinian landowers who reside beyond the line of annexation).
Whether or not annexation proceeds, Israel has already found and begun implementing an alternative legal tactic to grant retroactively legalization to outposts and settlement structures bult on privately owned Palestinian land. Attorney General Avichai Mandleblit – who opposed the Regulation Law’s legal reasoning, but not its objective – has succeeded in charting out that alternative course via what has been called the “Market Regulation principle.” Mandleblit argues that this principle is “a more proportionate and balanced measure than the arrangement prescribed in the Regulation Law,” providing a narrower legal basis by which Israel can strip Palestinian landowners of their rights (Peace Now estimates that 2,000 structures can be legalized under the “market regulation principle,” compared to 4,000 under the Regulation Law). Of course, this argument overlooks the severe violation of Palestinian rights, the rule of law, and international law inherent in Israel’s decision to in effect erase Palestinian private property rights in the occupied territory to benefit the settlers.
Lastly, it is important to remember that there is a concerted effort being waged against the High Court by Netanyahu and a constellation of his friends and enemies on the political right. For years, right-wing lawmakers have accused the Court of being a leftist bastion, and those lawmakers have been pushing legislation that would allow the Knesset to overrule the High Court of Justice, specifically connecting that campaign to the fate of the Regulation Law.
Following the pattern, after the Court’s ruling against the Regulation Law, the Likud Party called the Court’s decision “unfortunate,” saying that the law was “important to the settlement enterprise and its future” and vowing to immediately act to advance a new law with the same goal. Speaker of the Knesset Yariv Levin (Likud) said:
“the Knesset will no longer be silent in light of the ongoing violation of its powers and status. Today, the High Court once again trampled on Israeli democracy and the basic human rights of many of Israel’s citizens, as has become its wrongful practice. The ruling given seemingly without authority is making another rip in Israeli society and will further damage public confidence in the Supreme Court and its judges.”
The Yamina Party also announced that it would once again be advancing legislation to allow the Knesset to override High Court decisions, saying that anyone who opposes the bill “is a leftist.”
Israel has started construction on a major new bypass road for settlers – dubbed the “American road” – meant to seamlessly connect settlements located in the north and south of Jerusalem to one another. The road will be accessible to Palestinians, a fact touted as proof of Israeli benevolence, but its clear primary purpose is to entrench Israel settlements, expand Israeli control over all of East Jerusalem, and close off Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhoods from the rest of the West Bank, thereby (further) torpedoing Palestinian hopes of one day establishing a capital in East Jerusalem.
The new road will be five miles long, stretching from the Har Homa settlement in the southern part of East Jerusalem towards the site of the E-1 settlement site located in the West Bank, on Jerusalem’s eastern periphery near the Maale Adumim settlement. It is being built in three sections. The two southern sections are currently under construction, including a towering bridge over Palestinian neighborhoods. Construction tenders for the northern section of the highway, which will include a 1-mile long tunnel just east of the Mount of Olives, are expected to be issued by the end of the year according to an official at the Jerusalem Municipality. It is forecast to cost approximately $250 million USD.
Fadi Al-Hidmi, the Palestinian Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, told Reuters:
“This project cuts off Palestinian neighborhoods within the city from one another…[it] surrounds occupied East Jerusalem to further connect Israeli settlements and sever the occupied Palestinian capital from the rest of the West Bank.”
Terrestrial Jerusalem founder Daniel Seidemann explains:
“What we are seeing here is, again, the seamless integration of the northern West Bank, East Jerusalem under sole Israeli control, and the southern West Bank for the purposes of the settlers. That is the motivation”
On June 15th, the Israel Land Authority announced that the tender for construction of 1,077 units in the Givat Hamatos settlement is set to open for bids on August 2nd. The opening of the bidding period was originally set for May 3rd, but was delayed without explanation. If the new date sticks, the bidding period will be open until September 7th.
Peace Now said in a statement:
“Promoting construction in Givat HaMatos is a dangerous step that could ultimately cripple the prospect of peace and a two-state solution. Netanyahu published the tender while in a probational government, without a mandate. The new government must abolish this disaster and stop the tender. It is sad to see that parties in the government which received the votes of the peace camp are giving a hand to move this plan along instead of annulling it for the sake of Israel’s future.”
Terrestrial Jerusalem speculates as to why, after deferring the opening of the tender, Netanyahu might be moving forward now, saying:
“…Givat Hamatos could well become a compensation to the settlers should the government refrain from pursuing annexation or should it decide to limit the scope of annexation. It is difficult to predict how this will play in the government’s calculus but it is difficult to separate the two issues. The possibly looming annexation, the publication of Givat Hamatos tenders and the hearings slated for July for the final approval of E1 are intimately related to the fact that Netanyahu has chosen this timing to move on plans which he had frozen for decades is an indication that these actions may be viewed as anticipatory annexation.”
As a reminder, the Givat Hamatos settlement has been fully approved but not constructed. Located in the southern part of East Jerusalem, Givat Hamatos settlement has long been called a doomsday settlement by parties interested in preserving the possibility of a two-state solution. If the Givat Hamatos settlement is built, the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa in East Jerusalem will be completely surrounded by Israeli construction, severing its connection to the West Bank.
On June 15th, the Israeli High Court of Justice gave the Israeli government two months to offer an explanation for why it has not opened a criminal investigation into unauthorized construction in the Hayovel outpost, located in the central West Bank.
The Court’s order comes in response to a petition filed by Peace Now in January 2019 asking the Court to stop the illegal construction at the Hayovel site and investigate the criminal involvement of the Binyamin Regional Council in promoting illegal construction. At that time (18 long months ago), the State announced that the police anti-fraud unit and the State Prosecutor’s Office would “examine” the case. The state has failed to launch that “examination,” and is now being ordered to explain why.
Israel Government Pauses Settler-Backed Excavation in Silwan, Tacitly Acknowledging Impacts on Palestinian Residents
In a report released last month, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) said that several months ago it had briefly halted digging on the excavation of the “Pilgrim’s Road” – an excavation backed by the radical Elad settler group and promoted by U.S. Ambassador David Friedman underneath the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem – because the ground around the site began to sink. In order to shore up the collapsing area, the IAA had to build huge underground steel framed structure to hold up the street and buildings above.
Despite years of Palestinians reporting that settler digging was literally undermining and causing damage to their homes and property in Silwan, Elad and the IAA have always denied any connection between the damage and their archeological projects. In a recent report, the Israeli NGO Emek Shaveh – which has routinely reported on the problematic excavation practices utilized in Silwan and their impacts on Palestinians homeowners and residents – found cracks in 38 houses (home to 200 residents) near the dig site.
The IAA attempted to downplay the pause in excavations, telling Haaretz:
“The excavation is being conducted with ongoing engineering oversight combined with technology that continuously monitors the ground. As part of this monitoring, a few months ago a minor shift was detected on the level of the ancient Herodian street (and not on the modern street, which is eight meters above). An examination found that the area does not run under residential homes or structures. As a result of the monitoring, a new engineering solution was immediately applied and has proven effective.”
On June 15th the Israeli Civil Administration forcibly evacuated and demolished buildings in two unauthorized outposts – Baladim and Maoz Esther – located in the northern West Bank. Haaretz reports that settlers rioted and threw rocks as the Israeli Border Police carried out the demolition orders, leading to the arrest of 13 settlers.
The unauthorized outpost of Moaz Esther has been repeatedly demolished by the Civil Administration, and settlers have repeatedly re-established the outpost without authorization to do so. This cat-and-mouse game was once dubbed “the never-ending evacuation.”
The Baladim outpost – an outpost associated with the radical, violent “Hilltop Youth” – is located on a hilltop in the northern Jordan Valley and has likewise been evacuated by the IDF and re-occupied by the youth numerous times. It is alleged that settlers from Baladim may have been responsible for the horrific arson attack in the Palestinian village of Duma which killed an infant and both of his parents, and critically wounded his 4-year old brother in July 2015. Background on Jordan Valley settlements and outposts is here.
While Israeli leaders debate and negotiate what will/won’t happen come July 1st with respect to annexation, the government continues to take preparatory steps suggesting that it intends to implement some degree of annexation on that date.
This week, Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz attempted to form a committee to oversee and coordinate annexation across the government. Israel’s Channel 12 news reports that three former senior IDF officials rejected Gantz’s offer to head that committee, and that Gantz has not been able to stand up such a committee as of yet.
In the Jordan Valley, Palestinians continue reporting new indications that Israel is already implementing annexation. This week Palestinians report a sharp increase in home demolitions, police raids in Palestinian villages, and confiscations. Palestinians also say that Israeli police have hand delivered notices informing them that they will soon be brought under Israeli domestic law. On June 2nd, Palestinian Prime Minister Shtayyeh also noted that for the first time ever, the Isreali Civil Administration directly delivered electricity bills to Palesitnian villages in the Jordan Valley, a move which brings Palestinians more directly under Israeli municipal governance and control.
With New Phased Plan, Netanyahu Said to Be Ready to Implement Annexation With or Without Gantz’s Support
Israel Hayom reports that Netanyahu intends to enact annexation on July 1st with or without support from Alternative Prime Minister Benny Gantz and (what is left of) his Blue & White party. The newspaper – which is owned by Netanyahu (and Trump) backer Sheldon Adelson and is so closely aligned with Netanyahu that it has long been nicknamed “Bibiton” – reports that Netanyahu will do so via government approval, bypassing entirely a vote in the Knesset. This comes after the announcement by Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel (of Derekh Eretz, a party in the Blue & White bloc) that he would vote in favor of annexation if presented by Netanyahu, giving Netanyahu a majority in the cabinet. The Israel Hayom report further suggests that in the event that Gantz somehow succeeds in stymying the passage of his annexation plan by the Cabinet, Netanyahu will call for new elections. This follows the results of a recent poll showing that Netanyahu’s Likud Party would win a new election by a landslide.
During negotiations this week Netanyahu also reportedly presented Gantz and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman with maps of four alternate options for annexation. According to an Israeli official briefed on the meeting, Netanyahu’s proposed scenarios range from annexing 30% of the West Bank (as provided for under the Trump Plan), to annexing a “symbolic” amount of land (reminder: any annexation, no matter how “small” or “symbolic” is a flagrant violation of international law and can only be considered land theft), to options somewhere in between the two. Israel Hayom reports that none of Netanyahu’s four scenarios completely align with the Trump Plan, suggesting perhaps that Netanyahu has adopted some of the demands made by settlers (e.g., no settlement enclaves, no Palestinian state, no construction freeze).
A June 17th report by Israel Hayom offers a theory that Netanyahu is hopeful that the U.S. will support a phased annexation plan. According to this theory, Netanyahu plans for the first phase – to start on July 1st – to involve annexing far-flung settlements located deep inside the West Bank. After that, Bibi will reach out to the Palestinian Authority for talks. If the PA refuses to negotiate, he will proceed with the second phase of annexing all remaining settlements and more land across the entire West Bank. Explaining Netanyahu’s rationale behind this plan, Israel Hayom writes:
“There were reportedly several considerations that prompted the prime minister to consider a two-stage plan to implement sovereignty. First, he expects that the revised plan will send a signal to the international community and the region that Israel listens to their criticism and acts cautiously. Second, a two-stage implementation is also expected to suit the White House, which sees the Trump plan as a peace plan rather than a plan for annexation. The Trump administration wants the Palestinians to realize that time is not on their side, so calling on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to come to the table between the first and second stages of the plan’s implementation serves that purpose…There are other reasons why Netanyahu wants to begin the application of sovereignty ‘deep’ inside Judea and Samaria: refraining from applying sovereignty to the Jordan Valley in the first stage could blunt Jordan’s response, which is a concern. Moreover, a broad agreement that the Jordan Valley will remain in Israel hands under any future peace deal already exists, making the valley less urgent than the Judea and Samaria settlements. The same reasoning applies to the large settlement blocs in areas such as Ariel, Maaleh Adumim, and Gush Etzion. All previous peace plans have stated that these blocs would remain part of Israel, whereas the application of Israeli sovereignty to the far-flung settlements would be a weighty diplomatic statement and eradicate the possibility of them being uprooted and evacuated in the future.”
An anonymous cabinet minister made yet another argument in favor of a more aggressive first phase of annexation, telling Army Radio:
“the diplomatic price Israel will pay if it goes to partial annexation is the same as full annexation, so it is not clear what the thinking is behind a partial move.”
In a separate report by Kan Radio on June 17th suggests Gantz and his Blue & White Party have their own plan which would have Israel annex the Etzion and Ma’aleh Adumim settlement “blocs” on July 1st, in a direct contradiction to the logic underpinning Netanyahu’s plan to annex the more controversial settlements in the first phase of the plan, as described above. Though the report mentions that Gantz’s plan also involves phases, no further details were revealed.
Earlier in the week, during the three-way negotiations with Netanyahu and U.S. Ambassador David Friedman, Gantz reportedly staked out four key positions for any annexation plan:
- He is opposed to annexing areas that have a large number of Palestinian residents “in order to prevent friction”;
- He insists that all Palestinians living in annexed land must be granted citizenship;
- He wants regional cooperation on annexation (i.e., he wants a plan that would not harm relations with Jordan and that is palatable to the rest of the Arab world, with which Israel has worked for years to court better economic/diplomatic relationships);
- He wants to be able to say Palestinians get some benefits in return for annexation.
“If the Israeli government says its supreme goal is to separate from the Palestinians and reach a solution where the Palestinians no longer live under our control, then I will support it.”
The new phased approaches to annexation offered by Netanyahu and Gantz come on the heels of a week of negotiations between the two Israeli leaders, kicked off on June 15th at an unprecedented summit convened by U.S. Ambassador David Friedman. Friedman was apparently unsuccessful in brokering an agreement, and at the end of the week reportedly walked away from the negotiations, telling Gantz and Netanyahu something along the lines of, “This is my number, call me if you manage to agree.” It is unclear what role Jared Kushner, the ostensible leader of the U.S. team, might have played in this week’s events; Kushner is reportedly in favor of delaying annexation, while Friedman is pushing for annexation to move ahead as soon as possible. Discussions between Netanyahu and Gantz are scheduled to resume next week.
Netanyahu’s threat (discussed above) to go ahead with annexation without the support of Gantz contravenes the U.S. call for Israeli unity behind any annexation. It was only one week ago that a senior U.S. official said that it is “highly unlikely” that the U.S. will give a greenlight to annexation that is not supported by Gantz. The Israel Hayom report suggests that Netanyahu hopes the U.S. can get behind one of his proposals, allowing him to proceed with or without Gantz.
A recent poll found that 56% of settlers support the Trump Plan, as the settler leadership continues lobbying for more land as negotiations over the annexation map continue. The poll found the 28% of settlers believe the plan is “terrible and must be opposed.”
On June 7th Netanayahu, Settlements Minister Tzipi Hotovely, and Speaker of the Knesset Yariv Levin met with a group of eleven settler leaders who support the Trump Plan. Participants in the meeting said that Netanyahu promised that he would not agree to the future establishment of Palestinian state, and that he would not agree to any construction freeze for any settlements – addressing two of the three main demands from settlers, even settlers who support the Trump Plan.
The third key concern/demand from settlers is that the map does not leave Israeli settlements in enclaves surrounded by Palestinian-controlled territory. To that end, settlers from the Yesha Council – which has mostly opposed the Trump Plan – have drawn up their own map, reportedly showing how the construction of a new road system can eliminate the concern about settlement enclaves.
Notably, settlers who participated in the June 7th meeting confirmed early reports about Netanyahu’s design for a phased annexation plan (different from the phased plan reported by Israel Hayom). According to these reports, Phase 1 will start on July 1st with annexing all the settlements, but leaving the rest of the land allocated to Israel under the Trump Plan, including the Jordan Valley, to be annexed later.
Notably, the CEO of the settler Yesha Council, Yigal Dilmoni, came out in support of a phased annexation plan, while doubling down on the settlers’ conditions for accepting such a plan, saying:
“There must be sovereignty, even if it is in stages, but in no way can there be a Palestinian state, nor a [settlement building] freeze, and no enclave settlements.”
Meanwhile, Yesha Council Chairman David Elhayani continues his no-holds-barred attack on the Trump Plan and its architects, telling Haaretz that he prefers the status quo in the West Bank, and going on to say:
“From the beginning, I marked the Americans as a target. I said that [Trump’s special adviser and son-in-law Jared] Kushner had stabbed Netanyahu in the back after the event in Washington, and I later said that Friedman was being deceptive in selling only the sovereignty part without revealing to Israelis that ultimately there’s also a Palestinian state. This was a scam, and it was time to go to Trump – who isn’t familiar with the plan – and tell him: ‘Sir, you’re endangering the security of the State of Israel.’ The Palestinian public is of no interest to them. I’ll tell you what interests them: they want to chalk up some achievement. Kushner wants to bring his father-in-law Trump the achievement of being the greatest leader in the world. No leader since 1948 has managed to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and here, the great Trump arrived and did it! He’ll say, ‘I told you. I’m a businessman and I know how to close deals. This is the deal I closed: Have sovereignty and give a Palestinian state.’ If you met President Trump tomorrow morning and asked him about the details of this plan, do you think he’d know?”
The Times of Israel reports that dozens of settlers associated with the radical and violent “Hilltop Youth” movement have launched a campaign called “It’s All Ours” that aims to undermine the Trump Plan by staking a claim to areas which the Trump Plan does not give Israel an explicit green light to annex (at least not yet). This means they are targeting areas where there is a large Palestinian population, mainly areas desingated as “Area A” under the Oslo Accords.
Organizers of the campaign said there will be three phases leading up to July 1st (the first day that the Israeli government can enact annexation, as agreed to in the unity government deal). Phase one saw over 100 settlers posted 5,500 fliers along West Bank road. The flyers warned against “the danger of the division of the land that is on the horizon.” Phase two will launch rallies and marches in the West Bank. For phase three, the settlers plan to establish new outposts in “strategic areas.”
A settler group calling itself “Preserving the Eternal” – which describes itself as a network of entities working to “protect antiquities in Israel and Judea and Samaria,” – has begun raising alarm, alleging that hundreds of biblical sites in the West Bank are slated to remain in Palestinian territory under the Trump Plan. The group’s leaders accuse the Palestinian Authority of mismanaging the sites and they accuse Palestinians of looting them. The group is in favor of Israel annexing all the sites.
- “As mammoth high-tech hub is eyed for East Jerusalem, will it benefit locals?” (The Times of Israel)
- “As East Jerusalem Suffers Powers Cuts, Settlers Were Put on Israeli Grid – but Palestinians Not” (Haaretz)
- “‘We’re Totally in the Dark’: Palestinians in Jordan Valley Feel Nobody Wants Them, Just Their Land” (Haaretz)
- “Trump’s “Deal” for Palestinians: Repercussions and Responses”” (Al-Shabaka)
- “Diplomatic Pressure Mounts on Israel to Delay Annexation as Long as Possible” (Haaretz)
- “Mapping West Bank Annexation: Territorial and Political Uncertainties” (WINEP)
- “More Israelis oppose West Bank annexation than support it — survey” (The Times of Israel)
- “Mapping Netanyahu’s annexation plan: Experts explain a charged, complex process” (The Times of Israel)
- “The Annexation’s Ambassador to Israel” (Haaretz)
- “Settler Leader: Trump’s Plan Is a Scam, Netanyahu Will Establish a Palestinian State” (Haaretz)
- “A radical settler wages war against annexation — but he is far from alone” (The Times of Israel)
- “’Annexation could cost Israel NIS 67 billion per year’“ (Jerusalem Post)
Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
To subscribe to this report, please click here.
February 28, 2020
- Fuel on the Fire: Netanyahu Advances E-1 Settlement Plans
- Making Good On Bibi’s Promise, Israel Issues Tenders for Givat Hamatos Settlement – And Plans for More
- High Planning Council Advances Plans for 1,739 Settlement Units, Including a New Industrial Zone
- Netanyahu Orders 12 Outposts Hooked Up to Israeli Infrastructure, with More to Follow
- Israel is Planning New West Bank Electricity Grid to Serve the Settlements
- Deputy Israeli AG Bemoans “Alarming Accumulation” Of Cases in Which Political Echelon Stops Outpost Evacuations
- Joint U.S.-Israeli Annexation Mapping Team Begin Work in Ariel
- Bonus Reads
Comments or questions – email Kristin McCarthy (email@example.com).
On February 26th, the High Planning Council of the Israeli Civil Administration deposited for public review two separate plans (for a combined total of 3,401 units) for the construction of the infamous E-1 settlement. This move sets in motion a 60-day public commenting period, after which the committee can grant final approval for construction. Long called a “doomsday” settlement by supporters of a two-state solution, construction of the E-1 settlement would sever the West Bank effectively in half, foreclosing the possibility of drawing a border between Israel and Palestine in a manner which preserves territorial contiguity between the northern and southern parts of the West Bank. It would likewise consolidate the isolation of Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem from the West Bank. In combination with the recent advancements on Givat Hamatos and new tenders for Har Homa, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Greater Jerusalem settlement construction announcements – leading up to the third round of Israeli elections – have crossed red lines (in the eyes of the international community) that Netanyahu didn’t dare cross in the past.
The day before the High Planning Committee’s decision to deposit the plans, Netanyahu announced that he had lifted the freeze on E-1 that his government has imposed since 2012. Though the plans were approved for deposit in 2012, the administrative act of actually depositing the plans (which requires the plans to be published in at least three newspapers to inform the public) never occurred, largely as a result of intense international opposition to E-1. Under the recently released Trump Plan, the area where E-1 is located is slated to become part of Israel, meaning the long-held U.S. opposition to E-1 has transformed into apparent support.
Peace Now explains important context to Netanyahu’s flood of East Jerusalem settlement approvals:
“This move to promote settlement units in E1 should be understood in the context of government actions to promote settlement construction in Givat Hamatos and Har Homa to sever the Bethlehem-Jerusalem continuum, and the early promotion of a plan to turn the decommissioned Atarot Airport into a new Jerusalem settlement that would work toward severing the Ramallah-Jerusalem continuum. With E1 added to the mix, the pattern of severing the East Jerusalem and the West Bank is a clear policy direction of this government. While this announcement may be connected to the upcoming election, Netanyahu should be taken at his word and his comments should not be written off as campaign bluster. Indeed just this week he fulfilled a promise he made the week prior to publish tenders in Givat HaMatos, another area that was seen as a red line by the international community. It is likely that if moving on E1 is not met with deterring action domestically or abroad then it will further encourage settlement activity, seeing as E1 is the most recognized red line on settlement construction. The US, which has traditionally played a large role in deterring activity in E1, will likely not do so now with its current administration. Indeed, the Trump Plan envisions E1 as part of Israel, and allows for Israeli annexation pending coordination with the US and not negotiations with the Palestinians.”
Ir Amim adds:
“Although these advancements have taken place against the backdrop of the upcoming Israeli elections, they should also be seen as an alarm bell in the context of a new reality which has been created with the publication of the US Peace Plan. Carte blanche has essentially been given to Netanyahu and the Israeli government to further carry out unilateral measures in the Jerusalem area with little to no resistance. An acute exemplification of this major shift is the spate of new settlement plans (Atarot, Har Homa E, Givat Hamatos) being advanced over the Green Line in East Jerusalem, and now within the E1 area. After years of restraint due to international opposition, Israel is now set to advance construction in some of the most controversial areas in Jerusalem and along its perimeter. The realization of these plans will serve as an immense obstacle towards the future establishment of a Palestinian capital in the city and the prospect of a negotiated agreement based on a viable two-state framework.”
PLO Executive Committeewoman Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement:
“With the active participation and support of the current US administration, Israel is unilaterally and illegally annexing Palestinian territory and trampling on the Palestinian people’s most basic rights. These announcements are the practical translation of an extremist, ideologically-driven, and dangerous right-wing agenda that trounces Palestinian human rights and threatens to unravel the international order in favor of unilateralism, exceptionalism and political bullying.”
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nikolay Mladenov, said:
“I am very concerned about Israel’s recent announcements regarding the advancement of settlement construction in Giv’at Hamatos and Har Homa, as well as the worrying plans for 3,500 units in the controversial E1 area of the occupied West Bank. All settlements are illegal under international law and remain a substantial obstacle to peace. If the E1 plan were to be implemented, it would sever the connection between northern and southern West Bank, significantly undermining the chances for establishing a viable and contiguous Palestinian state as part of a negotiated two-state solution. I urge the Israeli authorities to refrain from such unilateral actions that fuel instability and further erode the prospects for resuming Palestinian-Israeli negotiations on the basis of relevant UN resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements.”
Making Good On Bibi’s Promise, Israel Issues Tenders for Givat Hamatos Settlement – And Plans for More
As expected, on February 24th the Israeli Lands Authority published a tender for the construction of 1,077 housing units in the Givat Hamatos settlement. Haaretz reports that the tender relates to plans for “state land” and are intended to be sold as part of the the Treasury Ministry’s subsidized housing plan for young Jewish couples. Private companies will invited to bid on the project starting March 5th, with bidding set to close on June 22nd.
In addition to issuing tenders, the Jerusalem District Planning Committee met on February 27th to discuss the possibility of creating a new master plan for Givat Hamatos, in order to allow for more construction in the area. Ir Amim reports that the committee is considering a plan allowing for 6,500 residential units – which nearly doubles the total outlined in the current plan.
Ir Amim writes:
“This is the first time since the late 1990’s that Israel is constructing a new neighborhood/settlement in East Jerusalem. Furthermore, the location of Givat Hamatos means that its consturction will have dire consequences: It will serve to detach Bethlehem and the south of the West Bank from East Jerusalem while isolating the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa. For several years Netanyahu has abstained from publishing the Givat Hamatos tenders, serving as a source of frustration among rightwing parties. Netanyahu’s announcement therefore constitutes a break in the longstanding restraint. This dramatic change of policy should be seen in the context of his re-election campaign and against the backdrop of the formal release of the US Peace Plan.”
In announcing his support for the construction of the Givat Hamatos settlement last week, Netanyahu also mentioned plans to build 1,000 new homes for Palestinian residents of Beit Safafa – an East Jerusalem neighborhood which will be completely encircled by Israeli construction if/when the Givat Hamatos and Har Homa West settlement plans are implemented. According to Haaretz, the plan was/is to build 1,000 units on “Arab-owned” land — and that plan, in fact, is frozen.
In reaction to the tender for construction of the Givat Hamatos settlement, European Union High Representative Josep Borrell said in a statement:
“The Israeli authorities have announced an imminent decision regarding settlement construction in the Givat Hamatos and Har Homa neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem. Such steps would be deeply detrimental to a two-state-solution. As set out clearly on numerous occasions by the European Union, including in Council conclusions, such steps would cut the geographic and territorial contiguity between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, isolate Palestinian communities living in these areas, and threaten the viability of a two-state solution, with Jerusalem as capital of both states. Settlements are illegal under international law. The EU will not recognise any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties. We call on Israel to reconsider these plans.”
On February 27th, the High Planning Council – a body within the Israeli Civil Administration responsible for regulating all construction in the West Bank – approved the advancement of plans for 1,739 settlement units in the West Bank. These advancements come on the heels of the publication of tenders to build the E-1 settlement , the initiation of plans to massively expand the Har Homa settlement, and the recommitment of Israel to build a new massive new settlement in East Jerusalem, at the site of the disused Atarot airport. All of these plans deal with construction on the edges of Jerusalem and serve collectively to sever the connection between Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem and the West Bank (consolidating Israel’s uncontested sovereignty over “Greater Jerusalem”).
Of the total, 703 units received final approval, including:
- Plans to grant retroactive legalization to 620 units in the Eli settlement, a move which had been frozen by the High Court of Justice for the past 5 years while the Court considered a petition filed by Palestinians (with the assistance of Yesh Din and Bimkom) claiming to own the land. Last week, the High Court ruled against the Pallestinian petition and removed the injunction against the plans. The Eli settlement is located south of Nablus and southeast of the Ariel settlement in the central West Bank
- 48 units in the Har Bracha settlement, located just south of Nablus
- 35 units in the Givat Ze’ev settlement, located south west of Ramallah (north of Jerusalem).
Of the total, 1,036 units were approved for deposit for public review, including:
- A new industrial zone – called “Shaar Hashomron” – to be located south of the Palestinian village of Qalqilya (a town which is literally surrounded on three sides by the Israeli separation barrier – which in this area is, indeed, a massive wall). Peace Now reports: “[the new industrial zone is] close to Green Line, east of Salfit and South of Qalqilya, near the planned Nahal Rabah cemetery. In the area of Nahal Rabah, there existed a firing zone for years that prevented the use of the land. The land’s designation as a firing zone was lifted a few years ago, and the government’s Blue Line team set new boundaries for the state lands that comprised this area, all in preparation for a plan to build a new industrial zone. Industrial zones are a type of settlement in of themselves, and the planned cemetery is likely to be the first component toward establishing the new industrial zone. The plan for this new industrial park is separate from the 1,739 housing units advanced in the HPC announcement.”
- A winery in the Kiryat Arba settlement, located on the border of Hebron.
- 534 units in the Shvut Rachel settlement, located near the Shilo settlement in the central West Bank. Shvut Rachel only recently became an authorized settlement area when Israel extended the jurisdiction of the Shiloh settlement to include it as a “neighborhood” (along with three other outposts).
- Two plans for a total of 156 units in the Tzofim settlement, located just north of the Palestinian village of Qalqilya, a town completely encircled by Israel’s seperation barrier (except for a single road connecting it to the rest of the West Bank) – in the northern West Bank.
- 110 units in the Alon Shvut settlement, located south west of Bethlehem.
- 106 units in the Ma’aleh Shomron settlement, located east of the Palestinian village of Qalqilya.
- 105 units in Kfar Eldad (formally a part of the Nokdim settlement), located south of Bethlehem.
- 24 units in the Karnei Shomron settlement, located in the northern West Bank east of the Palestinian village of Qalqilya. Israel is planning to continue expanding Karnei Shomron with the stated goal of bringing 1 million settlers to live in the area surrounding the settlement.
The Times of Israel notes that this is the second time the High Planning Council has convened in as many months, marking an uptick in the frequency of such meetings, which until now have taken place quarterly (4x/year) since the Trump Administration came into power.
Peace Now said in a statement:
“The caretaker government, without a public and moral mandate, sets facts on the ground for a small and extreme minority, against the will of the majority. In the battle over the settler right-wing vote, Bennett and Netanyahu are dragging Israel to invest in thousands of harmful and unnecessary settlement units. This is how a cynical and irresponsible leadership that is willing to abandon the Israeli interest for its political survival behaves.”
On February 23rd, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced that he had ordered 12 unauthorized outposts to be connected to Israeli infrastructure, and that his government was working to formally legalize over 100 outposts. Connecting outposts to Israeli water, sewer, power, garbage collection, and other municipal services entrenches the permanence of these outposts and furthers the de facto annexation of Palestinian land. It also copiously rewarding settlers for breaking Israeli law (by illegally building outposts), incentivizing further lawbreaking by Israel’s most radical and ideological settlers.
According to a letter from Netanyahu’s office, the 12 unauthorized outposts that will be connected to Israeli infrastructure were all built with “government encouragement” (though not formal approval or permits). In a perversion of the very notion of the “rule of law,” this unofficial encouragement for illegal actions is now treated by Israel as a valid legal basis for granting those outposts authorization.
The outposts slated for connection to Israeli municipal services are:
- The Nofei Nehemia outpost, located east of the Ariel settlement in the heart of the West Bank.
- The Havot Yair (Yair Farm) outpost, located west of Nablus.
- An outpost called “Hill 851”, located south east of Nablus in the central West Bank.
- The Maoz Zvi outpost, located in the northern West Bank.
- The Shaharit outpost, located in a string of settlements stretching from Israel proper to the Ariel settlement in the central West Bank, and going on to the Jordan Valley.
- The Pnei Kedem Farm outpost, located halfway between Bethlehem and Hebron in the southern West Bank.
- The Tekoa D outpost, located southeast of Bethlehem.
- The Negohot Farm outpost, located west of Hebron.
- The Avigayil outpost, located in the South Hebron Hills near the village of Susya.
- The Asa’el outpost, located east of the Palestinian village of Susiya in the southern tip of the West Bank.
- The Esh Kodesh outpost, located east of the Ariel and Shilo settlements, in a string of settlements stretching to the Jordan Valley.
- Ahiya, located in the Shilo Valley in the central West Bank.
David Elhayani, head of the umbrella settlement body called the Yesha Council, cheered Netanyahu’s announcement, saying:
“This is an important step for the benefit of young communities that have been suffering from electricity problems for years, and will now be able to receive electricity, just like any other citizen in the country.”
Since the passage of the Regulation Law in February 2017 and the invention of the “market regulation” principle by the Israeli Attorney General, the Netanyahu government has undertaken an energetic effort to grant retroactive legalization to outposts for which the Israeli government has not yet found a means to grant retroactive approval (though it has tried). The obstacle in all of these cases has been the fact that the outposts were built on privately owned Palestinian land. Following passage of the Regulation Law, Netanyahu immediately formed a committee tasked with finding a way to suspend the property rights of Palestinians; that committee produced the Zandberg Report in May 2018 — a report that, indeed, offers several justifications for the government to expropriate privately owned Palestinian land (one of the Report’s recommendations is to connect the outposts to Israeli municipal services). Following the publication of the Zandberg report, Netanyahu formed another committee tasked with implementing the report’s recommendations, by preparing individualized plans for each outpost to gain retroactive legalization. That taskforce, headed by notorious settler Pinchas Wallerstein. helped secure Cabinet approval for another bill to grant authorization to 66 outposts. All but two of the outposts named by Netanyahu this week (Hill 851 & Negohot) were part of a December 2018 bill to regulate 66 outposts – a fact that has drawn the wrath of settler leaders who bemoan Netanyahu’s delayed implementation.
FMEP tracks all events related to Israeli annexation and the drive to authorize outposts in its regularly updated Annexation Policy Tables.
Haaretz reports that the Israeli government is close to approving a Master Plan for a new electricity grid in the West Bank, which will service Israel’s settlements. It may also serve Palestinian villages but only if — and it is a big if — the Palestinian Authority agrees to jointly implement the project. The plan is in the hands of Israel’s National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Ministry, which seeks to “provide a blueprint for the electricity market in the West Bank through 2040 and to develop infrastructure for Israeli settlements as well as for the Palestinians residing there.” However, the Israel-conceived plan calls upon the the Palestinian Authority to take responsibility over the Palestinian side of the equation, and the PA has refused to play that role and has condemned the plan.
In a statement, the Palestinian Authority’s Energy Authority said that the plan is designed:
“to establish Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank and to support the brutal presence of the settlements on our land.”
Settler leaders concurred with the PA’s assessment. Gush Etzion Regional Council chairman Shlomo Ne’eman told Haaretz:
“All moves point to sovereignty, and when we build infrastructure, there is also a basic understanding that the State of Israel is the sovereign. We are pleased that more and more government ministries have realized that this sovereignty is the reality.”
The plan, as reported by Haaretz, would see the Israeli Electric Company build a vast network of power lines across the West Bank. Israel will build six substations in Area C of the West Bank to distribute the high voltage power to settlements. Palestinians, if they are willing, are called upone to build eight substations in order to distribute power to Palestinian homes. The project is expected to cost between $870 million to $1.2 billion. The integration of settlements into Israel’s domestic planning schemes and the construction of massive infrastructure in the West Bank to service the settlements are significant advancements in Israel’s ongoing, de facto annexation of land in the West Bank.
Deputy Israeli AG Bemoans “Alarming Accumulation” Of Cases in Which Political Echelon Stops Outpost Evacuations
Haaretz reports that the Israeli Civil Administration planned to evacuate the unauthorized Mitzpe Yehuda outpost, located east of Jerusalem, in September 2019, but was directed to cancel the evacuation by one of Netanyahu’s personal aids in the Defense Ministry – Avi Roeh. The political interference was revealed in a High Court case filed by Palestinians claiming to own the land upon which the outpost was illegally constructed. The Palestinians are seeking to have the outpost immediately evacuated. Settlers claim to have purchased the land, and even submitted an application to have the outpost retroactively legalized by the government.
At the time of the scandal, Deputy Attorney General Erez Kaminitz wrote to Ronen Peretz, acting director of the Prime Minister’s Office, criticizing Roeh’s role in the Mitzpe Yehuda case, as well as the recurrence of political interference on behalf of the outposts. Citing several cases in which such interference occurred (Sde Ephraim, Givat Assaf, and Havat Negohot), Kaminitz wrote:
“This is a very alarming accumulation of cases that raises the specter of the emergence of a highly problematic trend that undermines the rule of law. It’s important to make clear that, as a rule, the political echelon is not authorized to intervene in decisions related to law enforcement.
On February 24th, members of the U.S.-Israeli team tasked with mapping Israel’s annexation of West Bank land under the Trump Plan met for the first time to “explore the terrain.” At a vista near the Ariel settlement, Netanyahu underscored the significance of the project:
“The joint mapping process of the Israeli team and the American team is underway here in Ariel. This is a major mission. The area has an 800-km. perimeter. There is serious work, but we will work as quickly as possible to get it done…[the mapping process will] allow for the application of Israeli law [sovereignty] on these areas and later American recognition as well…[once complete] sovereignty can happen immediately.”
U.S. Ambassador David Friedman said:
“In Israel rain is a blessing, and I hope that our efforts should be blessed as much as the rain is coming down right now,” Friedman declared before the meeting started, the US Embassy in Jerusalem said in a statement. “We have our team here, and we’re going to get to work right away. We hope to complete it as soon as possible, and complete it the right way for the State of Israel.”
“The sovereignty ship is under way. As I have said in the past, I believe that the prime minister will advance the ‘Deal of the Century’ with President Trump and US officials. believe that the application of Israeli law in the Jordan Valley and in the communities of Judea and Samaria is closer than ever.”
Shaviro recently resigned from the settler Yesha Council over the group’s disavowal of the Trump Plan.
- “An Alternative Guide to City of David Archeological Park” (Emek Shaveh)
- “The Trump plan threatens the status quo at al-Haram al-Sharif” (Al Jazeera)
- “50 ex-European leaders and FMs condemn Trump plan, cite apartheid similarities” (The Times of Israel)
- “Planned Western Wall Train Will Threaten Historic Jerusalem Spring, Report Says” (Haaretz)
- “The Israelis fighting to keep the Jordan Valley Palestinian” (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.
November 22, 2019
- Trump Administration Reverses U.S. Policy on Legality of Israeli Settlements
- A Quick Review of U.S. Settlement Policy
- Reactions to the New U.S. Settlement Policy
- European Union Rejects Conflation, Upholds Labelling of Goods from Settlements
- Will the Trump Admin Implement Conflation by Changing U.S. Labelling Policy?
- Netanyahu Backs Bill to Annex the Jordan Valley
- Tender Published for First Ever Ma’ale Adumim Hotel
- Bonus Reads
Questions/comments? Contact Kristin at firstname.lastname@example.org
On November 18th — on the heels of the European Court of Justice’s ruling in support of accurate labeling of settlement products — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that a comprehensive legal review by the State Department concluded that Israeli settlements are not “per se inconsistent with international law”:
“We believe that what we’ve done today is we have recognized the reality on the ground. We’ve now declared that settlements are not per se illegal under international law, and we have provided…the very space for Israel and the Palestinians to come together to find a political solution to this very, very vexing problem.”
According to a senior White House official, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman drove the effort to change U.S. policy on settlements, a mission that the ideologically-driven Ambassador began working on from the early days of his appointment. Friedman, who is much closer to President Trump than Secretary Pompeo, offered a much more succinct and direct description of the latest policy shift, tweeting:
“After commissioning a lengthy and comprehensive review of the issues, Secretary Pompeo has concluded that Israeli civilian settlements in Judea and Samaria are not categorically illegal.”
Pompeo also stated that the U.S. will defer to Israeli courts concerning the legality of specific settlements – in effect suggesting that the U.S. is treating Israel as the sovereign power in the West Bank with sole authority to determine the legality/illegality of construction in it (a position which is arguably indistinguishable from recognition of Israeli annexation):
“we recognize that – as Israeli courts have – the legal conclusions relating to individual settlements must depend on an assessment of specific facts and circumstances on the ground. Therefore, the United States Government is expressing no view on the legal status of any individual settlement. The Israeli legal system affords an opportunity to challenge settlement activity and assess humanitarian considerations connected to it. Israeli courts have confirmed the legality of certain settlement activities and has concluded that others cannot be legally sustained…”
As a reminder, the Israeli High Court of Justice is currently weighing major cases related to settlements, and specifically to the right of Israel to retroactively “legalize” illegal settler construction by means of seizing private Palestinian land. These cases highlight the fact that, in the opinion of Israel’s top law enforcement official, Israel has the right to suspend the rule of law to expropriate privately owned Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank and give it to Israeli settlers; the only disagreement he has with the Knesset is over the method of doing so. Specifically, the cases revolve around two competing legal strategies for legalizing outposts, as put forward by the government of Israel:
- The “market regulation” principle is a legal strategy developed by Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandleblit in November 2017. According to this principle – which contradicts any notion of rule of law or the sanctity of private property rights – Israeli settlement structures and outposts built illegally on private Palestinian land can be legalized by the State if the State determines that the Israeli settlers acted “in good faith” when they took over and built on the land. The principle has been twice accepted by the Jerusalem District Court as a valid basis for taking land/legalizing settlement structures; it is now pending, on appeal, before the Israeli High Court, in two separate cases (the Mitzpe Kramim outpost case and the Alei Zehav outpost case). How the Court rules in these cases will, in effect, be the final decision on the constitutionality of the “market regulation” principle. (Note for readers who are deep follow this issue in detail: the market regilation principle was first advanced in relation to the Haresha outpost; the State subsequently found yet another basis (in this case, construction of a road) for temporary expropriating privately owned Palestinian land to pave the way for the retroactive legalization of Haresha).
- The settlement “Regulation Law” was passed by the Knesset in February 2017. Its purpose is, in effect, to direct the Israeli government to literally suspend the rule of law to seize privately owned Palestinian land for the benefit of settlers. The law was quickly challenged by civil society groups and has ever since been frozen while the High Court of Justice considers its constitutionality. Despite the freeze, in December 2018 the Israeli Cabinet voted unanimously to endorse a bill – called the “Young Settlements Bill” or “Regulation Law 2” – that, on the basis of the Regulation Law, directs the government to treat 66 unauthorized outposts built on privately owned Palestinian land as legal settlements, while giving the government 2 years to find a way to legalize them retroactively. It should be noted that Israeli Attorney General Mandleblit opposed both the Regulation Law and the “Young Settlements Bill,” and in fact called on the High Court of Justice to overturn the Regulation Law (in favor of his own “market regulation principle.” In a letter to the High Court Justices, Mandleblit argued that implementing the “market regulation principle” is “a more proportionate and balanced measure than the arrangement prescribed in the Regulation Law,” providing a more narrow legal basis by which Israel can strip Palestinian landowners of their rights (estimating that 2,000 structures can be legalized under the “market regulation principle,” compared to an estimated 4,000 under the Regulation Law).
FMEP tracks all Knesset, Cabinet, and Judicial action related to annexation in its Annexation Policy Tables. For Knesset legislation related to annexation, see Yesh Din’s handy Annexation Legislation Database.
The Nov. 18th announcement adds yet another chapter to the decades-long dance of U.S. Presidents articulating the stated U.S. policy vis a vis Israeli settlements, which by and large has remained remarkably consistent.
The closest U.S. policy has ever come to calling the settlements illegal was under the Carter Administration, which produced the Hansell Memorandum to Congress stating that the U.S. holds settlements are “inconsistent with international law.” However, Carter’s Chief of Staff wrote an even further in a memo where he wrote “Our position on illegal settlements is well know.” The memo used the term “illegal” 16 times.
In 1981, U.S. President Ronald Reagan softened the Carter Administration’s language, instead insisting that settlements are merely harmful to the peace process, language which has been echoed, if not in exact wording, by all the following administrations. Notably, President Reagan was the first U.S. President to call for a settlement freeze.
Under Pres. George H.W. Bush, the stated U.S. policy was to “oppose new settlements in territories beyond the 1967 lines.” Bush then insisted on conditioning U.S. loan guarantees to Israel based on Israel’s settlement activity.
The “Roadmap” produced by President George W. Bush insisted on a settlement freeze and the evacuation of outposts.
The Obama Administration continued to call for a settlement freeze. At the tail end of the Obama Adminstration, in December 2016, Pres. Obama abstained from vetoing (but did not actively support) the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which declared that Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.” While pains have been taken by the U.S. to perfectly enunciate its publicly stated policy, successive Israeli governments have continued to build settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem without consequences.
Noura Erekat, Palestinian human rights attorney, legal scholar, writer, and assistant professor at Rutgers University, explains the consistency in U.S. settlement policy over the years:
“This is not necessarily a reversal in U.S. policy, only in its stated policy. For 50 — for more than five decades, since 1967, all U.S. administrations have talked out of both sides of their mouth. On the one hand, they have condemned settlements as counterproductive to peace and as a contravention of international law, and, on the other hand, have provided Israel with the unequivocal diplomatic, military and financial aid in order to entrench their settlements. Even the Obama administration, as it was abstaining on U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334 condemning the settlements as a flagrant violation, has been part of the problem. They issued that abstention only two weeks before they left office. Simultaneously, the Obama administration increased aid from $3 billion to $3.8 billion a year. And in 2012, that same administration used its first veto at the Security Council to condemn a resolution, a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning settlements using exact U.S. foreign policy language on settlements. So, what we’re seeing now is not a sharp reversal of U.S. foreign policy on the question of settlements and Palestine, but instead the culmination of it. For us to blame this on Trump is basically to exculpate ourselves and to create a revisionist history. Instead, we should be accountable and actually take responsibility for how we have been part of this problem.”
The overwhelming majority of the international community holds that all Israeli settlements and outposts in the West Bank are illegal pursuant to Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states (as excerpted by Amnesty International):
“The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” It also prohibits the “individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory”.
The following are statements made by key international actors, organizations, and civil society organizations in reaction to the U.S. settlement announcement. Reactions from Israel – both predictable and unpredictable – are nicely summarized and analyzed by The Times of Israel settlements correspondent Jacob Magid here.
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad Malki called on the international community to issue a firm response to the U.S. declaration, saying in a statement:
“The State of Palestine condemns in the strongest terms the US administration’s lawless position on Israel’s illegal settlements in occupied territory of the State of Palestine, as announced by the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. This position violates international law, decades-long international consensus over the issue and determinations of the International Court of Justice, the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions and United Nations resolutions, including Security Council resolutions. The current US Administration has adopted an anti-Palestinian agenda and endeavored to empower and legitimize the Israeli colonial settler agenda. This ideologically driven and irresponsible policy, including this most recent announcement by Secretary Pompeo, proves beyond any doubt that the current US administration has aligned itself with Israel’s illegal colonial enterprise and thus fails to meet the most basic requirements to play any role in any future solution. This administration cannot and will not rewrite international law. However, the Trump administration’s disregard to the Palestinian people’s inalienable rights is symptomatic of its disregard and contempt to the rules-based international system and multilateralism, whose effects go beyond the Question of Palestine. Allowing this agenda to prevail would ensure the demise of the international order and cause irreversible damage to the achievements of humanity over the past seven decades and threatens to plunge the world into chaos and violence. The State of Palestine will not stop pursuing justice and redress for the Palestinian people. The Palestinian leadership will continue to take all measures possible to honor its moral and political responsibility towards our people, and defend their national rights including their natural right to a life of dignity, freedom and prosperity.”
Jordan Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said in a tweet:
“Settlements in occupied Palestine are a blatant violation of Int’l law & UNSCRs. They are an illegal action that’ll kill 2-state solution. Jordan’s position in condemning them is unwavering. We warn against dangerous consequences of US change of position on settlements on MEPP”
The Saudi press reported that the Saudi government rejects the new U.S. position.
U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said at a press briefing:
“We continue to follow the long-standing position of the U.N. that Israeli settlements are in breach of international law. A change in the policy position of one state does not modify existing international law nor its interpretation by the International Court of Justice and the Security Council.”
United Nations Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk said that the U.S. announcement is:
“the latest in a series of recent moves that has undermined the rules-based international order. This will only confirm a one-state reality characterized by a rigid two-tier system of legal and political rights, based on ethnicity and religion. This would meet the international definition of apartheid.”
The European Union’s High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini said in a statement:
“The European Union’s position on Israeli settlement policy in the occupied Palestinian territory is clear and remains unchanged: all settlement activity is illegal under international law and it erodes the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace, as reaffirmed by UN Security Council Resolution 2334. The EU calls on Israel to end all settlement activity, in line with its obligations as an occupying power. The EU will continue to support a resumption of a meaningful process towards a negotiated two-state solution, the only realistic and viable way to fulfil the legitimate aspirations of both parties.”
Reportedly, the state of Hungary blocked an effort by the European Union to issue a joint statement signed by all 28 member states condemning the new U.S. policy. Many European states issued independent statements, all opposing the U.S. statement.
The German government issued a statement saying:
“The Federal Government reaffirms its position with regards to Israel’s settlement policy in the occupied territories. In the Federal Government’s view, the construction of settlements is illegal under international law, represents an obstacle to the possibility of a peace process and makes a negotiated two-state solution more difficult. We wish to refer in this regard to Resolution 2334 of the UN Security Council, which reaffirms this assessment under international law. Together with its partners in the EU, the Federal Government will continue to work to achieve an amicable negotiated solution that takes into account the legitimate demands of both parties to the conflict.”
The French government released the following statement:
“Israel’s settlement policy in the occupied territories is illegal under international law, in particular international humanitarian law, and contravenes Security Council resolutions. Colonization also contributes to escalating tensions on the ground and undermines the two-State solution. Such is the constant position of France. We regret any decision likely to encourage the continuation of colonization.”
Switzerland released a statement saying:
“Switzerland’s position towards Israeli settlements is very clear: they are illegal under international law, in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention. They also constitute a major obstacle to peace and the implementation of a two-State solution. Switzerland regularly calls on the Israeli authorities to cease all settlement activity, in accordance with their obligations as the occupying power.”
Spain released the following statement:
“The Government of Spain wishes to reiterate its public and constant position on the settlements, which coincides with the collection in various resolutions of the United Nations, especially Resolution 2334 of the Security Council, of December 2016. Spain considers, as stated in the aforementioned resolution , that the settlements in the territories occupied by Israel since 1967 have no legal validity and constitute a flagrant violation of International Law. They are also an obstacle to the negotiated solution of the two States and the achievement of a just and lasting peace that meets the legitimate aspirations of both parties. Therefore, the Government of Spain calls for an end to the settlements, in line with that made by the High Representative of the European Union.”
A spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross said:
“the ICRC has repeatedly stated that Israel’s settlements policy goes against key provisions of IHL, or the law of occupation, and is contrary to its intent and spirit. The recent U.S. declaration does not change the ICRC’s position on the matter.”
The Vatican released the following statement:
“In the context of recent decisions that risk undermining further the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the already fragile regional stability, the Holy See reiterates its position of a two-state solution for two peoples, as the only way to reach a complete solution to this age-old conflict. The Holy See supports the right of the State of Israel to live in peace and security within the borders recognized by the international community and supports the same right that belongs to the Palestinian people, which must be recognized, respected and implemented.”
Peace Now said in a statement:
“No declaration will change the fact that the settlements were built on occupied territory, in contravention of international law, and that they pose among the greatest obstacles to peace. It is an Orwellian absurdity to claim that greenlighting more egregious settlement activity by undermining the international consensus against them will foster better conditions for a just and viable conflict-ending agreement.”
B’Tselem said in a statement:
“The Trump Administration’s farcical announcement doesn’t just green-light Israel’s illegal settlement project, but also other human rights violations around the world by obliterating the principles of international law. In so doing, the American administration is pushing the world over 70 years backwards, to the period at the end of the 2nd world war, when only in its aftermath did the world come to terms with the consequences of the absence of such protections.”
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel said in a statement:
“Settlements and outposts are illegal under international law, and no political declaration can change that fact. The settlements, which are founded on occupied Palestinian land, lead to a continued and systematic violation of the rights of Palestinians living in the West Bank. To legalize such a sweeping violation and to justify the institutionalized legal regime of two legal systems in the West Bank-based on an ethnic-national basis violates the rights of millions of people living under occupation and cannot be justified via a baseless statement stemming from purely political interests.”
Amnesty International said in a statement:
“Today, the United States government announced to the rest of the world that it believes the U.S. and Israel are above the law: that Israel can continue to violate international law and Palestinians’ human rights and the U.S. will firmly support it in doing so.”
Human Rights Watch said in a statement:
“This changes nothing. President Trump can’t wipe away decades of established international law that settlements are a war crime.”
J Street said in a statement:
“The International Court of Justice and the United Nations have made clear the judgment of the world that Israel’s settlement enterprise is illegal under international law. This administration’s attempt to unilaterally erase those judgments only further shatters America’s limited remaining credibility in the region and around the world.”
Americans for Peace Now said in a statement:
“This latest announcement by the Trump administration will do further damage to prospects for peace, particularly if it is taken by right-wing Israeli politicians as yet another indication that President Trump will accept Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank. This damages US national interests which, as successive US administrations of both parties have held, will be served by a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Meanwhile, in bucking the international legal consensus on the status of settlements in territory occupied by Israel, the Trump administration is deepening America’s isolation. It is also chipping away at the international legal order the US helped established, which has served US interests since the end of World War II.”
Jewish Voice for Peace said in a statement:
“The pronouncement by Pompeo is just the latest atrocity in the Trump administration’s farcical peace plan: Moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, defunding UNRWA, embracing Netanyhau’s plans of massive annexation of Palestinian land, and now an attempt to undo decades of international consensus on the illegality of the settlements. That the plan is devoid of peace is no surprise, but the contempt it shows for cooperation and an agreed-upon set of ethics that safeguards the most vulnerable in war and conflict is alarming. Pompeo couldn’t be more wrong claiming that, ‘arguments about who is right and who is wrong as a matter of international law will not bring peace.’ In fact, holding ourselves and each other to principles, like those within international law, is essential to bring not just peace, but freedom, equality and justice. The Trump administration was never focused on promoting peace, but instead on propping up Netanyahu’s and Trump’s careers and perpetuating Israeli control and dominance over Palestinian land and lives at all costs. Pompeo and the Trump administration don’t get to rewrite international law.”
On November 12th, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that EU member states must properly identify products made in Israeli settlements on their labels, a decision upholding the EU’s legal distinction between Israel proper and Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.
The ECJ said in the ruling:
“[settlements] give concrete expression to a policy of population transfer conducted by that State outside its territory, in violation of the rules of general international humanitarian law…[failure to identify the point of origin of produce meant that] consumers have no way of knowing, in the absence of any information capable of enlightening them in that respect, that a foodstuff comes from a locality or a set of localities constituting a settlement established in one of those territories in breach of the rules of international humanitarian law.”
The case came to court after the Psagot Winery, located in the Psagot settlement, brought a legal challenge against France’s labelling policy, arguing that any differentiation between Israeli products and products made in the settlements is discriminatory. In June 2019, a top advocate general for the European Court of Justice issued a preliminary opinion rejecting that argument and 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. Reportedly, Psagot Winery hired a prominent U.S. lobby firm (which employs former US ambassador to the EU Stuart Eizenstat) to lobby Congress on its behalf against the labeling effort.
Commenting on the ECJ’s ruling, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat urged further action, writing in a column in Haaretz:
“A large percentage of settlers live in occupied Palestine thanks to the economic incentives they receive, including benefits from international agreements signed with Israel, and the support of several organizations working freely in Western countries, such as the Jewish National Fund. That is why the decision of the European Union Court of Justice regarding the labeling of Israeli settlement products is an important step. It reiterates the international obligation of differentiation between Israel and the territory it occupies, as laid out in UN Security Council resolution 2334.Still, we believe that settlement products shouldn’t just be labelled, but banned. There is nothing ethical in trading in products made with stolen natural resources on stolen land. That is why we cannot understand why the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, still hasn’t fulfilled the mandate given to her by the UN Human Rights Council in Resolution 31/36 – to publish the long-overdue list of companies involved with the Israeli occupation.”
Unsurprisingly, the Trump Administration issued a statement criticizing the court’s ruling:
“The United States is deeply concerned by the EU requirement identified in the decision issued yesterday by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in the Psagot Case. The circumstances surrounding the labeling requirement in the specific facts presented to the Court are suggestive of anti-Israel bias. This requirement serves only to encourage, facilitate, and promote boycotts, divestments, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. The United States unequivocally opposes any effort to engage in BDS, or to otherwise economically pressure, isolate, or otherwise delegitimize Israel. The path toward resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict is through direct negotiations. America stands with Israel against efforts to economically pressure, isolate, or delegitimize it.”
As explained at length by FMEP’s Lara Friedman, forces in the U.S. have long worked to conflate Israel with its settlements as a matter of U.S. law and policy — including actions in Congress (i.e., legislation conflating the two, Congressional actions objecting to differentiation in labeling, etc.).
Speaking to Al-Monitor, FMEP President Lara Friedman warns that the timing of the Trump Administration’s settlement policy announcement might be linked to the ruling last week by a European court upholding the EU’s policy of differentiation and ruling that products made in Israeli settlements cannot be labelled “Made in Israel.” Friedman said:
“I don’t think it is a coincidence that this is happening days after the European Court of Justice ruling on labeling. That is clear. The substantive impact will depend on what flesh we [the U.S.] put on the bones. The President, the State Department can tell Customs and Border to change our policy on labeling [of goods produced from the settlements].”
If the policy change is directed by the White House, it would be doing so with ample standing in U.S. law as passed by the Congress, which for the past four years has intentionally included wording the explicitly conflates Israel with the settlements as far as U.S. law is concerned. Lara Friedman has maintained a detailed table documenting such legis;ation, which she first warned about in 2015.
Following the Nov. 18th announcement changing U.S. policy on Israeli settlements, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed to support and expedite the passage of a Knesset bill providing for the annexation of the Jordan Valley – some 25% of land in the occupied West Bank. The bill was introduced on November 3rd by Likud MK Sharren Haskell, and it calls for extending Israeli sovereignty over the area. On November 19th, Haskel tweeted that she has submitted a request to exempt the bill from the mandatory 6-week waiting period, so that it can be brought to a vote next week regardless of the fact that there is a caretaker government while Israeli political chaos continues to unfold.
In a video message posted to Twitter, Netanyahu said:
“The historic decision by the American administration from yesterday hands us a unique opportunity to set Israel’s eastern border and annex the Jordan Valley.”
Netanyahu previously vowed to annex the Jordan Valley should he be reelected, a plan which was endorsed by his rival Benny Gantz and supported by then-U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton. Notably, when Netanyahu promised to annex the Jordan Valley, he stated that he would have already enacted his Jordan Valley annexation plan if not for Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandleblit’s opposition to taking a decision of this magnitude while Netanyahu was overseeing a caretaker government.
Shlomo Eldar, columnist for Al-Monitor, discusses the politics that contribute Netanyahu’s sudden endorsement of Haskell’s bill (which had been introduced in the previous Knesset but not supported by Netanyahu):
“It is not clear how the present Knesset will vote on the bill for annexing the Jordan Valley, should it ever come to a vote. What is clear is that the issue of the valley’s annexation has created a catch-22 for Gantz and the Blue and White. A vote in favor by his alliance will lead it to lose Joint List support after the next elections. There is no chance that members of the Joint List will support a faction that endorses any kind of annexation. If Blue and White begins to vacillate and oppose the bill, then Netanyahu will criticize and ridicule them during the election campaign. Therefore Knesset member Avi Nissenkorn (Blue and White), head of the Knesset’s Arrangements Committee, will definitely try to prevent the bill from reaching the stage of a preliminary hearing. Regardless of whether Nissenkorn succeeds, it seems that annexation of the Jordan Valley is on its way, with the encouragement of the Trump administration.”
Under Netanyahu’s own annexation plan, Israel would annex land constituting nearly a quarter of the West Bank (22.3%) including 30 settlements and 18 illegal outposts. According to Peace Now, 20% of the targeted land (62,000 acres) is privately owned by Palestinians and approximately 8,775 Palestinians live in 48 Palestinian herding communities in the area he plans to annex.
In total, some 11,000 settlers and 65,000 Palestinians live in the Jordan Valley – the latter facing severe restrictions on land use and freedom of movement, and lack of access to municipal services like water and electricity. Israeli government officials have publicly and repeatedly demanded complete Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley in the context of any peace agreement, meaning that any future Palestinian state would be entirely encircled by Israel, having no international border with any other nation.
Yesh Din tracks all Knesset legislation related to annexation in this handy Annexation Legislation Database, and FMEP tracks all Knesset, Cabinet, and Judicial action related to annexation in its Annexation Policy Tables.
On November 18th, the Israel Lands Authority published a tender for the construction of a six-story hotel in the Ma’ale Adumim settlement, located in the West Bank just east of Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Post reports:
“Hagit Ofran of Peace Now said tenders have unsuccessfully been published for hotels in Ma’aleh Adumim in the past. Such development should be inside of sovereign Israel and not outside of it, she said, adding that it does not serve Israel’s interest to encourage tourism in the West Bank settlements.”
Israel’s intentional investment and green light to expanding the settlement tourism industry is a strategic endeavor intended to entrench settlements, provide for their expansion, normalize their existence within the international community, and advance their seamless integration into Israeli territory. In a recent report on companies which profit from tourism in the settlements, Amnesty International further explains:
“In recent years the Israeli government has invested huge sums to develop the tourism industry in settlements. It uses the designation of certain locations as tourist sites to justify the takeover of Palestinian land and homes, and often deliberately constructs settlements next to archaeological sites to emphasize the Jewish people’s historic connections to the region.”
- “With softening of US settlement policy, is annexation train leaving the station?” (Times of Israel)
- “Secular Israelis Flock to West Bank Settlements in Search of Good, Cheap Life” (Haaretz)
- “The Problem With Settlements Is Not That They Are Illegal. It’s That They Are Immoral” (The Forward)
- “On West Bank, No One Rests Easy, No Matter What U. S. Says About Settlements” (New York Times)
- “Stop Calling Violent Settlers Bad Apples. They Are The Inevitable Outcome Of Occupation” (The Forward)
- “West Bank settlers escalate attacks on Arab olive harvesters in annual violence” (Washington Post)
- “‘It’s So Easy to Live Here.’ Jewish Settlements Go Mainstream in Israel” (Wall Street Journal)
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May 17, 2019
- TV Report: U.S. Peace Plan Allows for Israeli Annexation of All Settlements
- Peace Now Special Report, Part 1: Key 2018 Settlement Data & Analysis
- Peace Now Special Report, Part 2: Settlement Growth During 10 Years of Netanyahu
- Following Trump Election, Netanyahu Unleashed 39% Increase in Settlement Funding
- 11 Knesset Members Join Campaign to Cancel 2005 Disengagement Law & Re-establish Evacuated West Bank Settlements
- Bibi Pushes High Court Override Legislation During Coalition Negotiations
- Trump Envoy Praises US-Backed Economic “Coexistence” Group for Joint Settler-Palestinian Hebron Iftar
- Bonus Reads
According to an Israel TV report, the Trump Administration’s peace plan allows for Israel’s annexation of all settlements in the West Bank. Israel TV also reports that, independent of the fate of the peace deal, the U.S. will not object to Israel’s unilateral annexation of those settlements through the extension of Israeli law over them. Though the Trump Administration position on settlements has been made explicitly clear for some time, the reporting, if accurate, confirms that the U.S. “peace plan” is no more than a plan for permanent Israel control in the West Bank.
As FMEP has explained, institutionalizing the application of Israeli law over the settlements – which ends the legal distinctions between Israel and the settlements, as upheld by current Israeli law – would be tantamount to de facto annexation. FMEP has also documented, in great detail, Israel’s progress towards incrementally annexing the settlements in this manner, as various initiatives move through the Knesset, the Executive/Ministerial body, and the Courts. That data can be found on the second table on this document.
Settlers immediately celebrated the Israel TV report. Har Hevron Regional Council Chairman Yohai Damari said:
“I call on the prime minister to immediately announce, following the establishment of a government, that he will extend Israeli law to all the Jewish settlements as a basis for any offer that may come. We have to take advantage of this window of opportunity during the Trump administration in the wake of the transfer of the embassy to Jerusalem and the recognition of the Golan Heights. Now it is time for sovereignty in Judea and Samaria.”
Damari’s plea to the Prime Minister to act quickly to annex the settlements only adds to the growing crescendo pushing for the immediate, unilateral annexation, which U.S. Ambassador Friedman publicly urged on during his recent speech at the AIPAC national policy conference.
In a special version of its annual report on settlement growth – entitled “Special Annual Settlement Construction Report 2018: A Glance at 10 Years Under Netanyahu” – the settlement watchdog group Peace Now published important data and analysis of settlement activity in 2018 (not including East Jerusalem).
According to the report, during 2018:
Israel began construction on 2,100 new settlement units.
- This represents a 9% increase from the annual average of the past 10 years.
- Of that 2,100 units,
- At least 10% (218 new units) are in illegal outposts;
- Nearly 73% (1,539 new units) are in settlements outside of the proposed Geneva Initiative border;
- At least 10 are located on privately owned Palestinian land.
Construction began on 2 new settlements.
- The government officially planned and approved the establishment of the new Amichai settlement, the first new government-backed settlement in over 20 years. Amichai is located in the heart of the West Bank on a hilltop that settlers chose in the hopes it will prevent the possibility of the two-state solution.
- In addition, developers began construction on 108 new units in an area east of the Avnei Hafez settlement and then marketed the new units as a new settlement, which they call “Kedem”. Developers built this settlement based on a construction plan approved in 1998.
A total of 5,618 settlement units were advanced through plans in 79 settlements.
Of that number, almost 83% (4,672 housing units) are planned in settlements east of the proposed Geneva Initiative border.
A total of 5,808 settlement construction tenders were published (but construction had not yet began)
- This was the highest annual total for settlement tenders in almost two decades.
- The Beitar Illit settlement saw the most construction starts in 2018, concentrated in a new neighborhood which significantly expands the footprint of the settlement.
Additional 2018 Key Data Points
- Israel continued to build up an Israeli settler presence on the land between the Elkana settlement and its surrounding settlements (Etz Efraim to its east and Shaarei Tikva to its west), effectively creating one large “super settlement” and building a contiguous settlement band towards the Ariel settlement in the heart of the West Bank.
- In addition to West Bank settlement tenders, tenders for 603 new settlement units in East Jerusalem were also published in 2018.
In its special report – entitled “Special Annual Settlement Construction Report 2018: A Glance at 10 Years under Netanyahu” – Peace Now reports that since taking office in 2009, the Netanyahu governments have invested some $2.8 billion in settlements and built 19,346 new settlement units, the majority (70%) of which are located in areas of the West Bank that under past negotiations would have been in a future state of Palestine.
Peace Now writes:
“In the past decade, most of the construction was in isolated settlements that Israel will have to evacuate. The Peace Now count of housing construction starts reveals that 73 percent of the construction in 2018 (1,539 housing units) and 70 percent of construction during the decade of Netanyahu’s government (13,608 housing units) were implemented precisely in places that jeopardize a two-state agreement (east of the proposed border route of the Geneva Initiative). In this decade, close to 50,000 settlers have been added to these settlements, and the housing units built have the potential to add 60,000 settlers. This means that the Israeli government is digging the country a pit to fall in. Every house built in the settlements and every family that moves there will need to be brought back into Israel in a painful and difficult evacuation. Even if the government does not believe that peace can be achieved in the near future, there is no logic to expanding the settlements and making the solution impossible.”
After two years of repeatedly submitting freedom of information requests, the AP published results, based on documents turned over by Israel’s Finance Ministry. The documents reveal that the government unleashed at least a 39% funding increase – dubbed by the AP a “spending binge” – on settlement activities in the immediate aftermath of President Trump’s election.
According to the Finance Ministry data, in 2017 the Israeli government spent $459.8 million (NIS 1.65 billion) on roads, schools, and public buildings in settlements across the West Bank, compared to $333.2 million (NIS 1.19 billion) in 2016. AP notes that the new data does not include funds spent on police, education, health, and military, and completely omits government investments made in East Jerusalem settlement related activities — meaning the numbers actually undercount Israeli settlement-related spending (in both years).
The 2017 figures are the highest amount of Israeli government funds invested in the settlements by the government of Israel during any year since Netanyahu became prime minister 10 years ago (and has remained in power since). The Israeli government tracks its own spending on settlement activities in order to report that total sum to the U.S. government, a practice which began under President George H.W. Bush – which in theory is supposed to deduct the sum from U.S. loan guarantees available to Israel (in reality, the U.S. has made only occasional and minimal deductions).
The areas with the highest growth rate in funding in 2017 were school construction (68% increase from 2016) and road construction (54% increase from 2016). Hagit Ofran, co-Director of the Settlement Watch project at Peace Now, explained the significance of Israeli investments in roads for the settlements:
“We see it very immediately, after the opening of a road, a big boom in construction along the road,” she said. “I think the investments we have these years in the roads are dramatic and will allow the expansion of settlements dramatically. That is very much worrying.”
Nabil Abu Rudaineh, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said:
“This proves that the current U.S. administration encouraged settlement activities.”
11 Knesset Members Join Campaign to Cancel 2005 Disengagement Law & Re-establish Evacuated West Bank Settlements
Eleven members of the Knesset, including Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein, participated in tour of one of the four settlements in the northern West Bank which Israel evacuated in 2005 as part of its Gaza Disengagement plan. The IDF had to provide special permission for the MKs to visit the Homesh settlement, because , even all these years later, it is a closed military zone. This is just the latest event in a settler-led campaign to pressure Netanyahu into canceling the 2005 Gaza Disengagement Plan and re-establishing those settlements.
After Israel’s evacuation of the four settlements in the West Bank – Homesh, Sa-Nur, Ganim, and Kadim – the IDF issued military orders barring Palestinians from entering the areas, let alone building in them. At the same time, settlers have regularly entered the areas and even repeatedly built a yeshiva at the Homesh site.
Haaretz reports that Prime Minister Netanyahu plans to promote the so-called High Court Override bill, which would empower the Knesset to effectively strip the High Court of its power to review and strike down legislation it deems unconstitutional, as well as overrule the Court’s administrative decisions – a new, and alarming, component of the long touted law. This new component is needed in order for Netanyahu to ensure his own immunity against criminal charges, but it will also empower the Knesset to ignore the Court’s administrative decisions issued in response to petitions – effectively giving elected and partisan government officials a veto over the only justice system accessible by Palestinians. As Haaretz explains: “for example, if a minister makes a decision that is overruled by the court in response to a petition – such as Netanyahu’s decision to ban the entry of Palestinian participants of a joint memorial day ceremony – the minister could reissue the decision anyway.”
Critical for FMEP reporting, if the law is passed the Knesset will be empowered to reinstate the settlement Regulation Law if the High Court rules against it, which it has long been expected to do. The law, passed in February 2017 and quickly frozen, directs the government to retroactively legalize a huge number of illegal outposts and settlement structures which were built on privately owned Palestinian land. Implementation of the Regulation Law was quickly frozen in light of petitions to the High Court challenging its constitutionality.
According to the Haaretz report, an agreement to promote the override bill will be included in the coalition agreement Netanyahu is negotiating to form the next government, and parties are engaged in debates over the specific form the law will take. The right-wing parties want to pass the law within 60 days after the new government takes over, and in a form that would totally negate the authority of the High Court to strike down decisions by elected officials or bodies like the cabinet, the ministers or the Knesset. The comparatively centrist Likud members support the principle of the override law but not the specifics proposed by negotiating partners. Likud members say they are reviewing various models for the law which tinker with the mechanism by which the Knesset can override High Court rulings and administrative decisions.
The override bill has been a key objective of Netanyahu’s negotiating partners, most prominently MK Bezalel Smotrich and Transportation Minister Yariv Levin, who are competing to become the next Justice Minister and whose negotiation demands FMEP analyzed some weeks back. FMEP has also documented the progress of the High Court Override bill in its Annexation Policies tables.
Trump Envoy Praises US-Backed Economic “Coexistence” Group for Joint Settler-Palestinian Hebron Iftar
On May 14th, U.S. peace envoy Jason Greenblatt tweeted his praise for a joint settler-Palestinian iftar event in Hebron, hosted by the “Judea and Samaria Chamber of Commerce,” a favorite group of the Trump Administration’s peace team. As has become a key mantra, Greenblatt said the event helps lay the “groundwork for peace” and said it was a “wonderful example of what could be possible.” As pointed out by many voices on Twitter, praise for the event ignores ignoring the apartheid conditions in Hebron under which Israeli policies deny Palestinian rights and well-being, for the benefit of some 800 Israeli settlers.
Palestinian businessman Sheikh Ashraf Jabari held the event in his Hebron home. Jabari recently launched a new Palestinian political party, the Reform and Development Party, advocating for a one-state solution because, Jabari argues, Palestinians have no other choice than to accept Israeli sovereignty over them. It is well known that Jabari has close ties to the Trump administration, which has very publicly embraced settler-Palestinian economic co-existence initiatives as a core U.S. priority on the ground and are seeking an alternative Palestinian leadership with which to make a deal.
Jabari told the Jerusalem Post about the iftar event and his broader aims:
“We want to build a united front, to create a breakthrough on the economic issue. We are issuing a clear call to separate between economics and politics, and hope to have fruitful cooperation on the subject. From our point of view, we need to strengthen the connection between the US legislature and activity that promotes economic equality here. This meal is meant to reinforce the growing trend in which economic-business connections can strengthen relations and friendship, by way of leading people to a more positive place.”
Along with Jabari, high profile event attendees – which included Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan and Hebron Jewish community leader Yishai Fleisher – praised the business initiative as a model for peaceful relations.
Uri Karzen, the Director General of the settlers in Hebron and an attendee of the iftar, said in a tweet:
Heather Johnston, executive-director of the US-Israel Education Association which leads U.S. congressional delegation to settlements and runs camps in the Ariel settlement (no joke – to help Ethiopian Jews rediscover their roots), told the event attendees:
“Each of you have played a role in helping to build this integrated business movement. You have made sacrifices. You have gone into the unknown. You have been willing to take risks in business and in relationships. And this is what it takes to pioneer something that will one day be a humongous success. I have been involved in Samaria for the last 22 years. I believe there is more hope today for this important relationship to actually succeed than ever before.”
Chamber president Avi Zimmerman, of the Ariel settlement, said:
“We can measure progress at a people-to-people level, at every business transaction. Every time I get up and say ‘this is only about economics, it is not about peace,’ everyone starts talking about peace. Which makes me believe that if everyone keeps talking about peace when we speak of economics, that these incremental, measured steps toward mutual interest are actually what will birth the peace. They can birth a political process, but it will not happen the other way around,” he said. “We have learned for 70 years that it is not going to be the other way. It has to start this way.”
FMEP has repeatedly explained how initiatives like this perpetuate Israel’s economic exploitation of occupied territory (including the local workforce, land, and other natural resources), and that it is perverse to label such initiatives as “coexistence” programs, or to suggest that they offer the Palestinians benefits they should welcome. The New York Times quoted a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority explaining the Orwellian reality of settlement industrial zones:
“Somebody occupies your country, steals your land, steals your water, steals your resources, then says: ‘I’ll make a good deal for you if you come work for me. I’ll create jobs for you. We are not occupiers. We are employers.’ This is ridiculous. The colonial settlements are illegal in every sense of the word.”
- “Israel Okays Major West Bank Roads, Seizing Large Tracts of Palestinian Land” (Haaretz)
- “Israel Dismisses Complaint Against Lawmaker Who Called to Ban Arabs from Highway” (Haaretz)
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October 25, 2018
- More Evidence of WZO Support for Illegal Settlement Activity
- Israel to Expropriate More Palestinian Land to Widen West Bank Highway
- Settlers Take Over Another Building in Silwan
- Hugely Disproportionate Amount of Government Grants to Regional Councils Go to Settlements
- Fearing Unfavorable Court Ruling, Palestinians Petition ICC to Stop Hebron Settlement Plan
- Cabinet to Consider Bill to Allow the Knesset to Overrule the High Court of Justice
- Knesset Advances Bill to Politicize Legal Advisors
- More Drama Surrounding Palestinians Who Sold Old City House to Settlers
- Israeli “Sovereignty Movement” Asks Candidates About Annexation Views
- Bonus Reads
Comments, questions, or suggestions? Email Kristin McCarthy at email@example.com.
The Israeli non-profit organization Kerem Navot revealed new documents offering new evidence that the Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organization employs unlawful practices in its drive to help settlers build illegal outposts and unauthorized settlement structures on Palestinian land in the West Bank. The documents show that the WZO’s Settlement Division has regularly engaged in practices including:
- Granting loans – using taxpayer money – for illegal construction of settlement unauthorized outposts;
- Accepting highly questionable “collateral” from the settlers to guarantee such loans, including sheep, a chicken coop, date trees, and agricultural equipment; and
- Providing false confirmations to private banks that settlers owned or were legally working land, in order to enable settlers to acquiring private mortgages for homes in unauthorized outposts and/or homes built illegally in existing settlements.
Dror Etkes, founder of Kerem Navot, told Haaretz:
“It’s been obvious for years that the [Settlement] division has adopted unlawful patterns of operation after assuming the role of contractor carrying out the dirty work that state authorities have tried to distance themselves from having direct responsibility for. The documents show systematic and continuous unlawful conduct intended to support the most extremist and violent elements among the settlers, people who are responsible for the expulsion and expropriation of Palestinian communities from wide areas of the West Bank.”
The WZO’s Settlement Division was created by the Israeli government in 1968 – and is funded entirely by Israeli taxpayers. Its mandate is to manage West Bank land expropriated by Israel, in order to facilitate the settlement of Israeli Jews in the occupied territories. To make this possible, the Israeli government has allocated approximately 60% of all “state land” to the WZO’s Settlement Division [over the past 50 years Israel has declared huge areas of the West Bank to be “state land,” including more than 40% of Area C, where most of the settlements are located]. But apparently that wasn’t enough for the WZO’s Settlement Division: settlement and human rights watchdogs have repeatedly documented how it has worked to take over additional land, including privately owned Palestinian land, in order to build more settlements.
“the government is scandalously planning to give the biggest land thieves responsibility for managing the land distribution, which will continue to be done under the cover of darkness if the bill passes into law.”
According to Palestinian press reports, the Israeli Minister of Transportation Yisrael Katz has greenlighted a project to confiscate vast tracts of Palestinian land in the West Bank, in order to widen a section of the West Bank’s main north-south highway, Route 60, in an area spanning between Bethlehem-area settlements to Hebron-area settlements. In addition to confiscating land to add two lanes to the road (doubling the number of lanes from 2 to 4), Palestinians fear that the highway expansion is part of a larger project seeking to expand the West Bank settler population to 1 million Israelis by 2030, as promised by Education Minister and the leader of the Jewish Home party Naftali Bennet. The Israeli Transportation Ministry has reportedly allocated $50 million to the project.
Highway 60 is the sole major roadway providing north/south contiguity through the West Bank. Palestinian access to Route 60 is restricted in sections near settlements, and Route 60 has been completely severed between Jerusalem and Bethlehem by Israel’s separation barrier (there is literally a wall across the highway) in order to include the Efrat settlement on the Israeli side of the barrier. The economic, political, and social impacts of the closure of Highway 60 have been severe for the Palestinian population.
Ir Amim reports that the last remaining Palestinian tenants have been evicted from an apartment building located in the Batan al-Hawa section of Silwan, the site of the single largest settler takeover operation in East Jerusalem since the annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967.
The Abu-Sneina family was the last tenant in a 4-story, 10-unit building. The Israeli Custodian General transferred ownership of the building to the Ateret Cohanim settler organization (which works to establish Jewish enclaves inside densely populated Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem) in 2015, based on the settlers’ taking over management of the Benvenisti Trust, which oversaw the assets of Yemenite Jews who lived in the neighborhood in the 19th century. Palestinians have challenged the legitimacy of the Benvinisti Trust’s rights to the currently existing buildings, saying that the trust only covered the old buildings (none of which remain standing) and not the land. Indeed, the State admitted to the Courts on June 10, 2018 that the land had been transferred to the Benvenisti Trust/Ateret Cohanim without a proper investigation into its legal status. On June 17, 2018, the Israeli High Court of Justice ordered the Israeli government to provide more information and an explanation of the decision to give the land/buildings to the Trust. Nonetheless, in September 2018 the Jerusalem Magistrate Court ruled that evictions could proceed in buildings that Ateret Cohanim controls, even though Ateret Cohanim’s ownership of the buildings – based on its control of the Trust – remains in legal question.
As FMEP has previously reported, Ateret Cohanim is implementing a multifaceted campaign to remove Palestinians from their homes in the Batan al-Hawa section of Silwan, claiming that the Palestinians are illegally squatting on land owned by the Trust. To date, Ateret Cohanim has managed to acquire the deeds to six Palestinian homes in Batan al-Hawa, inserting some 20 Israeli Jewish families in place of evicted Palestinian residents. The organization has eviction orders pending against an additional 21 homes, with 800 Palestinians at risk of eviction.
Yakoub al-Rajabi, a Palestinian resident of Batan al-Hawa, recently told The Washington Post:
“We know that this was a well-orchestrated plan to force us to leave. And if we stay, it will paralyze us and isolate us in our homes.”
In a 2016 report that covers the Batan al-Hawa situation in detail, Ir Amim and Peace Now underscore the significance of Ateret Cohanim’s efforts:
“If the settlers are successful, Batan al-Hawa is anticipated to become the largest settlement compound in a Palestinian neighborhood in the Historic Basin of the Old City, with the outcome of significantly tightening the emerging ring of settlements around the Old City and severely undermining the possibility of a future two state solution in Jerusalem.”
Celebrating the takeover of another building in Batan al-Hawa in August 2018, Ateret Cohanim director Daniel Luria told The Times of Israel:
“Every acquisition is very difficult. We’re up against a mobilized Arab world, parts of which are violent. There is huge pressure and millions of dollars are being pumped in to strengthen the Arab hold on the city…[the] biggest problem is trying to get the Jewish world to understand what needs to be done. We have the best relations ever with a US administration. For [US Vice President Mike] Pence and [US Ambassador to Israel David] Friedman and the others, [settling Jews in East Jerusalem] is a no-brainer. What’s our right-wing government waiting for? It’s not about what the US says. It’s about what we do. We are not doing anything to stop the peace process but will not compromise on a millimeter of Jerusalem. You have to show strength of conviction and sovereignty to have peace and coexistence. This can only happen when you live together under Jewish sovereignty.”
The Knesset Research and Information Center issued a report revealing that 25% of all state funds allocated to Israeli regional councils are given to West Bank regional councils, despite the fact these settlement regional councils account for just 5% of all regional councils operating on both sides of the Green Line.
Examining funding channels – including grants to regional councils for education, welfare, and for projects of the Interior Ministry – it was found that the settlement regional councils are far better funded than those located in sovereign Israel. Putting a fine point on the discrepancy, a student attending school in a settlement receives nearly twice the amount of government benefits per year as compared to a student studying in sovereign Israeli territory.
MK Stav Shaffir (Zionist Union), who ordered the report, points out that the report doesn’t even begin to document the total amount of money that the government diverts from sovereign Israel into settlements:
“This is only the tip of the iceberg, since the report doesn’t include the budgets that are transferred outside the budget plan, like the Settlement Division’s budgets that are mostly invested in the West Bank settlements and not in the State of Israel.”
The Adva Center, an Israel non-profit that documents and analyzes the cost of occupation on the state budget, published a report [full report in Hebrew, executive summary in English] in August 2018 showing that Israel is not only disproportionately funding settlement councils in general, but in particular is disproportionately funding settlement councils located deep inside of the West Bank, in areas that are most problematic to any future attempts to draw borders for a two-state solution. Adva writes:
“Non-Haredi settlements in the occupied territories are still to be found at the top on 3 measures. Compared to several other types of municipalities – the 15 most affluent Israeli localities, the largely Mizrahi “development towns,” the Arab localities within Israel, and Haredi settlements, the non-Haredi settlements continue to enjoy the largest per capita municipal expenditure, the largest per capita central government “designated” subsidy (mainly for education and social welfare services), and the largest per capita central government balance grant. The non-Haredi settlements, on the other hand, include, among others, the so called “ideological” settlements, many of them deep inside Palestinian territories and strongly opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state.”
On October 18th, top Palestinian diplomat Saeb Erekat sent a letter to the International Criminal Court (ICC) asking it to expedite the launch of a criminal investigation into Israeli settlement activity, citing the urgency of preventing the construction of a new 31-unit settlement in the heart of Hebron. Palestinians most recently referred a case against Israeli settlements to the ICC for investigation in May 2018, its eighth referral on the matter.
Speaking to Al-Monitor, Tawfiq Jahshan – a lawyer for the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee – explained that Erekat’s letter might have been motivated by the Israeli government’s decision to approve the new settlement plan despite pending litigation against it. Jahshan said:
“There were deliberations [about petitions against the plan] and hearings. Most recently in June, the final hearing was postponed and the decision was to be notified — once issued — by way of email. But surprisingly Israel’s Cabinet approved Oct. 14 the financing of the project. By acting before the issuance of the judicial decision, the Israeli Cabinet gave the green light to the judges to refuse the objection…There is no competent Palestinian judicial body to examine such cases, so we have to resort to Israeli justice often unfair to us. Resorting to the ICC is a necessary step to face the injustice shown by the Israeli judiciary.”
To date, the Israeli Defense Ministry has not issued a response to either of the two formal complaints filed against the settlement plan. Both petitioners – the Hebron Municipality and Peace Now – have stated they will appeal the case to High Court of Justice if the Defense Ministry decides the settlement can be built.
Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and her Jewish Home party have decided to advance a new, narrow version of the so-called High Court override law which will make it impossible for the High Court of Justice to strike down the Knesset’s plans to deport African asylum seekers and migrants. The new version has been narrowed in order to gain support from parties that are willing to see the High Court overruled when it comes to Africa asylum seekers, but opposed to a broader overrule law.
The decision to advance the narrower version increases the likelihood that the law will pass, and in so doing deals another body blow to Israel’s judicial system. At the same time, the decision drew protest from hardliners. Seeking to assuage right-wing critics of the limited plan, Shaked announced that Jewish Home will demand support for the broader version of the law as a part of a future coalition agreement (elections are widely expected to be called soon, meaning the governing coalition agreement will need to be renegotiated). If the broader version passes into law, the Knesset will be able to reinstate any law struck down by the High Court (including most relevantly, the settlement Regulation Law, if it is struck down as expected).
Economic Minister Moshe Kahlon (leader of the Kulanu Party, which is part of the current governing coalition) has effectively blocked the broader bill from moving forward by whipping his party members to stand firm against it. Kahlon has taken heat from all sides concerning his support for the limited version this week. From the left, Zionist Union MK Michal Biran said:
“Kahlon declared he would support a narrow notwithstanding clause, concerning the infiltrators. Meaning, in some cases it’s allowed to bypass the High Court, but in other cases it’s not. Kahlon’s attempt to run between the raindrops in this extremist right-wing government shows lack of ideology, lack of trust in the justice system, and lack of trust in the fact the public is not stupid. Kahlon’s voters wanted to see a man in the government who represents the sane center, and got a submissive slave of Netanyahu. With his own hands Kahlon is helping bypass Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty over political whims.”
From the right, MK Shuli Mualim said:
“This is a test Minister Kahlon, who has for months been preventing the enactment of the broader legislation on the issue … the bill formulated now is exactly the kind of bill Kahlon claimed he would support. I expect him to keep his promises to the residents of southern Tel Aviv.”
The narrow bill will be presented to the Ministerial Committee on Legislation at its next meeting on October 28th, and is expected to receive the seal of government-backing. If the committee votes to back the bill, it will then be sent to the Knesset where it will need to pass three readings.
On October 22nd, the Knesset’s Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee reviewed a bill being promoted by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked that, if passed, will allow each government minister to select his/her own ministerial legal advisor, a move which politicizes a key office charged with ensuring that the rule of law is followed when implementing policy. Legal advisors have the authority to block actions of the minister if they are deemed unlawful, a critical power that requires political independence from the ruling coalition and party figure at the head of the ministry. The bill has already passed its first Knesset reading.
The Haaretz Editorial Board published blistering piece on the bill, writing:
“Instead of legal advisers who are honest, independent, loyal to the law and prepared to warn against illegal, corrupt and improper activity, we will have legal advisers who close their eyes to government corruption and who will be prepared to whitewash anything. Instead of independent advisers we will get dependent and submissive ones.”
There has been widespread criticism of Shaked’s bill, including from Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit (who argued against the law before the Knesset), Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, and many other legal luminaries.
The Israeli Shin Bet arrested (and later released) two Palestinian Authority (PA) officials suspected of abducting a Palestinian-American real estate dealer who was allegedly involved in the sale to an Israeli settler organization of a house in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, abutting the al-Aqsa Mosque. The two men arrested were Adnan Ghaith, who was appointed as the Governor of Jerusalem by the Palestinian Authority (PA), and Jihad al-Fakih, the director of the PA’s intelligence efforts in Jerusalem. The PA claims that the Palestinian-American man surrendered himself willingly into its custody, where he reportedly remains under interrogation at the order of President Abbas. The unnamed individual’s family has submitted requests for help to the American Embassy in Jerusalem. The U.S. State Department has said it is in touch with the PA about the reports.
The settler organization known as the “Sovereignty Movement” has polled candidates running in the upcoming Israeli local elections on their support for annexation policies. The resulting compendium of candidate statements in support of annexation was published in the Arutz Sheva settler-aligned news outlet.
Local elections will be held October 30th across Israel and West Bank settlements. The Sovereignty Movement released a statement calling on candidates to support annexation, saying:
“Implementing Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria constitutes the next essential step in the Zionist vision of the return of the People of Israel to its Land, and a vital step in security, but is also necessary in order to provide civil rights for the residents of Judea and Samaria that is equal to those of the rest of the citizens of Israel. The heads of local authorities understand well the difficult challenges in dealing with military figures to promote even the elementary civil needs of the residents. Applying sovereignty will put a stop to the discrimination and harming almost a half-million Judea and Samaria residents. This is the time to tell the different candidates in the various authorities: Support sovereignty and we will vote for you!.”
- “Israel Has Chosen Settlements Over Security” (The Forward)
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October 18, 2018
- Full Speed Ahead on “Legalizing” Illegal Outposts
- Israeli Cabinet Approves $6.1 Million in Funding for New Settlement in Hebron
- Ambassador Friedman Stand With Settlers (Literally) in Ariel
- Closure of U.S. Consulate Stokes Annexation Hopes/Fears
- B’Tselem Head to UN Security Council: Israel’s Settlement Policies Have Created Bantustans in West Bank
- If Not Now: 5 Ways American Jews Are Supporting Occupation
- Arab League Issues Report Slamming “Accelerating” Settlement Growth and “Apartheid” Policies
- Bonus Read
Comments, questions, or suggestions? Email Kristin McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two outpost-related developments this week underscore the Israeli governments seriousness about moving ahead with its plans to suspend even the pretense of respect for the rule of law for the sake of settlements.
First, the Knesset’s Internal Affairs Committee is calling for the Israeli Civil Administration and Prime Minister Netanyahu to act by the end of the year to retroactively legalize 20 settlement outposts built on without Israeli government authorization on privately owned Palestinian land, with 50 more outposts to follow. Speaking to the Knesset Committee on October 15th, Pinchas Wallerstein, the longtime settler leader whom the government appointed to lead its ongoing effort to move ahead with legalization of the outposts, argued that the Civil Administration can “easily” authorize 15-20 outposts by including them as neighborhoods of existing settlements, and that an additional 50 outposts can be legalized but will require more complicated solutions. It is worth recalling here that in the years before the took this new job, Wallerstein: was prosecuted for knowingly violating Israeli law by illegally building a sewage plant near the Ofra settlement on private Palestinian land; admitted to issuing forged building permits for settlement construction without the authority to do so; and admitted to lying to government authorities to expedite the construction of the (since evacuated) building the Amona outpost. The Civil Administration’s High Planning Council – the arm of the Israeli Defense Ministry which is the sovereign power in the West Bank (and therefore responsible for regulating construction there) – is expected to meet one more time this year to advance and approve settlement construction plans.
As FMEP has tracked, the effort to legalize 70 outposts built on privately owned Palestinian land started in earnest following the passage of the Regulation Law in February 2017. That law gave the Israeli government new, sweeping authority to legalize outposts the status of which it has been unable to otherwise address under existing Israeli law (which, consistent with a basic tenet of rule of law, did not permit the State, in effect, to condone one set of individuals engaging in the outright theft of private property belonging to another set of individuals). Notably, the 2005 Sasson Report concluded that there was no possible way to legalize outposts built on privately owned Palestinian land, and concluded that all such outposts should be evacuated. However, based on new authorities granted to the government under the Regulation Law, the Israeli government has moved ahead with legalization efforts, despite the fact that the Regulation Law was subsequently frozen while the High Court weighs its constitutionality (and remains frozen at this time). These efforts include establishing in May 2017 a special committee (known as the Zandberg Committee, named for its chairwoman, Haya Zandberg, who was since named a Jerusalem district court judge), which in May 2018 issued recommendations for how Israel could retroactively legalize all outposts within three years; and they included appointing Pinchas Wallerstein to take charge of the subsequent legalization push (despite pushback from the Justice Ministry).
In July 2018, MKs Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) and Yoav Kisch (Likud) sought to speed up the implementation of the Zandberg Report’s recommendations by submitting a bill for consideration by the Israeli Cabinet, aiming to directly legalize the 70 unauthorized outposts across the West Bank. The Cabinet has not yet called that bill up for consideration.
In this week’s second outpost-related development, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked has received approval to appoint a Justice Ministry representative to the coordination team which supervises and directs the work of the outpost legalization committee described above. Taking orders from and reporting to Shaked, the new Justice Ministry representative to the coordination team will ensure that Shaked’s influence shapes the committee’s work. FMEP has repeatedly documented the many ways Shaked has inserted herself into government matters involving settlements and outposts – all in order to ensure the Israeli government acts to protect settlers, ensure their continued permanence in the West Bank, and prepare the way for the ultimate annexation of Area C. The totality of Shaked’s efforts are documented, on an ongoing basis, in FMEP’s Annexation Policy Tables.
To be clear: if implemented, the retroactive legalization of outposts built on privately owned Palestinian land will dismantle even the pretense of Israeli respect for the rule of law in West Bank, in effect rewarding Israelis for breaking the law. It will do so not for the sake of Israeli security or the interests of the Israeli population as a whole, but rather for the sole benefit of settlers. If implemented, the recommendations will “legalize” the outright theft of land recognized by Israel as privately owned by Palestinians and will lay the groundwork for continued, additional expropriation of privately-owned land for settlement-related construction.
Developments related to these efforts are tracked in FMEP’s annexation policy tables.
On October 14th, the Israeli Cabinet voted to expedite the establishment of a new settlement in the heart of downtown Hebron and pay the bill – totalling $6.1 million (22 million shekels) – from several ministries – for its construction. FMEP reported on the plan for 31 settlement units on Shuhada Street in last week’s Settlement Report, including two legal challenges filed by Peace Now and the (Palestinian) Municipality of Hebron. If implemented, this will be the first new government-backed settlement in downtown Hebron since 2002.
The new settlement will require significant renovations to transform a military base into a new settlement, to include 31 residential units, a kindergarten, and “public areas.” The Defense Ministry will contribute about $770,000 (2.8 million shekels), and the Science, Technology and Space Ministry, the Environmental Protection Ministry and the Ministries of Social Equality, Justice, and Education are also committed to subsidizing the project.
MK Ayman Odeh (Joint List) slammed the Cabinet’s decision, saying:
“Twenty-two million shekels to expand the occupation. Straight from government ministries near your home. The divisive and inciting right-wing government is continuing to inflame the region and then shouts that there is no partner. For the benefit of a handful of extremist settlers, the government is trampling its citizens.”
While making a very strong political statement with his attendance at a private business conference in the Ariel settlement, U.S. Ambassador David Friedman continued to publicly champion settlement industrial zones as meaningful “coexistence” and “peace” projects that advance U.S. peace efforts. Following the event, Ambassador Friedman tweeted:
“At the invitation of the Judea and Samaria Chamber of Commerce, I met in Ariel with Palestinian & Israeli business leaders ready, willing & able to advance joint opportunity & peaceful coexistence. People want peace & we are ready to help! Is the Palestinian leadership listening?”
A U.S. Embassy spokesperson released a statement on the Ambassador’s support for business “coexistence” programs, saying:
“In support of the President’s peace plan, U.S. Ambassador Friedman is working to promote peaceful coexistence and stronger people to people connections between Israelis and Palestinians because people that work together and do business together are more likely to form bonds of friendship and live together in peace. The ambassador was encouraged by the enthusiasm and commitment of the Israeli and Palestinian business leaders he met with yesterday to work together to create more economic opportunity and peaceful coexistence within the region.”
In last week’s settlement report, FMEP linked to several resources acknowledging and explaining the perversity of labeling Israel’s economic exploitation of occupied territory (including the local workforce, land, and other natural resources) “coexistence” or suggesting that it brings to the Palestinians benefits they should welcome. Adding to that, a new piece in The New York Times quoted a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority explaining the Orwellian reality of settlement industrial zones:
“Somebody occupies your country, steals your land, steals your water, steals your resources, then says: ‘I’ll make a good deal for you if you come work for me. I’ll create jobs for you. We are not occupiers. We are employers.’ This is ridiculous. The colonial settlements are illegal in every sense of the word.”
The media also widely reported this week that Friedman’s participation in the event at Ariel was the first time a U.S. ambassador had traveled to an Israeli settlement in his/her official capacity – despite the fact that Friedman has previously visited settlements since taking up official duties. Regardless, Friedman’s very public act of traveling to and speaking at Ariel should put to rest any remaining speculation about whether the U.S. had changed its policy refraining from official travel there.
Americans for Peace Now reacted to the events of the week, saying:
“Friedman’s idea of Israeli-Palestinian peaceful coexistence is what he found under Israeli military occupation, in a settlement that is one of the largest obstacles to Israeli-Palestinian peace.”
J Street released a statement saying:
“By making an official public appearance at an event in an Israeli West Bank settlement, Ambassador Friedman once again crossed a major, longstanding red line of bipartisan US policy. The Trump administration continues to send a clear message of support for the settlement movement and the agenda of the Israeli right. Indeed, the ambassador, himself a longtime benefactor of the settlement movement, has actively worked to erode the distinction between Israel and the occupied territory it controls beyond the Green Line. With unprecedented actions like these, the Trump administration is driving home the point that they have no real interest in promoting a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — now or in the future.”
On October 18th, the U.S. State Department announced that it is closing the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem and folding its functions into a new “Palestinian Affairs Unit” within the U.S. Embassy. For decades, the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem – one of the only fully independent Consulates the U.S. maintains anywhere in the world, reporting directly to Washington, rather than operating under the authority of an embassy – has functioned as the de facto U.S. embassy to the Palestinians. As such, its existence carried important symbolism for Palestinian national aspirations, signaling that the U.S. viewed Palestinian affairs and its relations with Palestinians and their leaders not merely as a subset of issues between Israel, but as a matter of importance to the U.S. in its own right, and as a separate bilateral relationship.
The downgrading of U.S. relations with the Palestinians implied by this shift in operations – the implications of which are well understood both by Palestinians and the Israeli right – has inspired celebration from Israel’s pro-annexationist leaders, and stoked despair amongst Palestinians.
Commenting on the move, FMEP President Lara Friedman tweeted:
“Added to recent closure of PLO mission in Washington, it cements new reality of US w/ NO direct, bilateral relationship with Palestinians – any/all relations will now be wholly-owned subsidiary of US-Israel ties…completing the roll-back of relations to pre-Madrid era.”
Saeb Erekat released a statement saying:
“The Trump Administration is making clear that it is working together with the Israeli Government to impose Greater Israel rather than the two-state solution on the 1967 border. The US administration has fully endorsed the Israeli narrative, including on Jerusalem, Refugees and Settlements.”
Former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. and current Deputy Minister for Diplomacy, MK Michael Oren tweeted:
“A great day for Israel, Jerusalem, and the United States. SoS Pompeo’s announcement closing the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem and transferring its responsibilities to the embassy ends the last vestige of American support for the city’s division. Israel is deeply grateful.”
Peace Now tweeted:
“The downgrading of the unofficial US embassy for Palestinians in Jerusalem coincides this week with the US Ambassador to Israel’s decision to cross the red line on visiting settlements when he visited Ariel. The writing is on the wall.”
Americans for Peace Now released a statement saying:
“Downgrading the US diplomatic mission to the Palestinians to a subsidiary of the US embassy to Israel signals that American policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has changed dramatically. It puts a giant question mark over the assumption of a future Palestinian state. It is yet another gesture in a series of humiliating measures toward the Palestinians and their leadership by the Trump administration. More than anything, this measure signals an acceptance, if not outright embrace, of Israel’s accelerating process of annexing the West Bank, a declared goal of the most extreme right-wing elements in Israel’s governing coalition. The fact that this ‘merger’ (more accurately, a hostile takeover) will be led by US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman makes this development even more alarming. David Friedman has openly and publicly attacked the two-state solution. He is an avid supporter and past financier of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and has been openly contemptuous of the Palestinian leadership, availing himself of any opportunity to demean it. Disastrously, Friedman has emerged as the architect of the Trump administration’s calamitous policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and no one within the administration is willing or able to stop him from ramming through his agenda.”
B’Tselem Head to UN Security Council: Israel’s Settlement Policies Have Created Bantustans in West Bank
Addressing the United Nations Security Council on October 18, 2018, B’Tselem President Hagai El-Ad said:
“…All this is often referred to as “the status quo.” Yet there is nothing static about this reality. It is a calculated and deliberate process of slowly splitting up an entire people, fragmenting their land, and disrupting their lives: separating Gaza from the West Bank, breaking up the West Bank into small enclaves, and walling off East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank. Eventually, what remains are isolated bits, the easier to oppress: a family slated for “eviction” in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan; a community such as ‘Urif, south of Nablus, trying against all odds to hold on to its land and farm it in the face of Israel’s long arm of unchecked settler violence; or Area A of the West Bank, conveniently said to be “under full Palestinian control,” but in fact essentially large Bantustans, slowly but surely being hemmed in by ever more new or expanding Israeli settlements. None of this is random. All of it is policy-driven. Two of the latest and most conspicuous examples are Israel’s conduct in the recent protests in Gaza, and its plans for Khan al-Ahmar, a Palestinian shepherding community. Some 200 people live in Khan al-Ahmar, just a few kilometers east of Jerusalem, in an area where Israel has long endeavored to minimize Palestinian presence and expand settlements.”
The American Jewish group If Not Now published a new report entitled, “Beyond Talk: Five Ways the American Jewish Establishment Supports the Occupation.” Settlements factor in heavily in the critique.
A few of If Not Now’s findings:
- Between 2009 and 2013, 50 American 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations gave over $220 million in tax-deductible donations to settlements and other extreme right-wing organizations, according to an investigation of American and American Jewish organizations’ IRS tax forms conducted by Israel’s Haaretz newspaper.
- Jewish Federations in cities around the country allow donors to funnel money through donor-advised funds to pro-Occupation organizations that fund extreme right-wing settlers. At the same time, they prevent donors from using these funds to support groups that have expressed support for Palestinian rights, such as the National Lawyers Guild, Jewish Voice for Peace, and IfNotNow.
- In addition to lobbying for Israel, the majority of Jewish institutions lobby against any and all criticism of Israel’s Occupation. Of all American Jewish organizations with large national memberships, only Americans for Peace Now, Jewish Voice for Peace, J Street, and the New Israel Fund supported the U.S. administration’s abstention in the December 2016 United Nations Security Council Resolution recognizing Israel’s settlements as illegal under international law. The mixture of condemnation and silence from every other national American Jewish organization demonstrates an investment in a status quo that benefits settlement expansion over Palestinian rights.
The entire report (with extensive citations for the above facts) is available online here.
On October 14th, the Arab League issued a report condemning Israeli settlement construction, which the group cites as happening at “an accelerating pace amid U.S. acceptance and encouragement and absence of international accountability.” The report continues, “Israel systematically allocates lands for Jews as part of a policy that can only be described as apartheid.”
- “Settlers Accused of Targeting Palestinian Olive Trees As Harvest Kicks Off” (Times of Israel)
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August 31, 2018
- Setting a New Legal Precedent, Court Accepts “Market Regulation” Principle As Basis for Legalizing Outpost
- Shaked & Regavim Take Credit for Precedent-Setting Outpost Legalization Victory
- Another New Outpost – Continuing the Trend of Unannounced, Unopposed, & Highly Consequential Settlement Expansion
- Special U.S. Regulations Protect Israel’s Settlement Enterprise from Quality Aerial Documentation
- Bonus Reads
Setting a New Legal Precedent, Court Accepts “Market Regulation” Principle As Basis for Legalizing Outpost
Jerusalem District Court Ruling
On August 18th, Jerusalem District Court Judge Arnon Darel ruled in favor of retroactively legalizing the Mitzpe Kramim outpost, holding that privately owned Palestinian land can (and should) be expropriated for the settlements in instances where Israeli settlers built “in good faith” and with government support – a rationale called the “market regulation” principle. According to the ruling, the Court held that the parties responsible for the outpost – the Israeli government, the World Zionist Organization, and the settlers – all acted in “good faith.” Specifically, the Court held that the State acted in “good faith” even though it was negligent in its responsibility to protect the rights of Palestinians and correctly record/manage the status of land in the West Bank; and, that the settlers acted in “good faith,” even though they built the outpost without government authorization, without building permits, and without a master plan.
This is the first time an Israeli court has accepted the “market regulation” principle as a valid basis for legalizing outposts, setting a monumental new precedent according to which outposts that the government had previously been unable to legalize (because they were built on land recognized by Israel as privately owned by Palestinians) to petition for authorization. With this judgment, the public got a first glimpse of the incredibly broad interpretation of “good faith” that the Jerusalem District Court (now the court of first jurisdiction for land disputes in the West Bank) is inclined to apply on behalf of law-breaking settlers.
Peace Now released a statement saying:
“The court today chose to ‘align’ with the project of annexation and dispossession of the Israeli government led by the Netanyahu and the Jewish Home. It is absurd to attribute ‘good faith’ to the settlers of an illegal outpost whose homes were built illegally and without permits on private Palestinians land, because of a ‘mistake’ made by the authorities in allocating the land. The Israeli Authorities should protect the properties of the people under their control, and failing to do so cannot be used as an excuse to take the land from the Palestinian owners. Let us hope that the Supreme Court will erase this shame.”
Background on the Mitzpe Kramim Case
The outpost at the center of the case – Mitzpe Kramim – was built in 1999 without government authorization on land near the Kochav Hashachar settlement, located deep inside the West Bank, closer to the Jordan River than sovereign Israeli territory. In the 1970s, land in the area was taken by the State of Israel by military order; subsequently, the land on which the outpost was built was allocated to the World Zionist Organization (WZO), apparently based on the (mistaken) assumption that the land in question was part of that military seizure. The WZO then gave the land to settlers, even issuing a certificate of ownership in their names. However, the land in question was not included in the military seizure of the 1970s, but was/is In fact recorded in the Land Registry as privately owned by Palestinians from the village of Deir Jarir. This fact should, under Israeli law, invalidate the government’s allocation of the land to the WZO, and the WZO’s grant of the land to the settlers.
In 2011, the registered Palestinian landowners filed a petition with the High Court of Justice to have the Mitzpe Kramim outpost removed from their land, only to see the settlers file their own petition in 2013 with the Jerusalem District Court (which froze the High Court’s consideration of the Palestinians’ petition), seeking to be registered as the rightful landowners. In their petition, the settlers – who are represented by Harel Arnon, the same lawyer hired to represent the Israeli government in its defense of the “Regulation Law” – argued that they are innocent victims of a mistake by the government, and as such should not be forced to bear the consequences of having built their homes on someone else’s land. Originally the Israeli government, admitting that the Civil Administration had made a mistake in mapping the area, argued that the settlers should be removed. In July 2018, the State completely reversed its stance, submitting a new argument to the Court citing the “market regulation” principle in defense of expropriating the land for the settlers.
In its ruling this week, the Jerusalem District Court gave legal validity to the newly invented “market regulation” basis for taking Palestinian land that had previously been impossible for the State to legally expropriate.
Now that the Jerusalem District Court has ruled in favor of the settlers’ claim, the High Court of Justice is set to take up the original petition filed by the Palestinian landowners to have the outpost removed. Part of the High Court’s deliberations will now have to grapple with the new jurisprudence established by the Jerusalem District Court on the “market regulation” principle.
Regardless of whether or not the High Court allows the Jerusalem District Court’s ruling to stand, that ruling has already energized pro-settlement, pro-annexation Israeli policymakers and influencers, who (unsurprisingly) have lauded the ruling and urged more outpost legalization cases forward. The ruling also legitimizes the longstanding arrangement between Israel and the settlers: the government turns a blind eye to illegal settlement activity (including rebuffing efforts by settlement watchdogs to force it to take action, and when forced by the courts to take action, drags its feet to allow illegal activities to become more deeply entrenched), only to go to any lengths to authorize the illegal actions post-facto. This modus operandi allows Israel to circumvent the limitations of Israeli law, bureaucracy and international criticism, all of which would otherwise restrain (to some extent) unfettered settlement construction and land theft in the West Bank.
FMEP tracks the ongoing legislative, political, and legal transformations happening in the Israeli government to justify the expropriation of Palestinian land for the settlements in its Annexation Policy Tables. 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.
Celebrating the Jerusalem District Court’s ruling on the Mitzpe Kramim outpost case (covered above), Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Likud) said:
“The District Court today clearly stated that whoever settled [the land] with the state’s approval and in good faith, would not be evacuated. The injustice done in the evacuations of the Amona and Netiv Ha’avot [outposts] should not be repeated. The court should not be a party to the political debate between the Right and Left. That should be left to the ballot box. Through joint and intensive work, we have brought about a policy change in the state’s responses to the High Court of Justice. Now we are seeing a change in the district court.” [emphasis added]
Indeed, Justice Minister Shaked has led a years-long effort to re-make the judicial branch, injecting pro-settlement policies and figures into key positions within the Court system, with the explicit goal of protecting all Israeli settlements and outposts from any legal accountability for illegal actions. Part of that effort was her decision in 2015 to hire a private lawyer, Amir Fisher (who also represents the settler group Regavim), to essentially write the State’s responses to petitions before the High Court that deal with settlements.
As noted in the section above, the state of Israel reversed its own position vis a vis the future of Mitzpe Kramim in its 2018 submission to the Court, a reversal that happened after Fisher and Shaked were firmly in control of the State’s handling of outpost legalization cases. What’s more, Shaked installed a pro-settlement judge on the Jerusalem District Court (which issued the precedent-setting ruling this week), and then promoted legislation that strips the High Court of Justice of its primary jurisdiction over certain West Bank legal petitions (including Palestinian petitions relating to land disputes, travel permits, and building permits) and gave that jurisdiction to the Jerusalem District Court. Shaked is currently promoting another bill which would allowed the Knesset to reinstate any law struck down by the High Court of Justice. The Ministerial Committee on Legislation, of which Shaked and Education Minister Naftali Bennett are members, voted to give government backing to the bill in May 2018. The totality of Shaked’s efforts are documented, on an ongoing basis, in FMEP’s Annexation Policy Tables.
Shaked’s fellow travelers at Regavim released a statement following the Jerusalem District court ruling, emphasizing the far-reaching implications:
“This is a product of a long legal battle, run by the settlements and settling bodies. They asked to legalize outposts that were established by the State of Israel. This blessed decision is a historic one. We call upon the attorney general to apply the principles of this decision to all other outposts in Judea and Samaria that need regularization.”
The fruits of Shaked and Regavim’s work was applauded by many others in the government, including Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home), who said the ruling was a:
“victory for decency and common sense, another step toward legalizing the settlements in Judea and Samaria and turning them into an integral part of the State of Israel.”
Culture Minister Miri Regev (Likud) said she was:
“happy that common sense and justice prevailed over cold formalism..[the ruling sends] a clear-cut message to the Palestinians and their collaborators from far-left organizations, that you don’t destroy and evacuate communities in the Land of Israel.”
Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) said:
“This is a blessed month of settlement, and after the decision of the Housing Cabinet to establish three new towns [in the Negev], comes the court’s decision regarding Mitzpeh Kramim. Such significant decisions strengthen and expand the settlement of the Land of Israel.”
Knesset speaker Yuli Edenstein (Likud) said:
“The determination and strong spirit of the people of Mitzpeh Kramim proved themselves. I welcome this just, requisite ruling from the District Court in Jerusalem. We will continue to strengthen settlement in Israel!”
Another New Outpost – Continuing the Trend of Unannounced, Unopposed, & Highly Consequential Settlement Expansion
Haaretz reports that settlers have built a strategic new outpost deep inside the West Bank near the settlement of Eli, in a bid to eventually annex privately owned Palestinian land that falls between Eli and pockets of “state land” in the area. The new outpost was built without Israeli permits on the outer edge of newly declared “state land,” some of which had been used as farmland by Palestinians. Haaretz notes a trend:
“Around the West Bank, settlers have been setting up farms near the outer edge of state-owned land, as in the case near Eli, in an effort to expand existing settlements. Even though they have been established without permission, no legal action has been taken against them.”
The Israeli Civil Administration – responsible for enforcing building laws in the occupied territory – told Haaretz that it is unaware of the new outpost. The Head of the Binyamin Regional Council (an Israeli municipal body responsible for settlements in the northern West Bank – recently proven to be bankrolling new outposts), Avi Roeh, denied that the Council was involved with the new outpost.
The new outpost is the fifth illegal satellite of the Eli settlement, stretching the band of Israeli settlements further and further east towards the Jordan Valley. Eli is located between the Ariel and Shilo settlements (both of which have seen tremendous growth and government support over the past two years – Ariel with its new medical school and Shilo with the promotion of the new Amichai settlement to its immediate east), in an area where settlers are working to connect settlements and outposts into a contiguous band of settlement stretching from sovereign Israeli territory all the way to the Jordan Valley.
As evidenced this week in the Israeli court system, the government – which consistently turns a blind eye to illegal outpost construction – is willing to go to great lengths to retroactively legalize outposts, even when the cost to Israeli taxpayers is enormous and even when doing so contradicts any notion of justice under the law.
Al-Shabaka published a new report this week detailing a little-known U.S. law that restricts companies from producing high quality satellite imagery of the West Bank. Al-Shabaka explains the significance of that limitation on U.S. companies like Google:
“Although the legislation was implemented under the pretense of protecting Israel’s national security, it is better characterized as an act of censorship. By deliberately blurring aerial images of Palestine-Israel, the [The Kyl-Bingaman Amendment (KBA) to the US National Defense Authorization Act] hinders the work of archaeologists, environmentalists, geographers, and humanitarians. It poses serious obstacles, not only for the preservation of cultural heritage, but also for holding Israel to account for land grabs, home demolitions, and settlement activity….While the legislation only applies to US companies, their hegemony in the commercial market for satellite imagery has elevated the legislation to de facto institutionalization on a global scale, affecting the access of researchers worldwide.”
The report can be accessed here.
- “The West Bank Model is a Failure” (The New York Times)
- “Israeli Taxpayers Bear Financial Burden of Evicting Illegal West Bank Outposts, And Sometimes, Making them Legal” (Haaretz)
***NOTE: This week the Israeli government unleashed a massive wave of approvals to advance plans for settlement construction — in excess of 2,000 units — in highly sensitive and strategically significant areas deep inside the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. More approvals/advancements are expected in the coming weeks. See below for detailed coverage of the individual plans, keeping in mind both the significance of each approval on its own, and as part of the overarching Israeli government agenda clearly intending to both prevent any possibility of a Palestinian state and to further the march toward formal annexation of the West Bank. Also keep in mind, importantly, that there has been zero public push back from the Trump Administration against this surge, which comes on the heels of Ambassador Friedman’s statement last week that Israel will never be required to remove any settlements.***
August 24, 2018
- Settlement Wave, Part 1: High Planning Council Advances Plans for 1,004 Settlement Units (96% Located Deep in the West Bank)
- Settlement Wave, Part 2: Housing Ministry Published Tenders for 420 Settlement Units
- Settlement Wave, Part 3: Jerusalem District Committee Advances Plans for 603 Settlement Units in East Jerusalem
- Settlement Wave, Part 4: More Settlement Construction Coming Soon
- U.S. Stands by Israeli “Intentions” on Settlements
- State Tells High Court: We Can Annex the West Bank – International Law Be Damned
- This Week in Ariel: Settlers Celebrate 40 Years, A Construction Boom, A Medical School, & An Evangelical “Leadership Camp”
- Amana (the Official Settler Movement) Moves Its HQ to Sheikh Jarrah
- Settlement Gains in East Jerusalem Result in Palestinians Self-Demolitioning Their Homes
- Bonus Reads
Settlement Wave, Part 1: High Planning Council Advances Plans for 1,004 Settlement Units (96% Located Deep in the West Bank)
On August 22nd, the Israeli Defense Ministry’s High Planning Council (the body in the Israeli Defense Ministry responsible for regulating all construction in the West Bank) advanced plans for 1,004 new settlement units, 96% of which are located deep inside of the West Bank. Of the total, 620 units were approved for deposit for public review and 382 units were given final approval for construction.
As reported by Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now, the plans approved for deposit for public review (totalling 620 units) are:
- 370 units in the Adam settlement (aka Geva Benyamin). This project was urged on by Defense Minister Liberman following a stabbing attack in the settlement, which resulted in one death and injuries to three others. The 370 units are part of a larger plan for 1,000+ units that will, if built, connect the Adam settlement to two large settlements in East Jerusalem (Neve Ya’akov and Pisgat Ze’ev) that are on the Israeli side of the separation barrier (the route of the barrier juts far beyond the 1967 Green Line to include Pisgat Ze’ev and Neve Ya’akov on the Israeli side while the Adam settlement is on the West Bank side). If the larger plan is implemented, the Adam settlement will have built up areas on both sides of the separation barrier, which could (in all likelihood) present Israel an opportunity to re-route the barrier around Adam — which would de facto annex even more West Bank land to Israel and further choke off Palestinian East Jerusalem from the West Bank to its north. [Note: FMEP’s Lara Friedman and Peace Now’s Hagit Ofran published an op-ed in Haaretz in 2008 warning of this plan – you can read that background here].
- 85 units in Karnei Shomron settlement. Israel has repeatedly confiscated as “state land” located between Karnei Shomron and the Palestinian village of Qalqilya (which is literally surrounded on three sides by the separation barrier). In November 2017, Israel began clearing landmines from that “state land” in order to prepare for settlement construction. At the time, Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan said that the new construction in the Karnei Shomron area will bring “a million Jews [to] live in Judea and Samaria in the future.”
- 84 units in the Kiryat Netafim settlement, located about half way between the Ariel settlement and the cluster of settlements close to the 1967 Green Line that are slated to be united into a “super settlement” area (Oranit, Elkana, Shiva Tikva, and others). The expansion of Kiryat Netafim will go towards creating a contiguous corridor of Israeli settlements stretching from sovereign Israeli territory, though the super settlement, to Ariel. As FMEP has repeatedly said, the Ariel settlement is located in the heart of the northern West Bank, reaching literally to the midpoint between the Green Line and the Jordan border. The future of Ariel has long been one of the greatest challenges to any possible peace agreement, since any plan to attach Ariel to Israel (with a finger of land running through settlements like Kiryat Netafim) will cut the northern West Bank into pieces.
- 52 units in the Beit El settlement. This is the second major approval for new units in Beit El in 2018, with a third plan for 300 more units coming soon, according to Israel Hayom. The construction boom is being hailed by the settler-aligned Arutz Sheva outlet, which wrote that the plans will increase the size of Beit El by 65%. If any of the units are constructed it will be first new, government-sanctioned construction in Beit El in over 10 years. U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman is closely associated with the Beit El settlement, having donated to and fundraised for it prior to his appointment as ambassador (including in his capacity as the President of the American Friends of Beit El, reportedly from 2011 until he became ambassador).
- 29 units in the Otinel settlement, located south of Hebron. MK Yehuda Glick (Likud) lives in Otinel.
Plans that gained final approval, meaning no additional formal approvals are required to move ahead with construction (totalling 382 units) are:
- 168 units in the Tzofim settlement, located on the Israeli side of the separation barrier, but jutting towards the Karnei Shomron settlement, which also received advancements this week. See the section on Karnei Shomron, above, for context and news regarding this area of settlements.
- 108 units in the Nofim settlement, located on the Israeli side of the separation barrier but jutting towards the Karnei Shomron settlement, which also received advancements this week. See the section on Karnei Shomron, above, for context and news regarding this area of settlements.
- 56 units in the Barkan settlement, located near the Kiryat Netafim settlement. Both Barkan and Netafim are located about half way between the Ariel settlement and the cluster of settlements slated to be united into a “super settlement” area (Oranit, Elkana, Shiva Tikva, and others). See the section on Kiryat Netafim, above. for context and news regarding this area of settlements.
- 44 units in Ma’ale Adumim, the mega settlement just east of Jerusalem.
- 6 units in the Avnei Hefetz settlement, located southeast of the Palestinian city of Tulkarem.
Notably, Netanyahu intervened to remove two items from the High Planning Council’s agenda, both of which would have led to the retroactive legalization of illegal outposts. Those plans are:
- A plan to retroactively legalize the Ibei Hanahel outpost, which is a non-contiguous “neighborhood” of the Ma’ale Amos settlement, located deep in the southern West Bank. The plan would have allowed the outpost to be demolished and then rebuilt legally with residential units, transforming the outpost into a new, fully authorized settlement.
- A plan to build an education center in the Nofei Prat South outpost, which is a non-contiguous“neighborhood” of the Kfar Adumim settlement, located northeast of Jerusalem. The land on which the project would be built is located just 1.5 km away from the Khan Al-Ahmar Bedouin community – the same one that the Israeli government plans to forcibly evacuate in order to cleanse the area of Palestinians and expand settlements. The outpost was established by the Haroeh Ha’ivri (“the Hebrew Shepherd”) nonprofit association, which is funded by the Israeli Education Ministry.
In response to Netanyahu’s directive to remove these two items from the agenda, the heads of the Knesset’s “Land of Israel Lobby,” Bezalel Smotrich (Jewish Home) and Yoav Kisch (Likud), said that the Prime Minister should “ act with greater rigor to promote settlement, rather than doing the opposite.”
Settler leaders were also unsatisfied with the High Planning Council’s overall numbers. Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council (a municipal body for settlements in the northern West Bank), said:
“We are happy about every new house in Samaria, but we have to tell the truth. Hundreds of housing units are not enough for an area that constitutes 12% of the State of Israel…We expect the government to step in the gas, stop worrying about what they will say overseas, and develop this beautiful region.”
On August 23rd, one day after the Defense Ministry’s High Planning Council advanced a huge tranche of settlement plans (detailed above), the Israeli Housing Ministry published tenders for a total of 425 settlement units (under plans previously approved by the High Planning Council).
Those tenders include:
- 211 units in the Ma’ale Efraim settlement, located in the Jordan Valley.
- 54 units in the Givat Ze’ev settlement, located north of Jerusalem.
- 52 units in the Beit Aryeh settlement, which comes in addition to the the publication of tenders for 511 units in the settlement last week.
- 42 units in the Ariel settlement. See reporting below for extensive coverage of the many reasons settlers in Ariel are celebrating this week.
Settlement Wave, Part 3: Jerusalem District Committee Advances Plans for 603 Settlement Units in East Jerusalem
In addition to the tranche of settlement plans advanced by the Defense Ministry’s High Planning Council and the tenders published by the Housing Ministry (detailed above), the Jerusalem District Committee deposited for public review (one of the final steps before approval) plans for a total of 608 new settlement units in East Jerusalem, with 345 units slated for the Gilo settlement and 263 units in the Ramot settlement.
On the plan for the Gilo settlement, Ir Amim explains:
“The Gilo plan is being promoted in tandem with development of the new Green Line branch of the Light Rail (construction of which was launched in May), which will be built adjacent to the settlement expansion. This sequencing of events once again exemplifies a pattern of the state investing billions of shekels in transportation infrastructures to allow for extensive construction beyond the Green Line.”
As Ir Amim notes, this week’s advancements come on the heels of Israel’s August 15th decision to publish tenders for 603 units in Ramat Shlomo, and its June 2018 advancement of plans for 1,064 settlement units in the Pisgat Ze’ev settlement — bringing Israel’s two-month total of settlement advancements in East Jerusalem to 2,275 units.
As a reminder, approvals/advancement of settlement plans is not the only ongoing threat to Palestinians in East Jerusalem. Settlers and settler-run organizations continue their campaign to take over sensitive areas in East Jerusalem neighborhoods neighborhood – like Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah – and to create more settler run tourist sites – like the Jerusalem cable car, the Kedem Center, the Abu-Tor footbridge, the Yemenite “heritage center,” and more – to erase the visibility of Palestinians in Jerusalem. Meanwhile, pending legislation in the Knesset seeks to gerrymander the borders of Jerusalem to create a Jewish majority by annexing settlements and cutting out Palestinian neighborhoods from the borders of the city. Sounding the alarm on all of these trends, Ir Amim writes:
“It is vital that the traditional calculus of settlement building be readjusted to a) treat these coordinated efforts to consolidate control of the Old City and surrounding Palestinian neighborhoods with the same urgency afforded to settlement building throughout the whole of East Jerusalem; b) ensure a holistic response that regards private settlement inside the Old City Basin and touristic settlement not as individual phenomena but as multiple elements of a unified and politically lethal strategy.”
In addition to the plans for 1,004 units that were advanced this week by the High Planning Council, the 425 tenders published by the Housing Ministry, and the 608 units advanced in East Jerusalem (all detailed above), this week saw reports that additional plans are expected to advance soon. Those are:
- Ir Amim reports that on September 2nd, the Jerusalem District Committee is expected to discuss a plan to build a six-story building in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in which at least 75 families face eviction by radical settlers, with the backing of the Israeli government and courts. For detailed reporting on the building, plans for which were deposited for public review in May 2018, see FMEP reporting here.
- Peace Now reports that tenders are expected to be issued (having already been marketed) for more units in the Adam (Geva Binyamin) settlement. If true, this will be another step towards uniting Adam to the East Jerusalem settlements – the details of which are covered above.
- Peace Now also notes that a plan for 300 units in Beit El is expected to be advanced. This comes in addition to the 52 tenders issued for Beit El this week.
- The Times of Israel reports that plans for hundreds of additional settlement units will soon be marketed for construction by the Defense Ministry. These plans received final approval before this week’s High Planning Council meeting. A Civil Administration official hinted that the plans will be marketed for the Alfei Menashe and Ma’ale Efraim settlements. [NOTE: This reporting was before the subsequent publication of tenders for 211 units in Ma’ale Efraim, covered above.]
When asked for comment on the various major settlement announcements, the U.S. State Department said that the Trump Administration believes the Israeli government has clearly demonstrated an intent to “adopt a policy regarding settlement activity that takes the president’s concerns into consideration” – a statement that suggests unequivocally that the Trump Administration has given a green light for massive settlement expansion across the length and breadth of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Notably, on the same day that the bulk of the settlement announcements were made, President Trump’s National Security Advisor, Ambassador John Bolton, was on the ground in Jerusalem. Not only did he offer no comment or criticism of the settlement announcements, he very publicly joined Israeli politicians and settlers leaders for dinner in East Jerusalem, dining in the “City of David National Park,” the archeological/touristic/residential site in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan that is run by the radical Elad settler organization. As FMEP has repeatedly covered, the Elad settler organization is spearheading a government-aided campaign to evict Palestinians from their homes in Silwan, replace them with Jewish Israeli settlers, and transform the neighborhood into a Biblical tourist site emphasizing exclusively the area’s Jewish history.
The head of the Peace Now Settlement Watch program, Shabtay Bendet, told Al-Monitor:
“The situation on the ground is changing rapidly…Restraints on construction in the settlements have been lifted. The Americans don’t care…”
On August 7th, the state’s private attorney Harel Arnon submitted a second brief [Hebrew] to the High Court of Justice in defense of the settlement “Regulation Law.” In it he argues that the Knesset is not bound by international law and has the right to apply its own laws outside of its borders and annex land, if it wishes.
“The mere application of a certain Israeli norm [law] to an anonymous place outside the state does not necessarily make that anonymous place part of Israel. The Knesset is not restricted from legislating extra-territorially anywhere in the world, including in the region, the Knesset can legislate in Judea and Samaria.”
The brief also argues:
“The Knesset is permitted to impose the powers of the military commander of the West Bank region as it sees fit. The Knesset is permitted to define the authorities of the military commander as it sees fit. The authority of the government of Israel to annex any territory or to enter into international conventions derives from its authority as determined by the Knesset…[and] the Knesset is allowed to ignore the directives of international law in any field it desires.”
Lawyers representing Adalah responded:
“the Israeli government’s extremist response has no parallel anywhere in the world. It stands in gross violation of international law and of the United Nations Charter which obligates member states to refrain from threatening or using force against the territorial integrity of other states – including occupied territories. The Israeli government’s extremist position is, in fact, a declaration of its intention to proceed with its annexation of the West Bank.”
Harel was ordered to submit a second defense of the bill in response to a petition filed by Adalah and Al-Mezan on behalf of seventeen local Palestinian authorities. The petition argues that the Regulation Law violates international law and that the Knesset cannot enact laws over the West Bank where the majority of the population is Palestinians (who are not Israeli citizens and cannot vote).
The High Court of Justice is widely expected to strike down the “Regulation Law,” but has yet to make a ruling. Just last week, Arnon made the case that the recently passed Nation-State Law, which makes “Jewish settlement,” a “constitutional value,” can help him defend the settlement law before the High Court.
For ongoing tracking of the Regulation Law and other annexation trends in Israel, see FMEP’s Annexation Policy Tables.
This Week in Ariel: Settlers Celebrate 40 Years, A Construction Boom, A Medical School, & An Evangelical “Leadership Camp”
Haaretz published a lengthy report this week on the history of the the Ariel settlement – which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this month – and the dramatic spike in construction in the settlement in 2018. Even before tenders were issued for 42 new units this week (see above), plans for 839 units had already been approved during the first eight months of 2018, compared to tenders for fewer than 5 units each of the past three years. One of the original settlers of Ariel said:
“During the Obama years, everything here was frozen. But thanks to Donald Trump, we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Not only has Ariel seen a massive surge in construction advancements this year, but the settlement broke ground on a new medical school heavily financed by U.S. casino magnate, and Trump backer, Sheldon Adelson (who this week gave $25 million to the GOP to help it keep the Senate, and in May gave the GOP $30 million to help it keep the House). Many settler leaders and Israeli officials, as well as Adelson and his wife Miriam, were in Ariel this weekend to attend a dedication ceremony for the medical school, despite ongoing controversy around its accreditation under domestic Israeli law. Prime Minister Netanyahu was notably absent from (and reportedly was not invited to) the ceremony, fueling rumors regarding the growing disaffection between him and Adelson.
According to another recent report in Haaretz, Ariel university is illegally dumping construction debris on land that Israel acknowledges is not “state land.” The dump site is outside of the so-called “Blue Line” which the Israeli government uses to demarcate the land that it considers “state land.” Since the dump site is not within the Blue Line, it is likely on land that even the government of Israel recognizes as being privately owned by Palestinians. Anti-settlement watchdog and founder of Kerem Navot, Dror Etkes, commented:
“It’s not surprising that Ariel University, which is the only university in the world built and existing by military order, has adopted the standards accepted in the West Bank involving the takeover of private Palestinian land.”
According to a third Haaretz report, the Israeli Education Ministry has signed a contract to sponsor 3,000-4,000 Israeli high school students of Ethiopian descent to take part in a leadership training program located in Ariel. The program, called “JH Israel,” was founded by American evangelical mega-church pastors Bruce and Heather Johnston, the latter of whom also runs the U.S. Israel Education Association, a pro-Israel, pro-settlement, non-profit group which works with the Family Research Council to lead Congressional delegations to Israel. The JH Israel website says its mission is to help Jewish Israeli students who are “disconnected from the roots of their faith” to establish “a deeper connection to God by embracing their biblical and cultural heritage.” The website also says that Ariel is “at the forefront of biblical prophecy unfolding in modern Israel.”
As FMEP has repeatedly documented, Ariel is located in the heart of the northern West Bank, reaching literally to the midpoint between the Green Line and the Jordan border. The future of Ariel has long been one of the greatest challenges to any possible peace agreement, since any plan to connect Ariel to Israel will cut the northern West Bank into pieces.
Peace Now Settlement Watch Director Shabtay Bendet spoke to Haaretz about the future of the Ariel settlement and the (other) significant repercussions of opening the new medical school. Bendet said:
“Most places in Israel don’t get recognized as cities unless they have 20,000 to 30,000 residents. Ariel became a city when it had just 11,000 residents. Why was this so significant? Because maybe you can uproot a settlement, but you don’t uproot a city. The same holds true for the university. Why was it so important for him to get it accredited? Because when a place has a university, that means it’s established — no pulling it out of the ground….By creating a buffer between the northern and southern parts of the West Bank it makes any future Palestinian state unviable. But besides that, it is also causing damage in the present because its continued expansion impinges on the ability of the surrounding Palestinian villages to develop and grow.”
The Ynet news outlet reports that the Amana settler organization – the official body of the settlement movement, operating since the 1970s – has moved into its new headquarters in the heart of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem, where settlers are continuing to wage a displacement campaign against Palestinian residents. Though Amana has owned the plot of land since 1992, various legal challenges and incredibly sensitive geopolitical considerations have slowed construction of the building, called the “Amana House” (see a detailed history here).
Regarding the strategic implications of the location, Ynet reports:
“Amana says the new headquarters will help bolster the territorial contiguity of Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem.”
Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi) who previously served as the CEO of Amana, commented that the organization’s relocation:
“constitutes a significant reinforcement to the (Jewish) settlement in east Jerusalem and the bolstering of the Jewish territorial contiguity in the area.”
Several settlement plans are currently proceeding in Sheikh Jarrah, underscoring the strategic location and goals of settler activity in Sheikh Jarrah. As covered previously in this report, Israel is expected to advance a plan for a 6-story office building for settlers, located at the entrance to the neighborhood. Across the street from that building, a highly consequential plan for a new religious school (the Glassman yeshiva) was approved for deposit for public review in July 2017. The goal is clear: to unite the enclaves of settlers living inside of the Palestinian neighborhood by creating a contiguous area of settlement that connects to West Jerusalem, thereby cementing an immovable Jewish Israeli presence in a key Palestinian neighborhood – closing off the possibility of evacuation under a future peace deal.
OCHA reports that two Palestinian homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina were self-demolished after the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in favor of settlers’ ownership claims. OCHA writes:
“In recent decades, Israeli settler organizations, with the support of the Israeli authorities, have taken control of properties within Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem, and some 180 Palestinian families are currently facing eviction cases, filed mainly by settler organizations.”
- “How Israeli Right-wing Thinkers Envision the Annexation of the West Bank” (Haaretz)
- “Let’s Admit It: The Settlers Have Won and We Have Lost” (Haaretz)
To receive this report via email, please click here.
August 9, 2018
- Israel Plans to Use “Nation-State Law” to Defend Settlement “Regulation Law”
- Israel Moves to Approve a New Settlement…By Expanding An Existing One (An Old Trick)
- Israeli Govt is Funding a Settler School Squatting in a Palestinian Home
- Transferring Israeli Trash to the West Bank
- Settler Regional Council Funds Activities Aimed at Undermining Israeli Law
- Bonus Read
Comments, questions, or suggestions? Email Kristin McCarthy at email@example.com.
The Israel State’s private attorney tasked with defending the settlement “Regulation Law,” Harel Arnon, told reporters that the recent passage of the Nation-State law (declaring Israel the nation-state of the Jewish people alone) will strengthen his efforts to keeping the Regulation Law on the books (an effort which is widely expected to fail). The settlement “Regulation Law” was passed by the Knesset in February 2017, as a means to allow Israel to expropriate privately owned Palestinian land for the exclusive use/benefit of settlers. The High Court of Justice is currently weighing petitions against the settlement “Regulation Law,” which has been frozen since August 2017.
“The nation-state law certainly impacts the Regulation Law. There is no question. If until now, the argument in defense of the Regulation Law was that it seeks to balance the individual rights of Israeli residents (in the West Bank) with those of the Arab residents… what the nation-state law does is raise the status of Jewish settlement to one of constitutional value.”
The Nation-State law was passed by the Knesset on July 19th, and has since sparked condemnation and protest for the way it demotes the standing of minority communities in Israel. The law says “the state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation.” Nothing in the text suggests a distinction between “Jewish settlement” within Israel’s sovereign borders, and settlement in the occupied territories.
Yossi Alpher – former senior Mossad official and IDF intelligence officer) predicted as much in his weekly explainer for Americans for Peace Now. Deconstructing recent quotes by Prime Minister Netanyahu (“Without the Nation State law it would be impossible to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish state for the coming generations”) and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (“The hysterics of the political left prove that this is an excellent law. Once the composition of the [High Court] judges is changed, we can get what we wanted”), Alpher deduced:
“…the ultra-nationalist right, currently Israel’s political mainstream, intends to continue absorbing the land of the West Bank into Israel. Simultaneously it seeks, in one form or another, to disenfranchise more than three million Palestinians living there lest they become Israeli citizens and tilt the demographic balance away from ‘Jewish’ and (with a combined population including 45 percent Arabs but still excluding Gaza) toward ‘bi-national’. A Jewish nation state in which only Jews determine the country’s constitutional nature is the perfect ‘legal’ legislative vehicle for taking the necessary apartheid-like measures to make this happen.”
On August 8th, the Israeli Civil Administration announced that it is planning to retroactively legalize the Adei Ad outpost by massively expanding the borders of the (brand new) Amichai settlement to turn Adei Ad into a (non-contiguous) neighborhood of Amichai. In effect, this is a stealth operation by Israel to turn the Adei Ad outpost into an entirely new official, legal settlement.
The massive expansion of the Amichai settlement and the transformation of Adei Ad into a brand new settlement, if implemented, will be a significant step towards creating an uninterrupted corridor of settlements connecting sovereign Israel to the Ariel settlement, through the isolated Shiloh Valley settlements, all the way to the Jordan Valley. In so doing, It will completely bisect the northern part of the West Bank.
The plan takes into account a Civil Administration “Blue Line” survey in 2017, which found that the strip of land between the Amichai settlement and the Adei Ad outpost is privately owned Palestinian land. It seems that the Civil Administration is opting (for now) not to use its newly endowed tools for expropriating privately owned land for the use of settlements, and is instead moving forward with a plan that will effectively leave Adei Ad – ostensibly now a neighborhood of Amichai – physically disconnected from its new parent settlement. The strip of Palestinian land in between the two will almost certainly become inaccessible to its Palestinian owners, as is much of the Palestinian land near Adei Ad, a notoriously radical and violent outpost. It is highly likely that at a later date the land will be expropriated.
The Civil Administration unveiled the new plan in a letter addressed to Israeli NGO Yesh Din, in response to a 2014 petition against the Adei Ad outpost filed by the group on behalf of Palestinian landowners. The Civil Administration’s letter claimed the 2017 “Blue Line” land survey determined that Adei Ad is built on “state land” and is therefore eligible for retroactive legalization (despite having been built there entirely illegally). Yesh Din and its clients have formally appealed the findings of that survey, contending that Adei Ad is partially on private land.
After the Amichai borders are expanded to give cover for the legalization of Adei Ad, the Israeli Civil Administration is set to transfer administrative responsibilities over the expanded settlement (including the Adei Ad “neighborhood”) to the Binyamin Regional Council – the municipal body responsible for administering services and enforcing building laws in settlements within its jurisdiction (though it rarely moves to enforce laws against the illegal settler construction). As Haaretz notes:
“Except in the rarest cases, the council does not enforce the law against illegal construction in its jurisdiction…As a result of the transfer of administrative powers to municipal authorities at Amichai, the settlers will be able to build new structures illegally without effective enforcement.”
Yesh Din’s attorney, Shlomi Zecharia, told Haaretz:
“The inhabitants of the villages near the outpost have become hostages to the policy that abundantly rewards prizes and gifts to ideological criminals. Cutting off farmlands by means of a false [expansion of] jurisdiction is extreme, disproportionate and needless, and in fact is intended to perpetuate restrictions on and infringement of Palestinian property, this time under the official auspices of the government.”
Additionally worth noting, the Amichai expansion/Adei Ad legalization plan will represent yet another reward to settler law-breakers who evacuated from the unauthorized Amona outpost. Previously, the pay-off to settlers included the approval and construction of the Amichai settlement, which was the first new settlement to be built with government authorization in 25 years. It included, too, the approval of Shvut Rachel East, an outpost which – just like Adei Ad – became a non-contiguous “neighborhood” of an existing settlement (Shilo). The Amona pay-off package can now count a third settlement, Adei Ad. As FMEP documented at the time, the Trump Administration reportedly accepted the Amichai plan as an exception to its settlement policy which, at that time, was described in the media as President Trump asking Netanayahu “hold back on settlements for a little bit.”
Yesh Din comments on the Adei Ad scheme:
“Viewed in a broader context, this retroactive authorization is a major step towards fulfillment of Israel’s plan to annex Area C: retroactively authorizing unauthorized outposts at any price so as to ‘normalize’ them and render them permanent settlements; and creating continuous settler presence across the West Bank, from west to east, in order to facilitate the annexation, while dispossessing Palestinians of land that is their source of livelihood and in blatant disregard of international law and of the rights of Palestinian residents.”
The Times of Israel has a detailed report on a government-funded religious school that for years has been operating illegally in a privately owned Palestinian home near the Ofra settlement, in the center of the West Bank. The Mishpatei Eretz Institute, which is operating the school, receives around USD $55,000 annually from the Israeli Culture Ministry, and has received a total of USD $214,039 from government bodies over the past three years alone.
In the mid 1990s the home was physically cut off from the Palestinian village to which it belongs when Israel paved Route 60, the major north-south highway in the West Bank. In 2003, Israeli settlers broke into the home while its owners, the Shehadeh family, were on a day trip to Ramallah. After invading the home, settlers produced forged documents claiming that the Al-Watan settler organization purchased the building, and then spent years trying to prove that the purchase was legitimate in order to have the building registered with the Civil Administration. The Shehadeh family also spent years trying to force the IDF to evict the squatters, but nothing was ever done. In the meantime, Al-Watan donated the building – even without having legally established ownership of it – to the Mishpatei Eretz Institute, which then began operating a religious school in the building with government funding.
In 2013, the Jerusalem District Court ruled against Al-Watan’s claim to the building (slamming the organization and its officers for engaging in rampant fraudulent activity), deciding that the documents had been forged and recognizing the original Palestinian owners’ rights. Ten days after the ruling, the IDF Central Command issued a military order seizing the plot of land the home sits on, claiming “security purposes.” The IDF also built a fence around the area. The military order seizing the land will remain in force until 2019.
When contacted about the story, the IDF acknowledged the 2013 Court ruling but did not offer an explanation for any of its actions dating to either before or after the court ruling. A lawyer representing the Palestinian owners told The Times of Israel that the family will soon petition the High Court of Justice to have the settlers, and their school, evicted.
The anti-settlement watchdog Kerem Navot told reporters:
“We see here another example that reveals the corrupt system that Israel maintains in the West Bank. Rather than enforce the law, and evict and punish the settlers who invaded the property, the IDF issued a corrupt military order based on security needs that de facto enables them to stay there. On top of that, we now discover that the government is generously funding criminal bodies like the Mishpatei Eretz Institute.”
Haaretz reports that the Israeli government is close to finalizing a new plan to transfer waste from Jerusalem to the West Bank. Under the scheme, Israel will build a waste treatment facility east of the Ma’ale Adumim settlement to handle waste from Jerusalem. The facility will recycle or burn as much of the waste as possible, and then transfer the resulting ash and any remaining waste back into Israel.
Since the West Bank is under a military occupation, environmental regulation standards are considerably lower than in sovereign Israeli territory, making the West Bank an ideal spot for Israel to dump/treat its waste on the cheap, a practice extensively documented in a 2017 report by B’Tselem. The report asserts:
“Waste treatment in the West Bank is simply one more facet of the exploitative policy Israel has practiced consistently for fifty years now, using Palestinian space and people to further its own interests. As part of this policy, Israel treats the West Bank – and particularly Area C, where it retained full control under the Oslo Accords – as an area meant to serve its needs exclusively, as if it were its sovereign territory.”
Echoing the B’Tselem report, MK Mossi Raz (Meretz) notes that the plan, though sold as an environmentally friendly solution, is part of Israel’s de facto annexation of the West Bank, saying:
“Although at first glance it looks as though the ministry wants to protect the environment, the government plans clearly demonstrate that the goal is to prepare the ground for annexation. The building of infrastructure in the occupied territories by the state, without cooperation from the PA, deepends Israeli control in the territories, and thereby in effect is bringing us even closer to the day when the Israeli government will annex the territories.”
The Israeli Defense Ministry is slowing down the implementation of the plan, which has broad support across other government ministries, for technical reasons — mainly having to do with a dispute about how the facility will be staffed.
In 2017 the Gush Etzion Regional Council contributed hundreds of thousands of shekels to illegal settlement and outpost construction in its jurisdiction, and heavily invested in projects connected to defending the unauthorized Netiv Ha’avot outpost against demolition. Data obtained by the Movement for Freedom of Information and analyzed by Peace Now show that the Gush Etzion Regional Council, which is supposed to be enforcing Israeli laws in areas under its jurisdiction, instead invested hundreds of thousands of shekels trying to help the illegal Netiv Ha’avot outpost skirt the law. The Council’s 2017 projects connected to Netiv Ha’avot included:
- The construction of a new, unauthorized observation tower (a memorial site) in the outpost. Construction of the tower moved forward after the High Court of Justice ruled that 17 buildings in Netiv Ha’avot were built partially on Palestinian land and must be demolished.
- A public campaign to save buildings in the Netiv Ha’avot outpost from demolition, including a payment to the radical Regavim settler organization in connection to the campaign (which is working to selectively enforce building laws against Palestinians in the West Bank). By the end of 2017, the council spent NIS 164,688 on the campaign – which, as Peace Now notes, became an even more active effort in 2018.
- Building a new (at that point unauthorized) outpost for those settlers facing evacuation from buildings in the Netiv Ha’avot outpost. The Council was able to recoup some of those expenses when the government later approved an NIS 60 million package to provide compensation for the settlers who were evacuated as well as funds for the Council.
In addition to the Netiv Ha’avot outpost expenditures, and other unauthorized settlement projects, the Gush Etzion Regional Council spent NIS 1,755 on an ATV tour for MK Yehuda Glick to conduct a “survey on the application of sovereignty over (i.e., annexation of) Gush Etzion.”
Peace Now says:
“It is time for official authorities that are obligated to act according to the law to stop funding illegal activities, attacking the High Court and evading enforcement of the law, especially when using public funds. The Interior Ministry must put an end to this sinister exploitation of the public coffers, and must get our taxpayers’ money back.”
- “Fact and Fiction About the Amendment of the Israeli Supreme Court’s Jurisdiction Over West Bank Cases” (Lawfare Blog)
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July 12, 2018
- Continuing New Legal Strategy, Israel Argues “Market Regulation” Principle In Bid to Legalize Outpost
- Cabinet to Consider New Bill to Legalize 70 Outposts
- Cabinet to Consider Three Bills that Advance Annexation of Area C Settlements
- New Proof that the Israeli Government is Driving Unauthorized Settlement Activity
- High Court Freezes Plan for Settlement Committee in Hebron; IDF Seizes Private Land Near Kiryat Arba
- High Court Allows the Israel Land Authority to Remain Under the Influence of the Jewish National Fund
- New Bill Would Allow Settlers to Build on National Park Grounds in East Jerusalem
- Civil Administration Strike Will Delay Settlement Construction
- Amichai Settlement’s Makeshift Sewage Pit is Contaminating Nearby Palestinian Fields
- Israeli President Cautions Against Shaked’s Bill to Politicize Key Legal Appointments
- United Nations Envoy: Israel is Moving Towards Formal Annexation
- Bonus Reads
Comments, questions, or suggestions? Email Kristin McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Continuing New Legal Strategy, Israel Argues “Market Regulation” Principle In Bid to Legalize Outpost
On July 3rd the Israeli State Prosecutor’s Office told the Jerusalem District Court that it has the right to retroactively legalize the Mitzpe Kramim outpost based on the “market regulation” principle. This is the recently-invented legal principle according to which the government can seize privately owned Palestinian land to give to settlers if settlers can demonstrate (to the satisfaction of an Israeli government that is doing everything possible to help them) that they built on the land “in good faith,” based on government assurances, and if the rightful landowners are offered compensation. This is just the second time the government has used the “market regulation” principle to defend the seizure of privately owned Palestinian land in court, the first being in November 2017 when the State informed the High Court of Justice that it intended to expropriate private land near the Ofra settlement. Neither court ruled on either case.
The government’s deployment of the “market regulation” principle in the Mitzpe Kramim case completely reverses the position the government has taken for the last 7 years on this specific outpost case. Since 2011, the Israeli government admitted that the land was privately owned, that it had been mistakenly given to the World Zionist Organization in the 1980s (the Mitzpe Kramim outpost was built without Israeli authorization in 1999), and that the situation should be corrected. In its argument on July 3, 2018, the government is expressing its newfound power to seize the land, asserting that the settlers built there “in good faith” and should not be punished for the government’s mistake, under the powers of the “market regulation.”
Peace Now said:
“The state’s announcement to the District Court is a new low in the moral and political deterioration led by the Netanyahu government. As the body that has assumed responsibility for the Occupied Territories for the last 51 years, the state should have protected the property rights of Palestinians, who have no civil rights nor the ability to defend their own land. The fact that the state failed to protect their land cannot be an excuse to steal the land and grant it to the settlers.”
As Peace Now also notes, in order to satisfy the 1967 Government Property Order (which is the law underlying the “market regulation” principle) all of the land owners must be invited to participate in the court case. However, the settlers who filed the petition regarding Mitzpe Kramim failed to include all of the registered land owners, meaning there is a long course of legal action ahead before the case. Should the Court decide the case in the settlers’ favor, it would set a potentially far-reaching precedent for implementing and upholding the “market regulation” principle.
Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit originally argued for the “market regulation” principle in late 2016 as an alternative legal basis to the Regulation Law, which he believes to be “a sweeping and injurious arrangement that does not meet the test of proportionality.” That law, passed by the Knesset in February 2017, is now in serious legal jeopardy. While the Israeli government continues to staunchly defend the broader legal basis for expropriating privately owned Palestinian land established under the “Regulation law,” its increased use of the “market regulation” principle makes clear that come what may, the Israeli government has the intention to do whatever it takes to “legally” seize Palestinian private land in order to legalize outposts (offering a stark illustration of the difference between “rule of law” and “rule by law.”)
For extensive reporting on and analysis of the “market regulation” principle and the “Regulation Law,” see FMEP’s tables documenting Israeli annexation policies.
MKs Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) and Yoav Kisch (Likud) have submitted a bill for consideration by the Israeli Cabinet that seeks to retroactively legalize 70 unauthorized outposts across the West Bank. The Ministerial Committee for Legislation (a group of Cabinet members that decides whether or not to lend government backing to Knesset legislation before it is introduced) could vote on the July 15th, during its last weekly meeting before the Knesset recesses for its summer break. According to a Defense Ministry spokesperson, 50 of the 70 outposts can become part of existing official settlements — meaning that if passed into law, the bill would (a) significantly expand the borders/footprint of some 50 existing settlements (to include the outposts and land separately the outposts from the new parent settlement), and (b) create as many as 20 new settlements.
In addition, the bill would direct the government to treat the 70 unauthorized outposts as if they were legal settlements, which would include providing municipal services like water and electricity infrastructure at the expense of the relevant regional council (funded by Israeli tax-payers). The bill would also stop the potential of enforcement of the government’s own laws against the specified 70 outposts (reminder: the Israeli government rarely enforces building laws against Israeli settlers, actively funds outposts despite their illegality, and continues to invent new ways to legalize them). According to the bill, enforcement of building laws against the unauthorized outposts could only happen at the direction of the Defense Minister or the Prime Minister, with the backing of the Cabinet.
FMEP has repeatedly covered news regarding the government’s efforts to legalize outposts built on privately owned Palestinian land. The passage of the settlement “Regulation Law” gave the government new, sweeping authority to legalize outposts which it had been unable to address under existing Israeli law (because of the fact that they were built on privately owned Palestinian land, in effect turning these into cases of incontestable theft of private property. The 2005 Sasson Report admitted that there was no possible way to legalize outposts built on privately owned Palestinian land, and concluded that all such outposts should be evacuated). With the new law in place permitting Israel to launder this land theft, the Cabinet created a Defense Ministry task force – and appointed veteran settler leader Pinchas Wallerstein as its head – empowered to examine the individual legal situation of each outpost and devise plans to retroactively legalize as many outposts as possible. In January 2018, a leaked recording revealed that the task force had been working for six months to prescribe courses of action for the outposts. Despite this, settlers and Knesset members have complained that the task force has done nothing and has not been funded, using these as talking points in their push for the new Smotrich bill.
Developments related to these efforts are tracked in FMEP’s annexation policy tables.
In addition to the outpost legalization bill (covered above), the Israeli Ministerial Committee on Legislation is slated at its next weekly meeting on July 15th to discuss three bills that seek to advance Israeli de facto annexation of Area C, after refraining from discussing them last week. Those bills are:
- A bill to recognize settlements in the South Hebron Hills as well as the Kiryat Arba settlement (which is, in effect, part of Hebron) as part of the Negev regional economy. Economically, the change would enable these settlements to benefit from government grants and programs for the Negev; politically, and far more importantly, the change would erase the Green Line, legally treating these settlements as part of sovereign Israeli territory (the Negev is an area located inside sovereign Israel).
- A bill to change a 1953 Jordanian law in order to allow Israelis to directly purchase property in the West Bank. Under the current law, private, non-Arab individuals cannot purchase land in the West Bank. In 1971, the law was amended to add a loophole allowing companies registered to operate in the West Bank (like the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish National Fund) to purchase property, and often do so only to give it to Israeli settlers. This additional change would open the door for private purchases across the West Bank by settlers and their backers, including in the heart of Palestinian cities. Notably, Israeli security officials have in the past objected to changing this law, based on their recognition of the fact that settlers implanting themselves wherever they want in the West Bank – including in acts intended to be deliberately provocative – will be a security nightmare for the IDF and will enable settlers and their financial patrons to further hijack the national security agenda of the state of Israel.
- A bill to rescind the 2005 Disengagement Law in order to allow four settlements in the northern West Bank to be rebuilt. The settlements – Sa-Nur, Homesh, Kadim and Ganim – were evacuated following the passage of the Disengagement Law. Notably, the head of the Samaria Regional Council, Yossi Dagan, is one of the settlers that was evacuated from Sa-Nur in 2005 and has championed the bill, which was submitted for Cabinet consideration by Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi).
The Israeli State Comptroller published a report that exposes how Israel government bodies have colluded with the Binyamin Regional Council (one of the main governing bodies over West Bank settlements) to bankroll the construction and ongoing support of unauthorized outposts, even as the Israeli Civil Administration acts to try to stop the illegal construction the government is funding.
The report reads:
“The [Binyamin Regional] council has been the driving force in the construction of unauthorized communities [outposts] and has financed them…In so doing, the council has dictated a negative standard of behavior, that has allowed for illegal construction in the Judea and Samaria and has even advanced such activity…Government offices were involved in financing the planning and construction of the unauthorized outposts.”
In one of several examples of how the collusion has worked, the Comptroller explained that the Esh Kodesh outpost – which is actually located outside of the Binyamin Regional Council’s jurisdiction – was built in 2000 without government permission. In 2014, the Interior Ministry financed the renovation of roads in the outpost. Meanwhile, the Civil Administration issued demolition orders against structures in the outpost in 2003, 2012, and 2013.
Sensing opportunity to promote their new bill to retroactively authorize outposts (see above), MKs Yoav Kisch (Likud) and MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) argued that the Comptroller’s report, by proving the the state has participated in building outposts, underlines the necessity of authorizing those outposts for the sake of the settlers who moved to the outposts at the encouragement of the state.
Adding to the Comptroller’s report (and echoing several of its key points), a freedom of information act filed by Peace Now revealed that the Binyamin Regional Council has been concealing massive and illegal annual contributions to the Amana organization, which leads wide scale illegal settlement construction. Amana received NIS 37 million over three years from the Council, which is 57% of the funds doled out to non-governmental groups over that period. The Comptroller’s report criticized the Council’s support for private organizations, which violates Israeli law restricting regional councils to supporting apolitical, public groups. The report said “the council serves as a conduit for transferring funds from the state to a private association.”
Peace Now writes:
“this data now reveals the depth of this robbing of public funds to finance political campaigns and illegal activity. It is time for the Interior Ministry to put an end to this abuse of Israelis’ taxpayer money and to demand that the authorities in the West Bank cease this illegal funding and give the money back.”
High Court Freezes Plan for Settlement Committee in Hebron; IDF Seizes Private Land Near Kiryat Arba
The Israel High Court has ordered a temporary freeze on a military order creating a new, autonomous settler committee to represent and service a cluster of Israeli settlement enclaves in Hebron’s city center, a plan announced by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman in August 2017. The military order, if allowed to be implemented, would transfer responsibility for the settlers’ municipal services (roads, sewage, electricity, etc.) from the Hebron Municipality to the new settler committee, a plan which contradicts the 1997 Hebron Protocol.
The High Court gave the Israeli government 120 days to explain the legality of the plan, which was challenged on multiple fronts by the Hebron Municipality. The petition argued that the military order was intentionally vague in defining the legal and geographical jurisdiction of the proposed settler body, and pointed out that the new committee would be able to override decisions by the Hebron Municipality thereby stripping Palestinians of autonomy and representation in matters that directly affect them.
While the Court considers the matter, events on the ground continue to underscore the volatility of the situation in Hebron. Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier who was caught on camera executing an incapacitated Palestinian on the streets of Hebron, victoriously returned to the city on July 3rd after serving only 9 months in jail. The festivities welcoming Azaria were planned by a group that included the extremist settler and politician, Baruch Marzel. Only two days after the Azaria lovefest, Marzel pitched a two-person tent on the sidewalk next to a Palestinian home in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood in the Old City of Hebron. According to the Palestinian news outlet Ma’an, Marzel was involved in attacks on Palestinians in Tel Rumeida the same day, in an incident that resulted in the arrest of one Palestinian. Israeli police removed Marzel’s encampment from the street.
Also in Hebron, Palestinian media reports that Israeli forces have confiscated a plot of privately owned Palestinian land near the Kiryat Arba settlement and the Ibrahimi Mosque/Cave of the Patriarchs. A Hebron activist reports that the Israeli Army set up a new camp across the street from the seized land about one month ago, and is now moving the camp to the new site with the intention of declaring it a “closed military zone” to prevent Palestinians from entering the area.
High Court Allows the Israel Land Authority to Remain Under the Influence of the Jewish National Fund
The High Court of Justice dismissed a petition filed by Adalah which alleged that the Jewish National Fund’s representation on the Israel Land Authority council infringes on the rights of Palestinian to equality and dignity. Under Israeli law, 6 of the 14 members on the Land Authority council are to be appointed by the Jewish National Fund, an organization the petitioners say (with good cause) “openly discriminates against non-Jews and sees itself as an entity that serves only one population.” The Israel Land Authority is responsible for deciding how (and to whom) to allocate or sell land in Israel, including the land owned by the Jewish National Fund (13% of all land in Israel).
Following the High Court’s dismissal of the petition, the Haaretz Editorial Board wrote:
“In a properly run country, people who declare that they’re committed to acting in a discriminatory way are immediately disqualified from a public role. One can only imagine what Israelis’ response would be if in a country where Jews were a minority, half of a group’s members stated their intention to discriminate against Jews.”
The radical settler group Elad is lobbying for a bill that will allow the group to build settlement units on the grounds of one specific national park located in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, where Elad is engaged in a variety of activities to displace Palestinians and replace them with Israeli settlers (as FMEP has reported on extensively). On July 10th, the bill was approved by the Knesset’s Interior and Environment Committee, despite objections submitted to the committee by the Justice Ministry and the Attorney General. The bill was sent to the Knesset plenum for its first of three votes.
The bill will allow Elad to build more homes for Israeli settlers on the grounds of the City of David national park, which is located immediately south of the Temple Mount, adjacent to the southern wall of the Old City of Jerusalem. Since 2001, Elad has managed the park grounds on behalf of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, a scheme which gives the settler group authority over (but no legal responsibility towards) thousands of Palestinian homes and hundreds of settler homes – a demographic balance Elad is working hard to flip.
Ir Amim’s researcher Aviv Tatarsky told Haaretz:
“This isn’t the first time a monkey is being made of the law and common sense to advance the agenda of the Elad settlers. But even this law can’t change the fact that Silwan, like East Jerusalem, is entirely a Palestinian city. Israeli attempts to deny that simple truth impair the basic rights of 350,000 people in East Jerusalem. The residents of the Israeli city also pay a price for it.”
For more information on the role on national parks around Jerusalem in advancing the Israeli settlement agenda in Palestinian neighborhoods, see Ir Amim’s reporting here, and a key survey and analysis of national parks in Jerusalem/East Jerusalem by Bimkom here.
A recently released list of Civil Administration functions that will be brought to a halt during the impending union strike includes the High Planning Council’s work to advance settlement construction plans, though a Civil Administration spokesperson said that construction can be expected to climb next quarter.
Hananel Dorani, Chairman of the Yesha Council, the umbrella group representing settlements,wrote a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Lieberman, and Finance Minister Kahlon. Dorani, highlighting the green light from the political echelon to promote settlements, criticized the Civil Administration while pushing for a resolution:
“Especially now, at a time when political approval was given to promote construction, it’s not only commonplace that the Civil Administration doesn’t meet the task properly, but the workers’ strike will exacerbate the situation and create a bottleneck that’ll be difficult to free from for years. Civil Administration employees’ demand to add additional positions and their requests to improve salary conditions so they can fill existing positions hasn’t been answered for a long time, leading to renewed sanctions. As is well known, this is not the first time Civil Administration employees have initiated sanctions, but this hasn’t yet been dealt with…this organization is routinely substandard, and for a long time important headquarters work wasn’t promoted, plans approved by the political echelon are halted and piled up on the table in the Civil Administration, budgets earmarked for infrastructure projects (transportation, cellular, etc.) aren’t realized, no work permits are issued, and more…We ask that you get involved with all relevant parties and act immediately and personally to restore the Civil Administration to full functioning.”
Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan complained:
“As if it is not enough that every house in Judea and Samaria (West Bank) needs four different permits from the political echelon, now the residents have also become hostages in a conflict between Civil Administration employees and the Finance Ministry.”
The Civil Administration will also suspend the following operations: the flow of commercial goods between the West Bank (both settlements and Palestinian areas) and sovereign Israel; changes to the land and population registries, issuance of import licenses and business permits; and, significantly, all actions – including demolitions – against illegal construction, which might delay the demolition of the Khan al-Ahmar bedouin community.
Raw sewage from the Amichai settlement (the first new government-backed settlement in 20 years, established in the Shiloh Valley as pay-off to the evacuees of the illegal Amona outpost) has been flowing into the agricultural lands of the nearby Palestinian village Turmus Ayya.
The settlers dug a temporary sewage site (a pit in the ground that is now overflowing) only a few meters from Palestinian farm lands. Settlers have been living in mobile homes on the site of the settlement (which has not been built yet) for less than four months, and Palestinians say the the sewage began overflowing two months ago. A permanent sewage site for the settlement has not yet been built, in part because the settlement plans were approved at a “dizzying speed,” as Haaretz explains it.
At a swearing in ceremony for new judges, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin took the opportunity to pointedly criticize a bill promoted by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked which would, by design, politicize the appointment of ministerial legal advisors (a bill FMEP reported on here).
“we need independent legal advisors whose commitment to the law and being gatekeepers flows in their veins and constitutes the essence of their professional ethic. I understand elected officials. I too served in one or two roles before I reached this house, and I didn’t always agree with the legal advisor’s position. However, I believe we must be careful not to weaken one of the important pillars of the executive branch in Israeli democracy. We all want a legal advisor who’ll serve all elected officials from anywhere in the political spectrum in exactly the same way. Faithfully, devotedly, professionally, committed to government policy and primarily responsibility to uphold the law.”
Ahead of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, legal expert Michael Lynk told press that:
“After years of creeping Israeli de facto annexation of the large swathes of the West Bank through settlement expansion, the creation of closed military zones and other measures, Israel appears to be getting closer to enacting legislation that will formally annex parts of the West Bank. This would amount to a profound violation of international law, and the impact of ongoing settlement expansion on human rights must not be ignored.”
The statement was later posted on the Human Rights Council’s website.
- “US administration silent on Israel’s occupation policy” (Al Monitor)
- “A Tango of Violence: Building Outposts on Palestinian Land” (Haaretz)
- “The Maps of Israeli Settlements that Shocked Barack Obama” (The New Yorker)
- “Israel slams ‘immoral’ Irish bill banning trade with settlements” (Times of Israel)
- “The demolition of Khan al-Ahmar is more than just a war crime” (+972 Mag)