Settlement & Annexation Report: January 7, 2022

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

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January 7, 2022

  1. E-1 Settlement Reportedly Delayed
  2. E-1 Settlement Reportedly Delayed, BUT (Part 1): Israel Advances New Settlement Plan in East Jerusalem
  3. E-1 Settlement Reportedly Delayed, BUT (Part 2): Israel Approves Expansion of French Hill Settlement in East Jerusalem
  4. E-1 Settlement Reportedly Delayed, BUT (Part 3):  An Update on Two Families Facing Displacement in Sheikh Jarrah
  5. Al-Walajah Hearing Postponed but Remains Likely
  6. Report: Gantz Intends to Turn Evyatar Outpost Into New “Legal” Settlement
  7. Settlers Still Pressing Govt to Authorize Homesh Outpost, & Terrorizing Nearby Palestinians
  8. IDF Evacuates Kumi Ori Outpost, Yitzhar Start Clashes
  9. IDF Renews Standing Demolitions Orders Against Six Unauthorized Outposts
  10. Israel Earmarks Millions for Seven New Synagogues in Settlements & Outposts
  11. Bonus Reads

E-1 Settlement Reportedly Delayed

The Israeli Civil Administration’s High Planning Council has removed consideration of the E-1 settlement plan from the agenda of its scheduled January 10th meeting. Haaretz reports that the plan has been indefinitely postponed due to “the expert opinions of certain officials in the Civil Administration.” No further information regarding the identity of the officials nor their opinions has been made public, and neither Israeli Minister of Defense Benny Gantz (who oversees the Civil Administration and all planning in the West Bank) nor Prime Minister Bennett have made any public comments. Haaretz further notes that the decision to add and remove items – particularly contentious items such as the E-1 plan – requires the approval of political leadership. 

The High Planning Council – which is the body within the Israeli Defense Ministry which oversees all construction in the occupied West Bank – was expected to convene on January 10th to hold a third hearing to consider public objections to the E-1 plan. The Council’s previous hearings on public objections to the plan have been riddled with drama. The first was held on October 4th, but Palestinians were effectively denied the ability to participate, as it was held online and was thus inaccessible to the many Palestinians affected by the plan who do not have internet access. The second was held on October 18th; at that hearing three objections were presented (one by the Palestinian village of Anata, a second by the Palestinian village of Al-Azariya, and a third joint submission filed by Ir Amim and Peace Now). Ir Amim reports that there was no substantive discussion of these objections, with the Civil Administration panel offering no questions or comments on them. This third hearing – which was scheduled for January 10th – was set by the Court (originally for November 2021, but delayed) to compensate for the exclusion of Palestinians from the first hearing. 

E-1 Settlement Reportedly Delayed, BUT (Part 1): Israel Advances New Settlement Plan in East Jerusalem

On January 5th, the Jerusalem Municipal Planning Committee advanced a plan – referred to as the “Lower Aqueduct Plan” – to build a new settlement with 1,457 units in East Jerusalemn land located between two already controversial settlements on the southern flank of East Jerusalem: Givat Hamatos and Har Homa. The new settlement is intended to connect the Givat Hamatos and Har Homa, establishing an uninterrupted continuum of Israeli settlements on the southern rim of Jerusalem, and destroying the contiguity of Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. With approval from the municipal planning authority, the plan now goes to the Jerusalem District Planning Committee which will convene on January 17th to consider depositing the plan for public review.

In addition to severing East Jerusalem from the West Bank in the south, the new settlement will impinge on two neighboring East Jerusalem Palestinian villages of Sur Baher and Umm Tuba, and will involve the expropriation by Israel of privately owned Palestinian land. Most notably, in order to pave a new access road for the new settlement, the State will likely expropriate land privately owned by Palestinian residents of Umm Tuba. Ir Amim explains:

“According to the plan, an access road to the new neighborhood will be built over the Green Line on private Palestinian land belonging to residents of Umm Tuba. These lands will likely be expropriated. Despite the probable expropriation, the plan does not offer any development for the remaining privately-owned Palestinian land and will likewise not grant building rights to Palestinian landowners for areas alongside the road not intended for expropriation.”

Adding insult to injury, two years ago the Jerusalem Municipality and the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs initiated a plan to build a new Palestinian business center in the precise area targeted by the “lower aqueduct” plan, as part of an Israeli government initiative to reduce poverty in East Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Municipality subsequently abandoned the plan for the Palestinian business center under pressure from settlers, specifically from the Har Homa settlement which borders the area. Ir Amim comments:

“Not only is this yet another example of severe planning discrimination, but construction of this new neighborhood will serve to further create Israeli territorial contiguity along East Jerusalem’s southern perimeter while depleting more land reserves for Palestinian development.”

Peace Now notes that the majority of the land on which the new settlement will be built (half of which is in East Jerusalem and half in West Jerusalem) is privately owned, or managed by the Israeli Custodian General. Although recent reporting suggests the Custodian General is moving to advance settlement construction on lands it manages across East Jerusalem, its legal ability to do so is questionable (and doing so has historically not been its practice).

It’s worth recalling that in December 2021, reports surfaced that the Israeli Custodian General is planning to establish a new settler enclave in Sur Baher, and is hoping to add more land in the village to its existing portfolio of 3.3 dunams.

Terrestrial Jerusalem writes:

“This Plan is not promoted in a vacuum, and constitutes yet another significant  link the chain of new settlement schemes currently being expedited by Israeli authorities on the southern flank of East Jerusalem. Connecting Har Homa to Givat Hamatos, the Lower Aqueduct Plan joins these other schemes: Givat Hamatos, Har Homa West, Ahuzat Nof Gilo  and Har  Gilo West. The cumulative impact of these plans is to create a continuous built-up buffer, sealing East Jerusalem off from its sister city, Bethlehem. Viewed in context, the Lower Aqueduct Plan is a significant component in a strategic thrust with the objective of consolidating sole Israeli rule over East Jerusalem, and cutting it off from its environs in the West Bank. The physical detachment of East Jerusalem from Bethlehem will be viewed as  unilateral act that causes concern not only among Palestinians and the international community, among the major Christian denominations around the world.”

Peace Now said in a statement:

“As in the case of the Atarot plan, right-wing elements in the government are taking advantage of the lack of coalition agreement on the issue of settlements to advance far-reaching plans that post facts on the ground that undermine the possibility of peace. The plans add to the tension on the ground and highlight the blatant discrimination that the government is building in East Jerusalem for Israelis only, while the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the city can build almost nothing. The coalition parties that support the possibility of two states for two peoples must do everything so that these plans are not promoted and do not reach a discussion in the District Committee.”

E-1 Settlement Reportedly Delayed, BUT (Part 2): Israel Approves Expansion of French Hill Settlement in East Jerusalem

Map by Peace Now

On January 5th, the Jerusalem District Planning Committee gave its final approval to several plans that will add a total of 2,092 new units to the French Hill settlement in East Jerusalem, on the edge of Mount Scopus.

Several plans relate to the Hebrew University campus on Mt. Scopus. Notably, while Mt. Scopus is in East Jerusalem, it is not considered by the international community to be occupied territory (reflecting the fact that in 1948 the area was designated as a demilitarized zone).  These new plans, which expand the footprint of the Hebrew University campus but on land that is in the French Hill area (i.e. occupied territory), are:

  1. The “Bronfman Dormitory” plan to build 672  settlement units on land located in the French Hill settlement area (beyond the borders of the Mt. Scopus campus). Ir Amim raises alarm that this plan will completely encircle a Palestinian neighborhood (leaving it as an enclave surrounded by Israeli development), which “will greatly increase the construction in areas marked as Israeli, while blocking any further development of the Palestinian neighborhood.”
  2. The “Lerner Complex & Lower Resnick Dormitory” plan calls for the construction of 1027 units , the majority of which are designated for land east of the Green Line where there are currently student dormitories for the Hebrew University.
  3. The construction of 528 settlement units on land just north of the Jerusalem British War Cemetery, on land that is cut in half by the Green Line. 

Ir Amim said in a statement:

“Beyond the geopolitical implications of constructing more housing units over the Green Line in Jerusalem, these plans are yet another example of the acute housing discrimination facing East Jerusalem Palestinians. These four plans follow close on the heels of other major housing projects advanced for Israelis in East Jerusalem over the course of 2021. The Israeli authorities continue to promote plans at full force for thousands of housing units for Israelis, while systemically refraining from advancing plans for Palestinians to meet their severe housing needs.”

Peace Now writes

“it should be noted that some of the plans are adjacent to Palestinian land and houses (a neighborhood considered to be the fringe of Sheikh Jarrah), but all the huge building rights planned in these plans are not given to Palestinian homeowners living adjacent to the planned area. The Israel Land Authority has chosen to plan only the complexes under its control and not to allow the private construction of Palestinians next door. Since 1967, the government initiated and planned approx. 56,000 units for Israelis in East Jerusalem, while for Palestinians the government supported only 600 units, in the 1970’s. The planning of so many units in East Jerusalem for Israelis alongside with the increase in house demolition for Palestinians, raises the frustration and anger in East Jerusalem.”

E-1 Settlement Reportedly Delayed, BUT (Part 3): An Update on Two Families Facing Displacement in Sheikh Jarrah

New details have emerged regarding the delayed forcible displacement of the Salem family from their longtime home in Sheikh Jarrah in favor of settlers. Though the eviction notice stated that the family would be evicted from their home on December 29th, a last minute delay was granted based on a request submitted to the Court by the setters. The settlers requested that the court postpone the evacuation and instead require that it be carried out between January 20 and February 8th. 

The settlers’ lawyers’ request was in line with concerns raised by the Jerusalem police, which also submitted a letter to the Court that warned a set date for the eviction, known in advance by the family and the public, “could endanger the forces and foil the evacuation’s success.”

Also in Sheikh Jarrah and in keeping with the police’s warning, the Saliha family received another eviction notice from Israeli authorities warning them that an eviction order against their home can be carried out anytime between January 10 and January 25. There are two households in the Saliha family living on a plot of land that Israel expropriated (in 2017) for “public use”, and on which it now intends to build a school (it is as yet unclear what population the school will serve).

Ir Amim provides essential and comprehensive information on what is going on with regards to the Salhia family case:

“The Jerusalem Municipality is demanding the eviction of the entire Salhia family, comprised of two households and totaling 12 individuals, under the pretext that expropriation of the property is necessary for the construction of a school. Following the court’s dismissal of one petition, one of the households received the aforementioned eviction order. The second household’s petition will be heard tomorrow (January 6) at the Jerusalem District Court.

While the municipality is evicting the family to build an educational institution, in recent years it relinquished a plot of land in Sheikh Jarrah originally designated for a school and transferred it into the hands of an ultra-Orthodox association for the construction of a massive yeshiva. The municipality appears to perceive it as reasonable to dispossess a Palestinian family for the sake of a school rather than utilizing open land initially allocated for such purposes.

When the District Planning Committee discussed the objections to the Ohr Somayach yeshiva plan (TPS 68858) at the end of 2020, the representative of the Jerusalem Municipality’s planning department claimed that there was no shortage of educational institutions nor a lack of space for such buildings in Sheikh Jarrah.

Today, Ir Amim sent an urgent letter to the Director of the Municipality’s Education Administration (MEA) in which it detailed the contradiction in the municipality’s actions and demanded MEA act to retrieve the parcel of land it transferred to the ultra-Orthodox association. Such a measure could in fact obviate the “need” to seize the Salhia family’s land and prevent the violation of their property rights and forced eviction.

Members of the Salhia family are Palestinian refugees who were uprooted from their homes in Ein Kerem in 1948 and now stand to be displaced for a second time. According to the family, their parents purchased the plot of land and have lived in homes they built since before 1967. The property also houses a well-known and thriving garden center called Peace Nursery.

Situated directly across from the British Consulate, the homes are strategically located between Kerem Al’ajoni and the Shepherd Hotel complex where settler groups are acting to establish major settler enclaves (see map below). In Kerem Al’ajoni, Nahalat Shimon is working at the behest of settlers to evict some 30 Palestinian families, while the Ateret Cohanim settler organization has constructed 22 housing units in the Shepherd Hotel complex to house a new settlement. The organization received the compound from the state decades ago after it was declared “absentee property.” There are reports that Ateret Cohanim intends to build additional floors, and therefore the units are not yet occupied.

It should be underscored that this development is taking place in parallel to the impending eviction of the 11-member Salem family from Um Haroun, Sheikh Jarrah (western section) for the benefit of settlers. As reported previously, the family was handed an eviction notice in early December citing that they would be subject to forcible removal as of December 29. That eviction order was cancelled, and an administrative hearing was held on December 30 at the Enforcement and Collection Agency concerning a request for a new eviction order with a flexible implementation date. Although the hearing concluded without a decision nor the issuance of a new eviction order, the family’s legal representation has made it clear that all potential legal channels have been exhausted. Therefore save for government intervention, there appears to be no other means to prevent the family’s displacement. Continued public pressure and concerted engagement with the Israeli government on this matter is hence vital.

A total of some 70 families, numbering over 300 Palestinians, are under threat of eviction from Sheikh Jarrah due to lawsuits filed by settler groups working in close collaboration with state bodies, including the General Custodian. Driven by political and ideological motives, these efforts aim to establish settler enclaves by forcibly uprooting Palestinians and supplanting them with Jewish settlers as a means to Israelize the area and further entrench Israeli control. Such measures carry severe humanitarian and geopolitical ramifications.”

Al-Walajah Hearing Postponed but Remains Likely

The Israeli Supreme Court hearing on the demolition of 38 homes in the beleaguered Palestinian village of al-Walajah,  scheduled for December 26th, was ultimately postponed by the Court. The delay followed a new request submitted to the Court by the lawyer representing the Palestinian families facing imminent homelessness, though it’s not clear what the request was exactly. Ir Amim makes it clear that the delay is not cause for celebration, and stems from a technical matter. 

The Court has not set a new date for the hearing.

As a reminder, the State of Israel has longstanding demolition orders against 38 Palestinian homes – in which around 300 people live – in the village of Al-Walajah, though the orders have been contested by Palestinians and, until this point, frozen by the Court as the matter is litigated. In December 2021, the State asked the Court to lift a freeze on the demolition orders, arguing (as it had in the past) that the houses – built by Palestinian residents of al-Walajah s on their own land – were illegal, because the were built without the required Israeli permits. This argument points to the Kafkaesque nightmare in which al-Walajah’s residents are trapped.

In point of fact: It is all but impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits from Israel to build “legally” on their own land in East Jerusalem and in Area C of the West Bank. In the case of al-Walajah, such permits are, literally, impossible to obtain. This is because Israel has actively chosen not to approve an “outline plan” for the area, without which permits are an impossibility. Al-Walajah residents, with the help of planning experts, prepared and proposed an outline plan for the area, and for more than 15 years have worked to get Israel to approve it — to no avail. Israeli authorities have repeatedly (in January 2021 and again in March 2021) refused to approve the resident-backed plan, and have also refrained from initiating their own planning process. Indeed, the Jerusalem District Committee, as part of a January 25, 2021 ruling against the outline plan proposed by residents, deemed the area in question — where Palestinians have lived for decades — an “agricultural area” where no building would ever be permitted.  The result: Al-Walajah’s residents have been left with zero hope of obtaining the permits required to build on their own land – or keep their current homes located there.

Report: Gantz Intends to Turn Evyatar Outpost Into New “Legal” Settlement

Over the past few weeks, reports have surfaced indicating the Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz is planning to approve the retroactive authorization of the Evyatar outpost, located on a strategic hilltop named Mount Sabih just south of Nablus on land historically belonging to nearby the Palestinian villages Beita, Yatma, and Qablan. This follows Prime Minister Bennett’s November 2021 promise to legalize the outpost.

Map by Peace Now

The decision to authorize Evyatar as a full-fledged, new, and “legal” settlement is supposedly dependent on the outcome of an Israeli-led investigation into the status of the land. If the land is “discovered” to be “state land,” the government will authorize EVyatar. The results of the “investigation” are not public at this time. [map]

The Evyatar outpost has been at the core of sustained settler violence and Palestinian protest over the course of 2021, ever since the government agreed to a deal with settlers to evacuate the outpost temporarily (leaving its structures intact) until the government determines whether it can find a pretext upon which to declare the land to be state land. 

Peace Now said in a statement:

“There is no justification in the world for establishing a new settlement in the West Bank, which will be a security burden, a political blow and a reward for outlaws. The small settler group who established the outpost in Evyatar did so illegally, with the aim of dragging Israel to deepen the occupation and prevent its end, and they led to daily risk of IDF soldiers and severe escalation of violence in the area. The government must come to its senses and stop this madness and not be dragged after a small minority.”

In addition to reportedly preparing to grant approval to formally establish the Evyatar settlement, the settler news outlet Arutz Sheva reports that Gantz has suggested making the new settlement the new home for the illegal yeshiva settlers have established as the site of the former Homesh settlement – a yeshiva that has likewise been at the center of ongoing violence (including settler violence targeting Israeli forces). Settlers have come out in opposition to this suggestion – unsurprisingly, given that the explicit objective of the settlers targeting the Homesh site is the re-settlement of that specific area (more below).

As a reminder, the fate of the Evyatar outpost was the first controversy that threatened to divide the fragile Bennett-led government when it was sworn in. Bennet’s partners were bitterly divided on whether to evacuate the outpost or let it be, while the government sought to grant it retroactive legalization. In the end, the government reached a “deal” which saw the settlers (temporarily) vacate the outpost on Friday, July 2nd. In return, the government left the settlers’ illegal construction at the site in place (i.e., did not demolish it) — including buildings and roads —  while it “examines” the status of the land to see if it can be declared “state land” and therefore “legally” turned into a settlement (opening the door for the settlers to return). Under the agreement, the outpost is being used as a military base in the interim. 

The fact that the “compromise” left in place the settlers’ structures and allowed Israel to maintain complete control over the site during the “survey” process signalled from the start that the government is not concerned with enforcing Israeli law, but rather is focused on finding a political solution that works for the settlers. It was further clear from the terms of the “compromise” that the Bennet government believed it will be succeed in finding a pretext to assert that the land on which the outpost stands is “state land” which can be used by the state as it sees fit (i.e., give it to the settlers). If the state decides, pursuant to the investigation, that it has a basis on which to declare the site to be “state land,” the settlers will be allowed to return and resume the establishment of what would from that point no longer be an illegal outpost, but a new “legal” settlement. 

Settlers Still Pressing Govt to Authorize Homesh Outpost, & Terrorizing Nearby Palestinians

There has been continuing fallout and violence surrounding the Homesh oupost and yeshiva following the murder of settler Yehuda Dimentan by a Palestinian in December 2021. Settlers have used Dimentan’s death to press the government to formally reestablish the Homesh settlement (evacuated in 2005 as part of the Gaza disengagement plan, at which time it was declared by Israel to be a closed military zone – but settlers have been allowed to frequent the site and even operate a yeshiva there. That yeshiva, according to Kerem Navot, became one of the West Bank’s “hardcore centers of settler terror”). Settlers have also wreaked terror on nearby Palestinian villages, most notably Burqa. One Israeli politicians even said that settlers are carrying out a pogrom in Burqa.

Most prominently to date, Israeli Justice Minister Gidon Sa’ar (Likud) offered his support for reestablishing the Homesh settlement – directly tying his support to the death of Yehuda Dimentan. On January 1st, Yesha Council leader Yossi Dagan and MK Yuli Edelstein inaugurated a new caucus in the Knesset specifically dedicated to the cause of reestablishing the Homesh settlement along with the other two settlements that were dismantled by the Israeli government in 2005 as part of the Gaza Disengagement Plan.

Since the murder, the IDF has imposed severe movement restrictions on Palestinians living near the Homesh site and the Shavei Shomron settlement (where Dimentan lived). This includes road closures, and IDF-imposed closures of the Palestinian towns of Burqa and Sebastia. In addition, two new Israeli-controlled checkpoints positioned near Shavei Shomron and Homesh in practice now prevent Palestinians from using the roads, while allowing settlers to reach the Homesh site (which, again, is supposedly a closed military zone). The closures have not prevented settlers from regularly attacking Burqa, including “three large scale attacks”. According to the PA’s settlement monitor, Palestinians in Burqa fear a massacre.

In addition to the now-routine closures and movement restrictions on Palestinians, the IDF chose to completely shut down the highway connecting Shavei Shomron and Homesh on December 23rd to allow a massive march led by Dimentan’s widow – estimated to have included 15,000 Israelis (including several elected officials) – following Dimentan’s funeral. The march and the closures resulted in clashes, particularly in Burqa, between Palestinians and IDF forces. The night of the march, settlers raided Burqa where they attacked Palestinian homes and desecrated the village’s cemetary.

The marchers told Ynet that they intend to maintain a presence at the yeshiva to prevent the government from dismantling it. The Dimentan family has personally asked government officials to authorize the Homesh yeshiva in Dimentan’s honor.

Amidst the ongoing violence and political agitation, on January 2, 2022 a delegation of Israeli lawmakers, including several senior members of the Likud party, paid a visit to the illegal yeshiva at the dismantled Homesh settlement site. Their tour of the yeshiva was used to offer support to the settlers’ effort to push for retroactive authorization.

IDF Evacuates Kumi Ori Outpost, Yitzhar Start Clashes

On December 31st, Israeli forces once again removed caravans from the unauthorized “Kumi Ori” settler outpost, which serves as the home of 20 extremist “Hilltop Youth” settlers and is a satellite outpost of the notoriously violent and radical Yitzhar settlement. Dozens of settlers from Yitzhar attacked Israeli forces, resulting in injuries to three soldiers and one settler.

Haaretz reports that despite an order issued two years ago declaring the land to be a “closed military zone,” Israeli border police – who maintain a checkpoint at the entrance of the outpost – have continued to allow settlers to live and visit the area if they had lived there (illegally) prior to the eviction order being issued. The caravan that was removed on December 31st was new, and therefore subject to the eviction order.

Kumi Ori was previously evacuated by the IDF in April 2020 and in January 2020, and also in August 2017 – each time resulting in violence. The battle between the outpost settlers and the Israeli army has played out for many years, and the IDF has demolished the outpost at least 10 times. In one extraordinary attempt by the settlers to preserve the outpost, settlers attempted to convince the court that Israel did not have authority to demolish the structures, because the outpost is not located in Area C (where Israel has complete control), but rather in a Palestinian-administered area (Area A or B) [raising the question, would the settlers recognize/respect the Palestinian Authority’s authority to evict them?].  The Court rejected that argument.

IDF Renews Standing Demolitions Orders Against Six Unauthorized Outposts

The Israeli military recently re-issued standing demarcation orders that allow (should Israeli authorities so choose) for the demolition of the outposts without any legal hoops or holdups. Of course, the orders have been in place for years, and while the IDF has occasionally dismantled the outposts, settlers have been able (or allowed) to reestablish the illegal encampments. 

The orders were renewed for the following outposts: 

  • Ramat Migron outpost, located in the Shiloh Valley in the northern West Bank. The IDF recently dismantled the Ramat Migron settlement in November 2021.
  • Oz Zion outpost, located between Jerusalem and Ramallah. The Oz Zion outpost has been demolished by the IDF several times but the settlers have been allowed to reestablish it. The outpost was most recently dismantled by the IDF in June 2021.
  • Guelat Zion outpost, located in the Shiloh Valley in the northern West Bank. Guelat Zion was most recently demolished in November 2021. Established in 2011, the outpost is adjacent to the new “Amichai” settlement, which Israel built as a pay-off to settlers it was forced by the courts to remove from the illegal Amona outpost.
  • Givat Assaf outpost, located east of Ramallah. The Givat Assaf outpost was rumored to be included in a list of 66 outposts the Knesset sought to retroactively legalize via legislation.
  • Givat Tekuma (“Hill 725”) outpost, located near the Yitzhar settlement in the Nablus area of the northern West Bank.
  • Shaked farm outpost, located near the Yitzhar settlement in the Nablus area of the northern West Bank

Israel Earmarks Millions for Seven New Synagogues in Settlements & Outposts

Israeli Minister of Religious Services Matan Kahana approved the allocation of millions of shekels (exact figure unknown) for the construction of 30 new synagogues – seven of which will be located in settlements or unauthorized outposts. In addition, Kahana earmarked 25% of his ministry’s aid budget for the construction of mikveh’s (Jewish ritual baths) in the West Bank.

Meretz MK Mossi Raz said in response:

“Kahana has decided to discriminate against residents within the green line, and to build a quarter of the synagogues in his ministry’s budget over the green line. This does not only strengthen the settlement enterprise, which is harmful for Israel’s future, it acts inequitably in allocating resources to every worshiper within Israel’s borders.”

Bonus Reads

  1. “First Settlers Beat Them Up, Then Ismail and His Family Were Jailed” (Haaretz)
  2. “Why Palestinian Kids’ Playgrounds Are Such Prime Targets for Israeli Settlers” (Haaretz // Ali Awad)
  3. “Power struggle: Bill to hook up illegal Arab homes to grid passes in stormy session” (The Times of Israel)

 

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.

December 23, 2021

  1. Homesh Settlement Violence Continues As Knesset Rejects Plan to Authorize Outpost
  2. Settler/State Displacement of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, Part 1: Salem Family Gets Brief Reprieve of Expulsion from Home in Sheikh Jarrah
  3. Settler/State Displacement of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, Part 2: Salhia Family Receives Eviction Order
  4. Settler/State Displacement of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, Part 3: Skafi Family Turns Down $5 million Offer from Settlers for Home
  5. Israeli Supreme Court to Decide on (Likely Swift) Mass Demolitions in al-Walajah
  6. Church Leaders Launch Campaign Against “Systematic Attempt” to Rid Jerusalem of Christians
  7. Bonus Reads

Homesh Settlement Violence Continues As Knesset Rejects Plan to Authorize Outpost

In the days following a deadly attack by Palestinians on Israeli settlers near the site of the former Homesh settlement in the northern West Bank, Israeli settlers and their allies, predictably, have exacted revenge on Palestinian communities, with violent attacks that Israel has done little or nothing to prevent. Also predictably, they have demanded that, in response to the attack, the government authorize the illegal outposts/yeshiva at the site of Homesh, as well as additional new settlements. 

Despite an emotional plea by the family of the murdered settler – Yehuda Dimentman – and accompanying pressure from the settler constituency, the Knesset voted 59-50 against a declaration that would have urged Prime Minister Bennett to grant authorization to the Homesh outpost along with 70 other outposts in the West Bank. In addition, the text of the declaration urged Bennett “decisively prevent the evacuation of the Homesh Yeshiva, authorize it and to allow its students to study and live there.”

As a reminder, the Homesh settlement was dismantled by the Israeli government in 2005 as part of its “disengagement” from the Gaza Strip. Homesh was ruled to have been built on land privately owned by the Palestinian village of Burqa, ownership which was legally recognized by the Israeli High Court of Justice. Nonetheless, since 2005 Israeli authorities have permitted settlers to retain effective control over the area, including via establishing and operating an [illegal] religious school (aka, yeshiva) at the site for the past 15 years. The yeshiva lacks any permits/planning authorization — authorization that is impossible given that in 2005 the IDF declared the Homesh site to be a closed military zone. As such, both Palestinians and settlers are prohibited from entering the area (let alone building on it). That restriction, however, in practice has been applied to only one population (the one that has been recognized by Israel as the legal owners of the land), and for years, the IDF has turned a blind eye to the yeshiva, despite warnings about the outpost’s violence and repeated confrontations. The recent attack targeted settlers departing from that [illegal] yeshiva.

Within days of last week’s attack, settlers moved to expand the outpost/yeshiva at the Homesh site. On December 18th, settlers managed to erect new, prefabricated buildings at the site, adjacent to the existing (illegal) yeshiva. In the process, settlers reportedly clashed with the IDF, which tried (and failed) to prevent them accessing the site.

On December 19th, the IDF moved in to dismantle the new (illegal) buildings, but did not dismantle the (equally illegal) yeshiva. At the same time, a group of 200 settlers attempted to reach the yeshiva and protest the removal of the outpost buildings, resulting in violent clashes with the IDF. Later, on December 22nd, Israeli authorities arrested the head of the illegal Homesh yeshiva – Rabbi Elishama Cohen – on “suspicion of violating the 2005 Disengagement Law” (the law that provided for the evacuation of the Homesh settlement). Cohen was soon released following intervention by top settler leader Yossi Dagan, but told to return to the police station for further questioning. The arrest infuriated MK Bezalel Smotrich, from the far-right Religious Zionism party, who slammed the Bennett government, saying:

“As part of the government’s decision to eliminate the Homesh yeshivai in response to the terrorist attack in which Yehuda Dimentman was killed and to reward terrorism, the police were sent today to persecute, arrest and deter him. They will not scare us. We call on the masses of the house of Israel to arrive tomorrow and march with Yehuda’s family, demanding an arrangement be made with the Homesh yeshiva.”

 The Jerusalem Post reports that the IDF has plans to dismantle the yeshiva following a seven day mourning period for Dimentman. 

Settler/State Displacement of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, Part 1: Salem Family Gets Brief Reprieve of Expulsion from Home in Sheikh Jarrah

The expulsion of the Palestinian Salem family from their home of 70 years in Sheikh Jarrah has been delayed on a technicality. +972 Magazine reports that the eviction order was paused because the settler (Aryeh King) who pompously hand-delivered the order to the Salem family was not legally empowered to do so, forcing the Jerusalem court to annul that order (which had set the expulsion for December 29th) and issue a new order, which will reportedly be delivered to the family in the coming weeks.

The delay follows notable attention on the case from international actors, including a visit by diplomats from the European Union. +972 Magazine further reports:

“A source in the Israeli government told +972 that various ministries have been turning their attention to the expulsion of the Salem family due to concern over the political ramifications (developments in the neighborhood remain closely watched by Palestinians and by foreign governments). Some Israeli officials have even looked into legal possibilities for the family to further appeal the ruling, in an attempt to stall its implementation. Israel’s Foreign Ministry provided +972 with the following response, which it said had been coordinated among all relevant government bodies: ‘The State of Israel is a state governed by rule of law, and the ruling of the court — which are known for their independence and the balance they provide on sensitive issues — is binding. The implementation of the ruling will be carried out by the authorities that take into account all the relevant factors, including the appropriate preparations before every move. Any attempt by extremists, and particularly the Hamas terrorist group, to exploit the situation to increase incitement, violence, and terrorism should be rejected.’”

Settler/State Displacement of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, Part 2: Salhia Family Receives Eviction Order

On December 20th, Israeli authorities reportedly delivered an eviction notice to the Palestinian Salhia family in Sheikh Jarrah, in the area near the British Consulate, with the eviction date set for January 25th. The order pertains to a plot of privately owned land – purchased by a Salhia elder in 1967 – on which the Salhia family has built two homes. Israeli authorities had previously delivered an eviction order to the Salhia family in October 2021, that order has since expired – prompting this new order to be issued.

Mohammad Salhia told Middle East Monitor that the Jerusalem Municipality offered to delay the eviction by 8 months if he signed a legal agreement giving up claim to ownership of the land and turning his family into merely tenants of the buildings (he refused). 

According to the WAFA report, in 2019 Israel issued an order to unilaterally seize the plot for the “public interest” in order to establish a school there. This school was originally planned to be built on a different parcel of land, however, the Israeli government gave this land to an Ultra-Orthodox organization in order to build the Glassman yeshiva (a settlement project). In the absurdity of land use in East Jerusalem, now, in order to build the school, the government has opted to confiscate the Salhia family’s land.

Settler/State Displacement of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, Part 3: Skafi Family Turns Down $5 million Offer from Settlers for Home

Al-Monitor reports that the Palestinian Skafi family has turned down an offer by settlers to purchase their home in Sheikh Jarrah for an astounding $5 million. Abdel Fattah Skafi told Al-Monitor:

“The family, similar to others in the neighborhood, will not accept any tempting offers by the Israeli authorities, whether financial or an offer to grant them another piece of land as an alternative. We inherited the house from our ancestors and we will pass it on to our children and grandchildren, no matter how long the conflict with the settlers.”

The Skafi family (14 individuals) live in a large house surrounded by homes that have already been taken over by Israeli settlers. In order to access the house, the Skafis must pass through a narrow alley in front of the settler-inhabited homes. The family has been subjected to daily harassment and violence as a result of this reality.

Israeli Supreme Court to Decide on (Likely Swift) Mass Demolitions in al-Walajah

On December 26th, the Israeli Supreme Court is set to hold a final hearing on demolition orders against 38 Palestinian homes – in which around 300 people live – in the village of Al-Walajah, a small part of which is located within the municipal borders of Jerusalem (illegally annexed by Israel following the 1967 war). The State has asked the Court to lift a freeze on the demolition orders, arguing (as usual) that the houses – built by Palestinians on their own land – were built without the required Israeli permits. Ir Amim cautions that if the Court decides to greenlight the demolition orders, it is likely that the mass demolitions will be carried out very quickly. Ir Amim explains:

“The demolitions would likely be carried out very swiftly because the National Enforcement Unit under the Ministry of Finance has assumed responsibility for building and planning enforcement in this area since 2016. This unit is considered the most aggressive Israeli enforcement body. Indeed in the past five years, this unit has executed demolition orders in al-Walajeh immediately after the conclusion of court proceedings. Some 12 additional homes not protected by the appeal likewise face impending demolitions, four of which were carried out over the past few months, including one at the beginning of December. Roughly half of the homes in the annexed part of al-Walajeh have received demolition orders, and approximately 30 have already been executed since 2016 (including those mentioned above). These mass demolition orders, together with the absence of urban planning, threaten to uproot hundreds of al-Walajeh residents for a second time.”

As a reminder, it is all but impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits from Israel to build “legally” on their own land in East Jerusalem and in Area C of the West Bank. In the case of al-Walajah, the situation is even worse: such permits are, literally, impossible to obtain, since the area lacks a required Israeli-approved “outline plan,” without which permits are an impossibility. In an effort to overcome this obstacle, Al-Walajah residents, with the help of planning experts, prepared and proposed an outline plan for the area, and for more than 15 years have worked to get Israel to approve it — to no avail. Israeli authorities have repeatedly (in January 2021 and again in March 2021) refused to approve the resident-backed plan, and have also refrained from initiating their own planning process. Indeed, the Jerusalem District Committee, as part of a January 25, 2021 ruling against the outline plan proposed by residents, deemed the area in question — where Palestinians have lived for decades — an “agricultural area” where no building would ever be permitted.  The result: Al-Walajah’s residents have been left with zero hope of obtaining the permits required to build on their own land – or keep their current homes located there.

Ir Amim writes:

“Demolitions in Al-Walaja are due to two combined Israeli policy decisions: On the one hand, Israeli authorities have never made an outline plan for the annexed part of Al-Walaja and residents therefore have no possibility of obtaining a building permit. All construction that has taken place in Al-Walaja since 1967 is thereby considered illegal under Israeli law. On the other hand, in 2016 the government decided to increase home demolitions – specifically targeting Palestinian communities. Since that year, the National Enforcement Unit (under the authority of the Ministry of Finance) began issuing and carrying out demolition orders in Al-Walaja. This unit is the most aggressive of the Israeli enforcement units. The combined effect of no outline plan and aggressive enforcement has led to half of the homes of the Jerusalem section of Al-Walaja currently being under threat of demolition. In January of this year (2021), the al-Walaja’s community most recent attempt to advance the outline plan they prepared for their village was rejected by the Jerusalem District Committee. Meanwhile, Israeli construction plans of thousands of housing units around Al-Walaja are advancing – including a new settlement on the Western side of the village. Indeed, demolitions in Al-Walaja are part of the creeping annexation Israel is advancing within the Greater Jerusalem area, specifically with the aim of connecting settlements near Bethlehem to Jerusalem, which would effectively fragment the Palestinian space of the southern West Bank.”

Church Leaders Launch Campaign Against “Systematic Attempt” to Rid Jerusalem of Christians

A group of high ranking Christian church leaders have launched a campaign protesting the treatment of churches and Christian residents in Jerusalem. They specifically cite settler violence and attempts to take over church-owned properties in the Old City as key parts of an effort to rid Jerusalem, and other parts of the Holy Land, of Christians. 

A statement issued by the campaign reads:

“The principle that the spiritual and cultural character of Jerusalem’s distinct and historic quarters should be protected is already recognised in Isarlei law with respect to the Jewish Quarter. Yet radical groups continue to acquire strategic property in the Christian Quarter, with aim of diminishing the Christian presence, often using underhanded dealings and intimidation tactics to evict residents from their homes, dramatically decreasing the Christian presence, and further disrupting the historic pilgrim routes between Bethlehem and Jerusalem.”

The campaign asks the Israeli government to:

“Deal with the challenges presented by radical groups in Jerusalem to both heChristian community and the rule of law, so as to ensure that no citizen or institution has to live under threat of violence or intimidation.”

The leader behind the new campaign is the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, whose Patriarchate has been in a particularly nasty (and muddled) battle with settlers over the fate of three prized Old City properties which have been long-owned by the church, but which settlers claim to have purchased (via a sale to a foreign real estate company acting secretly on behalf of the radical settler group Ateret Cohanim). Once Ateret Cohanim’s role became known, the Patriarchate sought to retain control of the properties, but over the course of a long legal battle, multiple Israeli courts, including the Supreme Court, validated the sale. The Greek Orthodox Church has received significant blowback from the sale of these properties to the settlers, including in January 2018, when Palestinians protested in Bethlehem in an attempt to block the arrival of Patriarch Theophilos III for Christmas celebrations.

In addition to the coalition of Church leaders based in Jerusalem, the campaign was boosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who joined the archbishop of the Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East (the Anglican Church) to issue a statement that was also published as an article in the London-based The Sunday Times, entitled “Let us pray for the Christians being driven from the Holy Land.” 

In response to the campaign, the Israeli Foreign Ministry dismissed the concerns raised by Christian leaders as “baseless,” and claimed that the campaign “distort[s] the reality of the Christian community in Israel.” The Foreign Ministry went on to criticize the Church leaders for their alleged silence regarding the plight of Christians elsewhere in the Middle East, implying that the leaders are unfairly singling out Israel. This line of argument is tantamount to the Israeli government calling these church leaders antisemitic — tying in closely with the Israeli government-backed definition of antisemitism, according to which “applying double standards” in critizing Israel is a form of “contemporary” antisemitism.

Bonus Reads

  1. “De-emphasized under Trump, report shows Biden taking settler violence more seriously” (The Times of Israel)
  2. “Israeli Troops and Settlers Zero in on a New Target for Attacks: Palestinian Schools” (Haaretz)
  3. “Opinion | The U.S. Funding Challenges Facing the Israel-Palestine ‘Peace Industry’” (Haaretz)
  4. “Opinion: Mr. Blinken, you can pick up the phone and save a Palestinian village from destruction” (Washington Post)
  5. “Why Jerusalem Cannot be ‘Taken Off the Table’” (Crisis Group)

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.

December 17, 2021

  1. In Sheikh Jarrah, Palestinian Family Faces Immediate Displacement, While Israel Begins Work on New Settler Garden at Entrance to the Neighborhood
  2. Israeli Custodian General is Behind Six New Settlement Plans Across East Jerusalem
  3. Israel Custodian General Reveals New Details on Regulations Governing its Management of East Jerusalem Properties, Leaving More Questions
  4. Israel Forges Ahead with New Settlements on the Golan Heights
  5. Following Murder of Israeli Settler, Settlers Launch Attacks of their Own & Attempt to Establish New Outpost
  6. Gantz Moves to Send More Police to West Bank to Monitor Settler Violence
  7. Meanwhile in Israel…Political Storm Ensues Over Whether Settler Terrorism Is a Problem or Not
  8. Bonus Reads

In Sheikh Jarrah, Palestinian Family Faces Immediate Displacement, While Israel Begins Work on New Settler Garden at Entrance to the Neighborhood

Courtesy of an eviction order hand-delivered by settler impresario and Jerusalem city councilman Aryeh King, and his colleague Jonathan Yosef, the Palestinian Salaam family has been ordered to vacate their Sheikh Jarrah home of 70 years by December 29, 2021. King and Yosef assert they are the legal owners of the home, which is located in the Umm Haroun section of Sheikh Jarrah, having bought it from the heirs of the Jewish family that owned the property prior to 1948.  Peace Now has produced a helpful timeline of the full history of the Salaam’s home.

This purchase took place, without a doubt, thanks to the help of the Israeli Custodian General – the body that manages property abandoned by Jews in 1948 when their heirs are unknown – which almost certainly helped King and Yosef in identifying the property, locating the heirs and securing its sale (see Peace Now’s excellent report on the Absentee Property Law for more legal background on how this happens).

On December 15th, Ir Amim documented the scene as settlers, under the protection of Israeli police, fenced off the Salaam family’s land (where they are supposedly permitted to live until the 29th) in an attempt to prevent Palestinians, including the Salaam family, from accessing the area.

Peace Now said in response:

“This is a terrible injustice based on the cynical exploitation of a discriminatory law that allows Jews to exercise the ‘right of return; to property lost to them in 1948, at the expense of Palestinian families legally living in the property, while another Israeli law denies the same right to Palestinians. This is exactly what the Mishnah says: ‘He who says: mine is mine and yours is mine, is called evil’. The State of Israel, which took the Palestinian refugees’ properties lost to them in 1948, cannot today allow settlers to take from Palestinians Jewish properties lost in 1948 and on which they are have already received compensation. The government can stop this evacuation, and it must do so.”

The eviction of the Salaam family comes as the government of Israel is pursuing the displacement of as many as 70 Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah. 

In parallel,  the Israeli government has begun construction on a settlement installation (including a “public garden” as well as a driveway that will service an as-of-yet-unbuilt Israeli hotel in the neighborhood) at the entrance to Sheikh Jarrah, including the demolition of several Palestinian businesses. Notably, the site of this project is very close to the tomb of Shimon the Righteous, which is a religious site closely associated with the settler enclave in Sheikh Jarrah. The Jerusalem Municipality previously expropriated the land, which was privately owned by Palestinians, “for public use” — an Israeli legal tactic that permits the State to confiscate even privately owned land ostensibly to benefit the “public” (a “public” that it seems never includes Palestinians in East Jerusalem).

 In October 2021, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected the appeals by the business owners to stop the demolition. This week, bulldozers leveled a plot of land owned by four Palestinian families and that was the location of two Palestinian businesses, a car wash and a parking lot. The business owners were handed an immediate eviction notice on December 14th, just one day before the bulldozers began work. 

Israeli Custodian General is Behind Six New Settlement Plans Across East Jerusalem

Map by Haaretz

Haaretz reports that the Israeli Custodian General is planning six new settlement enclaves, to be located in some of the most sensitive areas of East Jerusalem. The news comes one week after the public learned of one of these plans, Givat HaShaked (see FMEP’s reporting last week), which is now understood to be part of a larger Israeli government plan to advance a slate of new settlement enclaves across East Jerusalem. As a reminder, the Israeli Custodian General is empowered by the State to  act as caretaker of land that has unknown ownership. 

While details on the plans are scant for the time being, Haaretz reports that the Israeli Custodian General is planning new settlements buildings that include:

1 – A new settler enclave in Sheikh Jarrah, in an area known as Um Haroun. As has been well documented, Palestinians are in a battle to stay in their longtime homes in Sheikh Jarrah while the Israeli Custodian General and Israeli settlers work hand-in-hand to displace them. Thirteen Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah (whose legal battle will impact dozens more) are still awaiting a Court ruling on their displacement at the hands of settlers. Haaretz reports:

According to a custodian document, it administers 33 plots out of a total of 58 in the neighborhood. Five more plots have been expropriated by the Israel Land Authority. The city zoning plan allows for the demolition of the old structures and construction of buildings up to four-stories in their stead, or expanding them to that height. This could mean the construction of a neighborhood containing hundreds of housing units in the heart of Sheikh Jarrah. The Justice Ministry’s Land Registrar recently completed the registration of the neighborhood to its Jewish owners, so it is likely that any neighborhood built there will be for the Jewish population.”

2 – A new settler enclave near the Damascus Gate, near the Old City of Jerusalem, where approximately 10 Jewish Israeli families have already established a settlement enclave.

3 – Two new settler enclaves near Beit Safafa, one being the Givat HaShaked settlement plan which FMEP covered in greater detail last week. The second plan is not far from where the Givat HaShaked settlement would be built, and reportedly would involve a large settler compound with dozens more settlement units to be built in the sliver of land between Beit Safafa and the Talpiot Industrial Zone. 

4 – A new settler enclave in Sur Baher. Reportedly, the Custodian is hoping to add more land to its holdings in Sur Baher (it currently holds 3.3 dunams and is attempting to gain 2 more dunams), meaning this plan could expand. 

5 – A large new settler enclave in Beit Hanina. The Custodian is reportedly looking to build dozens of new settler units on six dunams of land (1.5 acres), to be located on a plot adjacent to the IDF Central Command base. The Custodian has also sought the cooperation of the Defense Ministry in promoting this plan.

The Justice Ministry, which houses the Custodian General, attempted to dodge these reports, telling Haaretz that it is not “advancing” any of these plans other than the one in Sheikh Jarrah, where it says it is “examining a construction project.” 

Israel Custodian General Reveals New Details on Regulations Governing its Management of East Jerusalem Properties, Leaving More Questions

Under pressure from an impending court hearing, on December 11th the Israeli Custodian General submitted a document to the Court purporting to enumerate the regulations governing its management of properties in East Jerusalem. The Custodian General was facing a December 14th Court hearing on a petition filed by the Israeli NGO Ir Amim along with Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah, that asserted no such regulations existed, enabling “severe misconduct and collaboration with settler groups to initiate evictions of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem, which severely infringes on the rights of Palestinians in the city.” Some 70 families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood are facing homelessness because of the Custodian General’s collusion with settlers seeking their displacement from properties in which they have lived, legally, for decades.

In light of the Custodian General’s new publication (which the court viewed as resolving the complaint against the State), the Court dismissed the petition without prejudice, meaning the petitioners are permitted to file a new case on the same matter in the future.

Ir Amim filed the petition following news that the Custodian General has advanced a plan to build a new settlement – Givat HaShaked – on property it manages. As reported last week, this is an unprecedented move by the Custodian General, raising questions about whether the Custodian General is permitted to allow properties under its management to be developed. The document submitted to the Court this week by the Custodian General only raises more unanswered questions about the parameters governing the Custodian General’s ability to act as a property developer for properties that it does not own (only manages while awaiting the locating of the legal owners/heirs). Ir Amim further explains:

“The procedure includes dozens of clauses, none of which reference the possibility that the custodian may itself file plans and build residential complexes on a lot it owns. One clause refers to this indirectly, stating, ‘When initiated, or if contacted regarding urban renewal or planned improvements, the Custodian General shall examine the essence of the request and its impact on the administered property.’ ​​Indeed, planning sources are unfamiliar with any case in which the custodian acted as a realty entrepreneur by improving the properties it holds. The subject raises another issue: the custodian is technically forbidden to sell property. Therefore, it remains unclear whether the apartments built in these various compounds will be sold on the open market, or whether they will remain the property of the custodian, who will rent them out. The Justice Ministry has not responded to clarify the matter.”

Israel Forges Ahead with New Settlements on the Golan Heights

At the recommendation and with the approval of Prime Minister Bennett, on October 14th Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked signed off on two orders establishing a settlement municipal authority in the occupied Golan Heights, a move that opens the door for an expedited planning process for existing and new settlements in the area. This includes the construction of the infamous “Trump Heights” settlement in addition to planned settlements called Givot Eden, Asif, and Matar. Last week, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that Israel’s plan is to double the settler population in the Golan Heights by 2030.

The special committee, which will act as a zoning board with broad planning authority, will have the combined powers of local and district planning and building committees, but will not include members who represent the public – an anomaly in the Israeli planning system.

The committee has already completed initial work by laying out the territorial borders of the “Trump Heights” settlement, which will cover 276 dunamns (about 70 acres). With its borders decided, the committee will move to expedite construction plans for residential housing, public buildings, industrial areas, roads and more. 

On this massive settlement effort, the Haaretz Editorial Board writes:

Occupied territories are occupied territories and annexation is annexation, even when it’s the Golan Heights and even when the annexation plan is called “a plan for encouraging sustainable demographic growth.”…We must tell it like it is. This is an artificial population expansion project, meant to strengthen Israel’s grip on the Golan Heights and create facts on the ground that will make it difficult for future leaders who might consider holding negotiations on the territory. To expedite matters, the Prime Minister’s Office seeks to create a “special committee” with the powers of the local and regional planning and building committees, but without the customary inclusion of public representatives. This is a national project. Like the so-called Judaization of the Galilee. Like the settlement enterprise.”

Al-Monitor provides a helpful background on the occupied Golan Heights and the creation of “Trump Heights”:

“Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War. In 1981, Menachem Begin’s government formally annexed the territory. This unilateral move was not recognized by any country until Trump came along. In March 2019, his administration changed long-standing American policy by recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the region. A proclamation signed by Trump declared, ‘The State of Israel took control of the Golan Heights in 1967 to safeguard its security from external threats. Today, aggressive acts by Iran and terrorist groups, including Hezbollah, in southern Syria, continue to make the Golan Heights a potential launching ground for attacks on Israel. Any possible future peace agreement in the region must account for Israel’s need to protect itself from Syria and other regional threats. Based on these unique circumstances, it is therefore appropriate to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.’ Three months later, the [Israeli] Cabinet convened for a special session in the Golan Heights and approved the establishment of a new settlement named for the US president. At that meeting, a huge sign decorated with Israeli and American flags was unveiled at the entrance to the new settlement. Written on it in gold letters was the name Ramat Trump.”

Following Murder of Israeli Settler,Settler Launch Attacks of their Own & Attempt to Establish New Outpost

On December 17th, a Palestinian gunmen opened fire on a settler vehicle near the dismantled settlement of Homesh, in the northern West Bank, killing one man – Yehuda Dimentman – and injuring two others. The IDF has apprehended several suspects already.

Though the Homesh settlement was evacuated by the Israeli government in 2005 – and military orders have barred Palestinians from entering the area – settlers have been allowed to establish an unauthorized outpost at the site, where the settlers also operate a yeshiva. Settlers have been openly obsessed with the desire to re-establish Homesh, hosting religious events and protests at the site, some of which have been attended by Israeli MKs and politicians. At the funeral for Dimentman, which several Israeli politicians attended, already begun calling for the government to formally reestablish the Homesh settlement. 

In the hours following news of Dimentan’s death, settlers have already begun exacting revenge – with little to no interference from the IDF, though the outpouring of violence is an entirely predictable established pattern in the wake of Palestinians attacks. In the Palestinian village of Qayrut, a group of at least 15 settlers launched and especially violent attack on a Palestinian home, knocking on the door pretending to be Israeli soldiers at 4am, then proceeding to ransack the house and severely beat Mohammed Makbal – sending him to the hospital. No suspects have been apprehended, though several were caught on camera.

Within 24 hours of the attack, settlers from the Kiryat Arba settlement in Hebron moved to establish a new outpost in honor of Dimentan, called Nofei Yehuda. In this case, the IDF moved in swiftly to remove the settlers from the area. The outpost was established by members of the Nahala settler movement, of which Dimentan was a part. Nahala is behind a lot of unauthorized construction in the West Bank, and is a leading force in the battle over the Evyatar outpost.

Peace Now has written about the Nahala Movement, saying:

“The Nahala organization and the main activists of the new outposts are not the mainstream old-guard settlers (like the Amanah organization who is behind many other settlements and outposts and gets much more support from the authorities), however they are not a small fringe. This outpost is an example of a rift that is being created within the Israeli right wing. The more extreme right, which is willing to challenge the system more strongly, and the old-guard settlers who continue the mentality of working ‘with’ the government as much as possible. On the partisan level we see this rift in the creation of two different parties: Yamina, headed by Naftali Bennet, and the Jewish Zionism, headed by Betzalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir. The challenge of the new outpost puts the new shaky government, which is a coalition of parties which don’t agree about many things, to face its first big political test. The extreme right is signaling that it is planning to continue to challenge the new government, like it had done in the flags march in East Jerusalem, and in yesterday’s settlers’ marches throughout the West Bank.”

Gantz Moves to Send More Police to West Bank to Monitor Settler Violence

Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Israeli Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Leg have agreed to draft hundreds of Israeli soldiers into the (domestic) police force, so that Israeli police can then be reassigned to the West Bank partly to fill posts dedicated to policing settler violence. 

Settlers, of course, are not thrilled about the new attention being paid to settler terrorism experienced by Palestinian communities across the West Bank, and which has increased over the past year. According to Israeli government data (which does not systematically track settler violence against Palestinians) the Shin Bet logged 272 “violent incidents” in the West Bank in 2020; so far in 2021, there have been 397 “violent incidents” recorded by the Shin Bet. The UN recorded even more attacks this year – 450 as of December 6 – compared to 358 in all of 2020 and 335 in 2019.​​B’Tselem, which recently released an excellent report on settler terrorism, documents a 28.6% increase in settler violence in 2021 over 2020. Yesh Din, which also documents settler violence while seeking justice and accountability, notes that only 5% of cases it filed from 2018-2021 (238 total cases filed, while it documented 540 total cases) have resulted in indictments. Palestinians have increasingly declined to file police reports regarding settler crimes, with so few cases actually resulting in any tangible good for the victim.

For a SMALL sample of the terrorism inflicted by settlers on Palestinians in the West Bank on a daily basis, see the following reports from the past week by WAFA news:

Meanwhile in Israel…Political Storm Ensues Over Whether Settler Terrorism Is a Problem or Not

Following months (which followed years, which followed decades) of settler terrorism against Palestinians, this week Israeli Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev (Labor) set off a political clash within Israel over the issue. In comments made alongside U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland — and after Israeli diplomats have allegedly come to believe that the Biden Administration is “obsessed” with “settler violence” (though other reporting contradicts that claim) – Bar-Lev called settler terrorism “severe” and said that Israel is taking steps to address it.

Those comments were seen as a betrayal by many of Bar-Lev’s pro-settler coalition partners, and elicited  some strong condemnations. Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked (Yamina) said Bar-Lev is “confused.” MK Bezalel Smotrich (Religious Zionism) called Bar-Lev a “bastard” and tweeted “shame on you, little man.” 

The drama also drew comment from Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet who, it should be recalled, relies heavily on the settler constituency and is also ideologically closely aligned with the settlers, having once served as the head of the top settler body called the Yesha Council. Bennett appeared to dismiss Bar-Lev’s comments, in effect giving official cover for an a green-light to continued and unaccountable settler terrorism, tweeting:

“The settlers in Judea and Samaria have been suffering from violence and terrorism, every day, for decades. They are the defensive wall of us all and we must strengthen them and support them, in words and deeds…There are marginal phenomena in every public, they should be dealt with by all means, but we must not generalize an entire public.”

 B’Tselem’s Executive Director, Hagai El-Ad, responded to Bennett’s claim, telling Haaretz:

“There’s a propagandistic façade here that’s convenient for Israel…There’s a few bad settlers, or more, on one side, and on the other is the good state of Israel, which seeks to enforce the law. But that isn’t the truth. Both the state and the settlers want the same thing – to dispossess Palestinians of their land.”

This relationship – between the settlers and the State when it comes to dispossessing Palestinians – was spelled out in a recent B’Tselem report, “State Business: Israel’s misappropriation of land in the West Bank through settler violence.”

Bonus Reads

  1. “Mining Gold From East Jerusalem’s Streets” (Amira Hass for Haaretz)
  2. “This was the deadliest year for Palestinian children since 2014” (Khaled Quzmar for +972 Magazine)
  3. “Unearthing the Palestinian Neighborhood Buried Beneath a Tel Aviv Park” (Haaretz)
  4. “Fact Sheet: Israel’s E1 Settlement” (IMEU)
  5. “Opinion: Israel just showed its strategy on settlement boycotts: Gaslighting” (Gershom Gorenberg in the Washington 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.

November 12, 2021

  1. Settlers Secure Deal for Eventual Eviction of Another Sheikh Jarrah Family
  2. Increasing Pressure on the Government, Settlers to Operationalize Plan to Increase Control Over Area C
  3. JNF Stops Funding 18-Year Legal Battle Over Beit Bakri in Hebron
  4. Demolitions in East Jerusalem Continue, Including in Al-Walaja
  5. Settler Violence & Expansionism Continue to Escalate in the South Hebron Hills
  6. Bennett Pledges Evyatar Outpost will be Legalized, Sparking Palestinian Ire & More Coalition Threats
  7. Government Punts on Outpost Legalization Bill, Knesset Might Move Forward Anyway
  8. Bonus Reads

Settlers Secure Deal for Eventual Eviction of Another Sheikh Jarrah Family

Israel Hayom reports that a Palestinian family in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood has reached a Court-approved “deal” with settlers to recognize settler ownership of their home (where they have lived since 1956), in exchange for being allowed to stay as paying tenants for a period of at least ten years.  The “deal” follows the broad outline of a Court-authored compromise that was rejected last week by four other Palestinian families (the cases are separate, but not unrelated).

Israel Hayom additionally speculates:

“The compromise, which was given the force of a legal ruling in the Jerusalem Magistrates Court a few days ago, could serve as a precedent for other local Arab families and is seen as a blow to the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, which are both pressuring Arab residents of Sheikh Jarrah-Shimon HaTzadik to refuse any proposed deals to vacate the properties.”

Increasing Pressure on the Government, Settlers to Operationalize Plan to Increase Control Over Area C

In a closed meeting on November 10th, the heads of settler regional councils met to discuss their ongoing effort to get the Israeli government to annex Area C of the West Bank. According to Arutz Sheva (the settler media outlet), the meeting resulted in significant decisions that create a more unified settler operation on the matter, including the formation of a “joint command center” through which all of the councils will act together, and a commitment by all the regional leaders to form a unified front to pressure the government.

Following the meeting, the participants released a statement saying:

“This struggle is over whether we continue to exist or to fold. This is an existential battle involving the entire Nation of Israel. We are all committed towards working together in order to stop the hostile takeover of our lands and in order to preserve the future of Jewish life in Judea and Samaria.”

An op-ed published in Israel Hayom on November 11th – entitled “In Area C, the time has come to get off the fence” – seemingly making the case for such an effort, the settlement activist Sara Haetzni-Cohen writes

“Efrat’s dedicated residents have established their own war room. They track every brick and every bit of cement that is spilled and report it to the authorities. They know every demolition order that is issued but not enforced, and they do not give up. But the state quite simply does not exist. The Civil Administration is failing at its task and by choice…We’ve reached a stage where there is no state on which to rely on major issues. Real leadership from leaders who will get off the fence is needed. Local leadership in Judea and Samaria, whether elected or civilian organizations, must get off the fence and protect state lands, settlement lands, our homeland. It should be done intelligently, responsibly, and in a law-abiding manner. We should not resort to violence or vandalism against the Arab population, but rather go about this in a positive way, by planting trees and working the land, by showing our presence on the ground. If we will not be for ourselves, who will be for us? There simply isn’t any choice. We must get off the psychological and physical fence and defend our land.”

As a reminder, under the Oslo Accords, the West Bank was divided into 3 “areas” – Area A, B, and C – pending a permanent status Israeli-Palestinian agreement that would determine final control over all the land (an agreement that was supposed to have been reached by by May 1999). The Oslo Accords gave Israel complete control over Area C, which accounts for around 60% of the West Bank.  Throughout the 28 years since the Oslo Accords were signed (and with no peace agreement achieved or in sight), Israel has systematically denied Palestinians in Area C permits that would enable them to build “legally” (under Israeli law) on their own land. As a result, Palestinians have been forced to build without Israeli permits (i.e., “illegally” in the eyes of Israeli authorities), and Israel has responded by issuing wide-scale demolition orders and carrying out frequent demolitions. In recent years, Israel has increasingly treated Area C as indistinguishable from sovereign Israeli territory, effectively extending its laws and regulations to the area and its Israeli settler inhabitants. In parallel, settler groups – most notably the notorious “Regavim” – have lobbied Israeli authorities to crack down on “illegal” Palestinian construction, claiming that Palestinians are trying to “take over Israeli land”.

As part of these ongoing efforts — by settlers and the Israeli government — to entrench and expand Israel’s control over/de facto annexation of the entirety of Area C, in September 2020 the Israeli government allocated 20 million NIS ($6 million USD) for the newly created Settlement Affairs Ministry. That ministry was given the mission of surveying and mapping “unauthorized” (by Israel) Palestinian construction in Area C (the same construction which Israel has been aggressively demolishing). This funding further empowers a domestic Israeli body to exert extraterritorial sovereignty over Area C – in effect, treating the area as land already annexed by Israel. 

The Knesset has also repeatedly hosted forums to discuss the alleged (by settlers and their allies/advocates) “Palestinian takeover of Area C” — framing predicated on the assertion that Area C belongs to Israel (an assertion that is not supported by the Oslo Accords) and must be defended against Palestinian efforts to “steal” it. Consistent with this framing, and under pressure from various outside groups, many members of the Knesset have criticized the Israeli government’s alleged failure to robustly “defend” Israel’s rights/ interests in Area C (e.g., failure to prevent/destroy “illegal” Palestinian construction, failure to block foreign government-funded humanitarian projects that support Palestinians’ presence in the area; failure to clear out Palestinians from the area, expand settlements, and consolidate state-built settlement infrastructure; etc.).

JNF Stops Funding 18-Year Legal Battle Over Beit Bakri in Hebron

The Jerusalem Post reports that the Board of the Jewish National Fund in Israel has decided to stop funding the legal costs of a group of settlers battling to win control over a contested home in Tel Rumeida, in the heart of downtown Hebron (and to that end, forging documents). Israeli Courts have ruled against the settlers’ claim to the home twice, most recently in December 2019, in a ruling which affirmed that the Palestinian Bakri family is the rightful owner (the house is known as “Beit Bakri”).

At the request of the settlers, the JNF has agreed to pay installments on a legal guarantee to Israeli courts in order to allow the settlers to avoid eviction while pursuing an appeal against the December 2019 ruling against them. Since 2019, the JNF has paid some $35,000 (110,000 NIS) towards the case. 

The Palestinian homeowners – the Bakri family – temporarily fled their home under constant settler harassment during the Second Intifada, a time when Tel Rumeida could have been accurately described as an “urban battlefield.” While the family was gone, settlers broke into the house, damaged it, destroyed the Bakri’s property, and ultimately took up residence there.

The Bakri family has spent the past 18 years petitioning Israeli police and the courts to remove the settlers — cases the Bakri family repeatedly won. The settlers have managed to repeatedly delay their eviction by essentially exploiting every possible legal defense, no matter how absurd or contradictory. For example: At different points over the past 18 years, settlers argued in court that they had a rental agreement; that they purchased the home; that the plot of land was owned by a Jewish trust prior to 1948 and they are “reclaiming” the property; and that because they had invested so much money in improving the land since taking it over, under Ottoman Law it now legally belongs to them, regardless of the means by which they acquired it. When at one point some years ago the courts ruled that the settlers had to evacuate, the settler occupants of the Bakri home did, indeed, leave, only to be immediately replaced by other settlers — at which point the Israeli Attorney General told the Bakri family that they had to start eviction proceedings anew. For a detailed timeline of the Bakri family’s saga, see this report from Peace Now.

Throughout the course of this saga, the settlers’ effort to hold on to the Bakri home was aided by the State’s unwillingness to implement court orders against the settlers. Peace Now said in a statement:

“This is not only a matter of cruelty, deceit and theft of settlers who are not loathe to take control of assets that are not theirs, but also a matter of the lack of government accountability. For 18 years the government did not enforce the law against the invading settlers, and even assisted them and allowed them to continue to steal the house and terrorize their Palestinian neighbors in Tel Rumeida. Furthermore, it should be remembered that Hebron is under Israeli occupation and the Palestinian residents cannot remove the settlers from their homes by appealing to the Palestinian Authority. The power lies in the hands of the Israeli government, which does nothing to fulfill its responsibilities to protect abandoned Palestinian property.”

Demolitions in East Jerusalem Continue, Including in Al-Walaja

Over the past week the Israeli government has moved forward with demolitions in Palestinian neighborhoods across East Jerusalem, including:

  • The demolition of three Palestinian homes in the village of Al-Walajah on November 9th. For more on Israel’s systematic campaign to demolish homes in Al-Walajah – including its refusal to approve building plans initiated by Palestinians – see FMEP’s September 9, 2021 settlement report;
  • Israeli authorities delivered demolition notices to 10 Palestinian families (70 individuals) living in an apartment building in the al-Tur neighborhood. The notice ordered the families to self-demolish the four-story building within one week, or have Israeli forces demolish the building, with the cost of the demolition billed to the residents. The families reportedly began removing their belongings from the building on November 5th in anticipation of demolition;
  • Under coercive Israeli policies, a Palestinian family opted to self-demolish an apartment building in the Beit Hanina neighborhood; 
  • Under coercive Israeli policies, a Palestinian family opted to self-demolish its house in the Jabel al-Mukaber neighborhood.

As is always the Israeli position, the State asserts that the homes being demolished and under threat of demolition have been built by Palestinians without the required Israeli permits (often on land that even Israel recognizes they privately own). Such permits are generally all but impossible for Palestinians to obtain; in the case of al-Walajah, they are literally impossible to obtain, since the area lacks the required Israeli-approved “outline plan,” without which permits are an impossibility. Facing the reality of having Israel demolish their homes and being required to pay excessive costs and fees associated with such demolitions, Palestinians sometimes choose to self-demolish their homes.

Settler Violence & Expansionism Continues to Escalate in the South Hebron Hills

On Wednesday, November 10th a group of settlers attempting to install a campsite and graze their flocks on land near the Palestinian village of Khilet al-Daba clashed with local Palestinians, who worried that the settlers were making an attempt to take over the land – an understandable concern giving the growing phenomenal of farming outposts as a means for settlement expansion. The clashes – which took place at night after a full day of building tensions – took a violent turn when settlers set a Palestinian agricultural structure on fire. The evening ended with two Palestinians being shot by settlers with live rounds, three Palestinians wounded by settlers throwing rocks, and damage to several cars owned by Palestinians.

The land on which the settlers were grazing their flocks and attempting to install a campsite was declared to be a firing zone by the Israeli government, making it illegal for Palestinians to build there or even enter. According to Haaretz, the Israeli state has plans to evict Palestinians who live in this area (who have ostensibly lived in the area prior to it being declared by Israel to be a firing zone).

The IDF, which had been at the scene intermittently during the day, eventually sought to separate the groups by declaring the area a closed military zone. South Hebron Hills activist Basil Al-Adraa explained how this practice works to allow settlers to accomplish their goals, saying:

“The army arrived, declared it a closed military zone and kicked us out. But they didn’t kick out the settlers or take down the tent they put up today.”

The South Hebron Hills is a hotbed for settler violence, and was the scene of a settler attack – a Jewish pogrom – in September. Earlier this week, settlers from a nearby outpost – aided by the IDF –  temporarily blocked Palestinian access to a playground in the village of Susiya. In addition to settler violence, the Israeli government is also acting to significantly expand settlements and retroactively legalize outposts in the South Hebron Hills.

Notably, two U.S members of Congress – Mark Pocan (D, WI-2) and Jamaal Bowman (D, NY-16) – visited the village of Susiya in the South Hebron Hills on November 10th (prior to the outbreak of violence that night). They pair met with local Paelstinian activist where they were told of the violence settlers inflict on the local population. 

In an interview with Jewish Currents in  October 2021, Basil Al-Adraa explained how violence and land takeovers are two sides of the same coin in the South Hebron Hills,

Settlers have long been attacking the communities here. The [Israeli] Civil Administration gives them land stolen from the Palestinians: They declared it state land so they can take it by force, for settlers to build settlements and outposts and farms. This year, the settlers have started these new sheep farms around the West Bank, where they bring volunteers to work on these farms. But the settlers aren’t content with the tens of thousands of dunams [one dunam equals 1,000 square meters] they’ve been granted: They bring their animals to our private fields, which the state can’t take from us. They bring them to our orange trees, to drink from our water systems—like the well where we collect rainwater—and to graze on our grass. And what’s been happening recently, especially since May, is they’ve been organizing big attacks on Shabbat and holidays because settlers don’t have much work to do on those days. Dozens of settlers will come masked, with hammers, machine guns, sticks, and stones. The army escorts them two or three kilometers from their settlements to our villages. They burn houses, cut down olive trees. If the army sees some Palestinian trying to defend themselves, then they will shoot at [that Palestinian] with live stun grenades, or tear gas, or rubber bullets. They use all the force. We are under army law as Palestinians in Area C, but the settlers are under civilian law, so the soldiers in the area can’t deal with the settlers, who are under the jurisdiction of the police. But the police take three or four hours to come, only after the attacks have finished. In my community, al-Tuwani, there have been at least seven organized attacks. A lot of people look at these as [isolated] incidents, and this time, there was more media attention to the issue because there was a three-year-old child who was wounded. But it’s part of a policy, in which settlers and the Israeli army don’t want us to feel safe where we live. Like the home demolitions, the blocking of roads, the cutting water and electricity networks, it’s all leading to one goal: They want to kick us out of this land, out of Area C toward Area A [areas under Palestinian administrative and police control, like Ramallah]. But our land is here, our life is here.”

Bennett Pledges Evyatar Outpost will be Legalized, Sparking Palestinian Ire & More Coalition Threats

In a press conference on November 7th, Prime Minister Bennet affirmed his commitment to granting retroactive legalization to the unauthorized outpost of Evyatar – which was built on a strategic hilltop named Mount Sabih, located just south of Nablus on land historically belonging to nearby Palestinian villages Beita, Yatma, and Qablan. Even before Bennett’s most recent statement, several members of his fragile coalition have spoken out to insist that the reestablishment of Evyatar is a redline that, if crossed, could bring down the coalition (FMEP covered a few such statements two weeks ago). In the wake of Bennett’s press conference, more continued to do so, which only adds to the growing public fracture in the coalition over outposts and settlement building more broadly.

Public Security Minister Bar Lev (Labor) pledged to block the legalization of Evyatar, said this week:

“There are enough ways to dissolve this agreement. The Evyatar community [outpost] was illegal and illegal communities should be evacuated.”

The Mayor of Beita predicts that Bennett’s pledge to legalize the outpost (coupled with the end of the olive harvest season, which consumed protestors’ time elsewhere) will spark renewed energy in Palestinian-led protests in the town of Beita. Since settlers struck a deal with the government to temporarily vacate the outpost back in July 2021, Palestinians have staged regular protests against Evyatar outpost, and against the continue denial of access to the land on which the outposts continues to exist (the area is a closed military zone, where Palestinians are denied the ability to access). The protests over the summer were particularly violent, resulting in the killing of at least five Palestinian protestors by Israeli soldiers.

An organizer of the protests, Amal Bani Shamseh, told The New Arab:

“the people in Beita can not stand the idea of a single settler moving back to Mount Sabih and are willing to intensify protests, and women are the first to affirm it.”

As a reminder, the fate of the Evyatar outpost was the first controversy that threatened to divide the fragile Bennett-led government when it was sworn in. Bennet’s partners were bitterly divided on whether to evacuate the outpost or let it be, while the government sought to grant it retroactive legalization. In the end, the government reached a “deal” which saw the settlers (temporarily) vacate the outpost on Friday, July 2nd. In return, the government left the settlers’ illegal construction at the site in place (i.e., did not demolish it) — including buildings and roads —  while it “examines” the status of the land to see if it can be declared “state land” and therefore “legally” turned into a settlement (opening the door for the settlers to return). Under the agreement, the outpost is being used as a military base in the interim. 

The fact that the “compromise” left in place the settlers’ structures and allowed Israel to maintain complete control over the site during the “survey” process signalled from the start that the government is not concerned with enforcing Israeli law, but rather is focused on finding a political solution that works for the settlers. It was further clear from the terms of the “compromise” that the Bennet government believed it will be succeed in finding a pretext to assert that the land on which the outpost stands is “state land” which can be used by the state as it sees fit (i.e., give it to the settlers). If the state decides, pursuant to the investigation, that it has a basis on which to declare the site to be “state land,” the settlers will be allowed to return and resume the establishment of what would from that point no longer be an illegal outpost, but a new “legal” settlement. 

Government Punts on Outpost Legalization Bill, Knesset Might Move Forward Anyway

The Jerusalem Post reports that the Ministerial Committee on Legislation has decided to delay by four months its decision on whether to grant government backing to a bill that would grant retroactive authorization (i.e., legalize) nearly 70 West Bank settlement outposts that Israel has failed to find any other way to legalize (because they are built on land even Israel recognizes is privately owned by Palestinians). As a reminder, the Ministerial Committee on Legislation is composed of government Ministers, and decides whether or not the governing coalition will throw its support behind a bill in the Knesset – ensuring either its passage or defeat.

In response to this news, MK Orit Struck (Religious Zionist Party) — who is also a longtime Hebron settlement leader — said that she intends to bring the bill to the Knesset for an initial reading despite lacking government-backing. Struck believes a strong majority of Knesset Members, regardless of the government’s position, will support the bill. Members of the Knesset attempted to fast-track the passage of this same bill in May 2021, while Bennett and Lapid were in negotiations to form the current governing coalition. 

The bill introduced in May 2021 included an explanatory text claiming that the proposed law is in line with a decision the Security Cabinet took in 2017, when it tasked a new committee – headed by notorious settler leader Pinchas Wallerstein – to prepare individualized plans for each outpost to gain retroactive legalization based on the passage of the Regulation Law and the recommendations in the Zandberg Report. Bills similar to this have been filed several times in the past, and the Israeli government has debated granting retroactive authorization to the outposts via a government decision – and came close to doing so in the waning days of the Trump Administration.

Bonus Reads

  1. “Israeli Settlers Escalate Violence in West Bank” (Foreign Policy)
  2. “Nearly 20 years on, Israeli barrier shapes Palestinian lives” (AP)
  3. “Far-right protestors clash with cops in Jerusalem over settler teen’s death” (The Times of Israel)
  4. “They should have been lawyers. Instead they’re at Israeli construction sites” (Basil al-Adraa in +972 Magazine)
  5. “How the Occupation Harms Not Only the Palestinians, but the Planet Too” (Haaretz)
  6. “Palestinians say no to work in settlements” (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 5, 2021

  1. Sheikh Jarrah Families Reject Court-Proposed “Deal” with Settlers; Eviction Orders Expected Soon
  2. Supreme Court Rules Sheikh Jarrah Businesses – Built on Privately-Owned Palestinian Land But Near Settler Sites – Will Be Demolished
  3. Israel Demolishes East Jerusalem Muslim Cemetery, In Order to Make Way for Public Garden (& Increase Israeli Control Over Old City Perimeter
  4. Israeli Court OKs Refusal of Israeli Custodian of Absentee Properties to Disclose Extent of Control Over Palestinian Properties
  5. New Report from HaMoked: The ‘Seam Zone’ & Israel’s Ongoing Dispossession/Annexation
  6. Bonus Reads

Sheikh Jarrah Families Reject Court-Proposed “Deal” with Settlers; Eviction Orders Expected Soon

On Tuesday, November 2nd, four families facing imminent eviction from their longtime homes in Sheikh Jarrah in favor of settlers released a statement rejecting a Court-authored “compromise” that would have allowed the families to temporarily remain in their homes as “protected tenants” paying rent to settlers, whose ultimate ownership over the properties would be made official (but technically – though not realistically – still open to legal challenge by the Palestinians). You can review the full terms of the deal here

The Court ordered both parties to respond to the “deal” by November 2nd. It was only after the Palestinians put forth their statement that we learned that the settlers reportedly accepted the terms, as relayed by Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Arieh King, a staunch supporter and prolific financier of settlements in East Jerusalem, to the AP (this information remains unconfirmed, as the settler-submitted position has not been published). 

It’s important to point out — as the Palestinian families note in their statement — that the Court’s handling of the case neatly constructed a lose-lose scenario for the Palestinians. If they had accepted the deal they would have been painted as legitimizing the theft of their property and the claims of the settlers. When they instead refused it, they were immediately painted as rejectionists, in contrast to the settlers who — having waited for Palestinians to reject the deal — positioned themselves as the “reasonable” party in the eyes of the Court.

Both parties were under pressure from the Court to accept the deal. According to Terrestrial Jerusalem, the Court has previously indicated that if either party rejects the deal, the Court would move to swiftly issue a final decision on the cases. Peace Now’s analysis of the Supreme Court’s position predicts that the Court will now rule in favor of the settlers (leading to the eviction of the Palestinian families), like lower Courts have done.

Jerusalem expert Daniel Seidemann also predicts that the Court will rule against the settlers, further speculating:

There will likely be an eviction verdict [against] the Palestinians soon. Bennett/Lapid will say “we won’t carry out the eviction”. They will likely be sincere – and wrong. One coalition crisis, one terror attack and they will be evicted. This is very bad indeed.”

The statement of rejection from the Palestinians families (the El Kurd, Jaouni, Abu Hasna, and Askafi families) is worth reading in full:

“We reject the ‘proposal’ by the ‘Israeli Supreme Court’ which would have rendered us ‘protected tenants’ at the mercy of settler organizations. We stand firm in our refusal to compromise on our rights despite the lack of institutional guarantees that would protect our presence as Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem.

The Israeli justiciary is circumventing its duty to adjudicate the case and is forcing us instead to choose between our own dispossession or submitting to an oppressive agreement. Naturally, we refuse to commit someone else’s crimes.

Such ‘compromises’ create the illusion of the ball in our court, fabricating a farming in which we reject a ‘generous deal,’ in a situation where our dispossession would still be imminent and our homes would still be regarded as someone else’s. Such ‘deals’ distract from the  crime at hand: ethnic cleansing perpetrated by a settler-colonial judiciary and its settlers.

The international community has long maintained that settler expansion and forced expulsion in Sheikh Jarrah are war crimes. Thus it must respond to grave international law violations with real diplomatic and political repercussions. The culture of inaction and impunity must not be maintained.

It is time for our Nakba to end. Our family deserve to live in peace without the looming ghost of imminent dispossession.”

On November 10th, Ir Amim is hosting a briefing with MK and lawyer Gaby Lasky on the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan cases. RSVP here.

Supreme Court Rules Sheikh Jarrah Businesses – Built on Privately-Owned Palestinian Land But Near Settler Sites – Will Be Demolished

Map by Peace Now

On October 31st, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected the appeals of Palestinian business owners seeking to save their establishments located in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood from demolition. The businesses – a bus parking lot and a carwash – are now cleared to be demolished in order to make way for a “public garden” as well as a driveway that will service an as-of-yet-unbuilt Israeli hotel in the neighborhood. Notably, the businesses are located very close to the tomb of Shimon the Righteous, which is a religious site closely associated with the settler enclave in Sheikh Jarrah.

The Jerusalem Municipality previously expropriated the land — which was privately owned by Palestinians – on which the businesses exist. The land was expropriated “for public use,” a tactic that Israeli law permits the State to use in order to confiscate even privately owned land ostensibly to benefit the “public” (a “public” that it seems never includes Palestinians in East Jerusalem), if the State finds it necessary. 

Offering critical context, Peace Now raises several absurdities regarding the land expropriation order:

The decision to expropriate raises several questions. First, the timing. As far as we know to date, no application has been opened for a construction permit for the construction of the hotel. That means there do not appear to be any procedures for starting construction of the hotel soon. The designation for open public space is directly related to the hotel, so it is not clear why it was urgent for the municipality to act right now. We will also mention that the State Comptroller recently remarked to the Ministry of Transportation about the severe shortage of hundreds of parking spaces for buses in Jerusalem, and now the Municipality is cancelling parkings of dozens of buses. 

Another issue to wonder about is the proximity of the area to the area of ​​the tomb of Shimon the Righteous (Shimon Ha’tzadik), which is a pilgrimage site for Jews, especially ultra-Orthodox, throughout the year. It is possible that the municipality’s desire to carry out the expropriation is related to the desire to act for the benefit of Jewish visitors to the neighborhood and to allow the Israeli grip of the neighborhood to expand, even if it is formally an open public space intended for the entire Israeli and Palestinian public. Another issue to wonder about is the proximity of the area to the area of ​​the tomb of Shimon the Righteous (Shimon Ha’tzadik), which is a pilgrimage site for Jews, especially ultra-Orthodox, throughout the year. It is possible that the municipality’s desire to carry out the expropriation is related to the desire to act for the benefit of Jewish visitors to the neighborhood and to allow the Israeli grip of the neighborhood to expand, even if it is formally an open public space intended for the entire Israeli and Palestinian public.”

While the court case that will lead to the demolition of the Palestinian businesses in Sheikh Jarrah is not formally linked to the ongoing effort to forcibly dispossess four Palestinian families of their homes in this same neighborhood, radical Kahanist Itamar Ben Gvir did not shy away from making the (obvious) connection between the two cases, commenting that the demolition of the businesses is a:

“necessary step, and now is the time to also evacuate the families of Sheikh Jarrah.”

Israel Demolishes East Jerusalem Muslim Cemetery, In Order to Make Way for Public Garden (& Increase Israeli Control Over Old City Perimeter)

For over ten consecutive days, the Jerusalem Municipality and the Israeli Parks and Nature Authority have been demolishing parts of the Yusufiya cemetery near the Al-Aqsa Mosque in order to turn the area into yet another “public park”. The area in question includes a monument to, and graves of, Palestinians and Jordanians who fought in the 1967 war. Palestinians, many of whom fear that their relatives’ graves will be demolished and exhumed (fears that the Jerusalem Municipality has sought – and failed – to assuage) have protested and clashed with Israeli authorities as they attempt to stop the desecration of the cemetery, the erasure of Arab history, and denial of Palestinian life in the city.

Aviv Tatarsky, a researcher at the Ir Amim, explained:

“The park in question is part of a series of government-funded projects which aim to link settler compounds in the Old City Basin…Similar projects are taking place on the Mount of Olives, [in] Silwan and [in] Sheikh Jarrah…The incidents at the Yusufiya Cemetery are an extreme example of the Israeli government’s lack of respect toward Palestinian property rights, heritage and holy places and its determination to make over the Old City Basin.”

The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Hussein, told Al-Monitor:

“The cemeteries are part of the identity of the holy city and its narrative, and evidence of the Arab and Islamic presence in the city for thousands of years. Obliterating the city’s landmarks is in the interest of the Jewish settlement project and the Israeli narrative, which is embodied by changing the names of Arab cities, neighborhoods, and streets, and the Judaization of public places and landmarks.”

Hamza Quttaineh, a lawyer advocating for the Martyrs’ Cemetery before the Israeli courts, told Middle East Eye:

“There are huge machinations undertaken by the occupation municipality, along with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the judicial system, that provide the legal coverage needed for the Judaisation project encompassing the historical wall of Jerusalem’s Old City.”

Israeli Court OKs Refusal of Israeli Custodian of Absentee Properties to Disclose Extent of Control Over Palestinian Properties

Haaretz has in-depth reporting on a recent freedom of information case relating to the Israeli Custodian of Absentee Properties. The Custodian of Absentee Properties is a government body within the Israeli Finance Ministry that has possession of properties in East Jerusalem that under Israel’s “Absentee Property Law” were “abandoned” by Palestinians during and after the 1948 war, becoming the property of the Israeli state. 

In response to a freedom of information request, the Custodian refused to disclose the number of “absentee” properties that it currently controls.  The Custodian – Ronen Baruch, who has held the position since 2005 – gave multiple excuses for refusing the request, asserting at different points that his office doesn’t know how many properties it controls, that the process of gathering that information is too complicated, and that revealing this information may compromise the country’s foreign relations (ultimately the winning argument). 

During the subsequent Court hearing on the freedom of information request, a senior official from the Israeli Foreign Ministry was granted permission to privately brief the judge, after which the judge ruled against the freedom of  information request – a ruling the petitioners intend to appeal. The judge wrote

“I have been convinced that the disclosure of the requested information may jeopardize the state’s foreign relations…I am satisfied that delivery of the information will cause an unreasonable allocation of resources… Which may disrupt and even paralyze the Custodian’s work.”

The two Israeli lawyers who filed the freedom of information request (Amir Adika  and Ram Cohen) told Haaretz:

“What harms the state’s foreign relations? Revealing the information, or the very existence of the law, over 70 years after the country’s founding?…This law is very powerful in regard to the state’s authority over people’s private property…There is public and economic importance in knowing how it conducts itself with this power, how many such properties there are, how many they release, how many they sell. This is a very unconventional law. The impression is that they’re either presenting a very imprecise picture, or that they’re not managing at all.”

As a reminder, Israel’s Absentee Property Law affords Jews the right to reclaim property they owned in East Jerusalem and the West Bank in the period before Israel became a state in 1948, and that they were forced to abandon as a result of the 1948 War. Israel’s law affords no such right to Palestinians who as the result of that same war were likewise forced to abandon property inside what became the State of Israel. After the war, Israel designated such properties “absentee properties” control over which was transferred wholesale to the Israeli state. Use of the Absentee Property Law by settlers organizations with the willing participation of the Israeli government is a key legal mechanism behind past, present, and future evictions of Palestinains from the most sensitive areas of East Jerusalem (like Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan) where Palestinians are facing mass eviction.

New Report from HaMoked: The ‘Seam Zone’ & Israel’s Ongoing Dispossession & Annexation 

In a new report, entitled “Creeping Dispossession: Israeli Restrictions on Palestinian Farming Beyond the Barrier,” the Israeli NGO HaMoked takes an in-depth look at the Israeli military bureaucracy which governs – – and systematically infringes upon — the right of Palestinian landowners and farmers to access and effectively cultivate their land which falls in the “Seam Zone” (i.e. the West Bank land that, when Israel constructed its Seperation Barrier along a route that cuts deeply into the West Bank, was left on the Israeli side of the wall/fence).

This important topic shows just how Israel’s policies work to systematically dispossess these Palestinians of their land. The report sarts with an important reminder about the “original sin” involved in this dispossession — Israel’s choice to build its separation barrier not along the 1967 Green Line (which, at the time of the barriers conception in 2002 was an internationally agreed upon divider between Israeli territory and occupied territory) but instead along a route that, for the sake of keeping settlements (and land upon which to expand settlements) on the Israeli side of the barrier, de facto annexed some 9.4% of West Bank land to Israel. [map] The West Bank lands which fell on the Isareli side of the barrier – the “Seam Zone” – were declared “closed military zones,” requiring Palestinians who live on the other side of the barrier to traverse a complicated Israeli bureaucracy in hopes of obtaining access their land (or the land upon which they are employed to cultivate). The matter gets even more complicated from there.

HaMoked writes in conclusion:

“Nearly two decades since the construction of the Barrier, we see the logic of a creeping dispossession – more and more restrictions on Palestinians trying to access areas trapped between the Barrier and the Green Line, and as a result, fewer and fewer people willing to navigate the permit bureaucracy Israel has put in place. Any agricultural community will tell you that land is not merely functional. The land is a source of produce and income, but its benefits cannot be quantified solely in monetary terms. The land is also a site for family and community events, and connection to the land is integral to the local culture. For dozens of Palestinian communities, and tens of thousands of people, all of this has been destroyed by the Separation Barrier. Even those who receive permits to cross the gates during their limited opening hours cannot have a picnic with their family or a spontaneous outing to their land as they once did. 

The permit regime reverses the basic logic of international law, that individuals enjoy freedom of movement within their own country, and that movement can only be restricted with just cause. For Palestinians living near the Separation Barrier that Israel built on a route that cuts through the West Bank, free movement is the exception, and the restriction on movement is the rule. And whereas initially Israel promised access to lands behind the Barrier except when security needs warrant precluding access, now no security need is required to deny access. Instead, the premise of the permit regime is now that only Palestinians who prove a need to enter these areas will be allowed to do so. Furthermore, the military periodically amends its definition of “need” to be more and more narrow. 

HaMoked has had success in overcoming some of the restrictions: individuals who were denied permits eventually received them following litigation; some restrictive policies have been reversed and others are still under judicial review. However, none of this changes the overall picture emerging from this report: steadily increasing restrictions on Palestinians’ access to the areas of the West Bank known as the Seam Zone have decimated the livelihoods of individuals, families and entire communities.”

Bonus Reads

  1. “Israel OKs Palestinian homes after advancing settlements” (AP)
  2. “Israeli forces demolish Palestinian-owned house in occupied Jerusalem” (Quds News Network)
  3. “Thirty Years On: The Ruse of the Middle East Peace Process” (Inez Abdel Razek for Al-Shabaka)
  4. “Israel Moves to Silence the Stalwarts of Palestinian Civil Society” (Zena Agha in The New York Times)

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.

October 22, 2021

  1. Israel to Advance Plans for Nearly 3,000 Settlement Units & 1,300 Palestinian Homes in Area C
  2. Israeli Supreme Court to Hold Hearing on Batan al-Hawa, Silwan Dispossession Cases Next Week; AG Declines Intervention
  3. Israel Begins Construction on New Settlement in Downtown Hebron
  4. Israel Advances “Silicon Wadi” Project in East Jerusalem
  5. Recap: Israel Advances Settlement Plans Across Greater Jerusalem Area
  6. Recap: Court Pushes for Palestinians to “Compromise” with Settlers in Sheikh Jarrah
  7. New Report: State-Backed Settler “Tourism” Projects in East Jerusalem
  8. Bonus Reads

Israel to Advance Plans for Nearly 3,000 Settlement Units & 1,300 Palestinian Homes in Area C

The Israeli Civil Administration’s High Planning Council will convene next week — for the first time since Bennett and Biden took over leadership in Israel and the U.S., respectively —  to advance the construction of 2,862 new settlement units (of which 1,231 will be eligible to receive final approval). These plans include the retroactive legalization of two unauthorized outposts (Mitzpe Danny and Haroeh Haivri), which should be properly understood as the creation of two new settlements.

Peace Now data

In addition, reports suggest that Israel will also advance plans for 1,303 Palestinian homes in Area C – about half of which, importantly, are already built. A majority of these units have been awaiting Israeli approval for many, many years. If approved, the permits under consideration next week for Palestinians will be the first of any significant quantity issued by Israel since, at least, 2009 (data from before this period has not been released by the Israeli government). Between 2009 and 2018, Israel issued a total of 98 building permits to Palestinians according to data released by the Israeli government in response to a freedom of information request submitted by Bimkom.

As a reminder, Area C is the 60% of the West Bank over which Israel enjoys absolute authority. For years Israel has systematically denied Palestinians the right to build on land in Area C that even Israel recognizes is privately owned by them, At the same time, it has continuously promoted the expansion of settlements and unauthorized outposts, while systematically demolishing Palestinian private construction. In terms of numbers: between 2016 to 2018, Israel issued only 21 building permits to Palestinians in Area C, while issuing 2,147 demolition orders against Palestinians during.

Commenting on the Planning Council agenda’s Peace Now observed:

“The approval of a handful of plans for the Palestinians is only  a fig leaf intended to try to reduce criticism of the government. For years, Israel has pursued a policy of blatant discrimination that does not allow almost any construction for Palestinians in Area C, while in the settlements it encourages and promotes the construction of thousands of housing units each year for Israelis. The approval of a few hundred housing units for Palestinians can not cover up discrimination and does not change the fact that Israel maintains an illegal regime of occupation and discrimination in the territories.”

It is worth noting that many of the settlement units and Palestinian permits on next week’s agenda were expected to have been advanced earlier this year, in August 2021, but the High Planning Council never convened to do so. 

Below are lists of settlement plans expected to be given final approval and plans expected to be advanced next week (italicized plans represent those which appear to have been added to the slate of plans that were expected to be advanced in August 2021).

Settlement plans expected to be granted final approval include:

  • 629 units, including the retroactive legalization of 61 units, in the Eli settlement  – located south of Nablus and southeast of the Ariel settlement in the central West Bank. Though the Eli settlement previously received Israeli government approval, a “Master Plan” – which officially zones land for distinct purposes (residential, commercial, public) –  has never been issued for Eli, meaning all construction there is illegal under Israeli law;
  • 286 units in the Har Bracha settlement, located south of Nablus. If implemented, these new units will double the size of Har Bracha;
  • 224 units in the Talmon settlement, located west of Ramallah;
  • 146 units in the Kfar Etzion settlement, located between Bethlehem and Hebron and on the Israeli side of the planned route of the barrier (which is not yet built in this area);
  • 110 units in the Alon Shvut settlement, located just north of the Kfar Etzion settlement and between Bethlehem and Hebron;
  • 82 units in the Karnei Shomron settlement, located in the northern West Bank, east of the Palestinian village of Qalqilya. Israel has openly declared its intention to continue expanding settlements in this area with the stated goal of bringing 1 million settlers to live in the area.;
  • 52 units in the Beit El settlement, located in the heart of the northern West Bank [as a reminder, former US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman has deep ties to the Beit El settlement]; Construction on 350 new units in Beit El began earlier this year;
  • 42 units in the Givat Zeev settlement, located south of Ramallah in an area that is on the Israeli side of the barrier;
  • 24 units in the Haroeh Haivri outpost, a plan that will effectively grant retroactive legalization to this outpost. The Haroeh Haivri outpost is located just east of Jerusalem, within eyesight of the Khan al-Ahmar community, which Israel is threatening to demolish (forcibly relocating the Palestinian bedouin community that has lived there since the 1950s) — ostensibly because the structures in Khan al Ahmar were built without necessary Israeli approvals. The Haroah Haivri outpost was also built without the necessary Israeli approvals, but instead of demolishing the construction, Israel is moving to retroactively legalize it — demonstrating once again that, when it comes to administering the occupation, Israel prefers “rule by law” – where law is turned into a tool to elevate the rights/interests of one party over another, over the democratic rule of law.;
  • 14 units in the Ma’aleh Mikhmash settlement, a plan that will effectively grant retroactive legalization to one of Ma’aleh Mikhmash’s outposts – – Mitzpe Danny;
  • 10 units in the Barkan settlement, 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);
  • 5 units in the Shima’a settlement, located in the southern tip of the West Bank;
  • 7 units in the Peduel settlement, located in the northern West Bank and part of a string of settlements and unauthorized outposts – most notably Ariel – extending from the Green Line into the very heart of the West Bank and on towards the Jordan Valley.

Settlement plans expected to be approved for deposit (an earlier stage in the planning process) include:

  • 399 units in the Revava settlement, located just east of the Barkan settlement and west of the Ariel settlement, in a string of settlements and unauthorized outposts – most notably Ariel – extending from the Green Line into the very heart of the West Bank and on towards the Jordan Valley.
  • 380 units in the Kedumim settlement, located just east of Nablus. Israeli MK Bezalel Smotrich lives in the Kedumim settlement on a section of land in the settlement that has been found to be privately owned by Palestinians.;
  • 100 units in the Elon Moreh settlement, located east of Nablus (for background on the significance of the Elon Moreh settlement, please see here);
  • 100 units in the Sansana settlement, located on the southern tip of the West Bank on the Israeli side of the separation barrier;
  • 73 units in the Givat Zeev settlement, which is also expected to receive final approval for 42 units. Givat Zeev is located south of Ramallah in an area that is on the Israeli side of the barrier;
  • 68 units in the Tene settlement, located on the southern tip of the West Bank;
  • 45 units in the Vered Yericho settlement, located just west of the Palestinian city of Jericho in the Jordan Valley;
  • 27 units in the Karnei Shomron settlement, which is also expected to receive final approval for 82 units. Karnei Shomron is located in the northern West Bank, east of the Palestinian village of Qalqilya. Israel has openly declared its intention to continue expanding settlements in this area with the stated goal of bringing 1 million settlers to live in the area.;
  • 18 units in the Alon Shvut settlement, which is also expected to receive final approval for 110 units. Alon Shvut is located just north of the Kfar Etzion settlement and between Bethlehem and Hebron;
  • 10 units in the Tal Menashe settlement, located located on the tip of the northern West Bank, inside the “seam zone” between the 1967 Green Line and the Israel separation barrier, which was constructed along a route designed to keep as many settlements and as much adjacent land as possible on the Israeli side of the wall/fence.
  • 7 units in the Hermesh settlement, located in the northern West Bank; 
  • 4 units in the Efrat settlement, located south of Bethlehem, inside a settlement block that cuts deep into the West Bank. Efrat’s location and the route of the barrier wall around it, have literally severed the route of Highway 60 south of Bethlehem, cutting off Bethlehem and Jerusalem from the southern West Bank. The economic, political, and social impacts of the closure of Highway 60 at the Efrat settlement (there is literally a wall built across the highway) have been severe for the Palestinian population.

Peace Now reports that the Planning Council will also consider advancing the following plans for Palestinian homes:

  • 270 houses in the Bir al-Bash village, located south of Jenin in the northern West Bank;
  • 270 houses in the Al-Ma’asara village, located south of Bethlehem; 
  • 233 houses in the the Almasqufa village, located near Tulkarem in the northern West Bank;
  • 200 houses in the Dkeika village in the South Hebron Hills;
  • 170 houses in the Khirbet Abdallah Younas village, located in the Jenin area;
  • 160 houses in the Abba a-Sharqiya village, also located south of Jenin in the northern West Bank; 

Israeli Supreme Court to Hold Hearing on Batan al-Hawa, Silwan Dispossession Cases Next Week; AG Declines Intervention

On October 25th, the Israeli Supreme Court is scheduled to hold an important hearing on the case of the Palestinian Duweik family which  is under threat of being dispossessed of their longtime home in the Batan al-Hawa section of the Silwan neighborhood in East Jerusalem by the Ateret Cohanim settler organization. 

In advance of that hearing – and after repeated extensions on a Court-ordered deadline – the Israeli Attorney General finally submitted his position on the case to the Court. The document submitted by the Attorney General was only 1 page, and simply stated that the case does not merit intervention either on the specific case of the Duweik family or regarding the wider legal principle at stake, which threatens an additional  85 families living under threat of eviction in Batan al-Hawa.

Ir Amim writes:

“Among the 85 families facing eviction, the Duweik family case is the first to reach the Supreme Court level, and its outcome will inevitably set a precedent, significantly impacting the rest of the cases in the neighborhood…As in the eviction cases in Sheikh Jarrah, the Attorney General and by extension, the government, was given a rare opportunity to take a moral stand by providing a legal opinion and policy position to help prevent the mass displacement of these families. Yet, at this point, the Attorney General’s response appears to imply that he has declined to intervene. Now, the decision concerning the fate of these families seems to lie solely in the hands of the Supreme Court. The rights of Palestinians to housing and shelter and the right to family and community life are fundamental and must be upheld. The same discriminatory legal system, which led to the confiscation of these families’ original homes in 1948, is now being exploited 73 years later to displace them for a second time from their current homes in which they have lived for decades. The Supreme Court has the power to make a principled and just decision to uphold the rights of these families to remain safely in their homes, free from the constant threat of being forcibly uprooted and driven from their homes and communities.”

Peace Now said in response to the AG’s decision to not intervene:

“The Attorney General’s response actually says that for the Israeli government, there is no problem to kick hundreds of residents out from their homes, on the basis of a discriminatory law, in favor of a settlement. The government was given an opportunity here to try to prevent moral injustice and political folly, but instead of taking a stand, it chose to remain on the sidelines, as if Silwan’s story, like that of Sheikh Jarrah, was a legal matter and not a political one.”

In July 2021, Peace Now assembled a coalition of Israeli lawyers to submit an amicus brief to the Court regarding the Duweik case. Peace Now summarizes:

“The brief addresses an approach that has emerged in international jurisprudence on human rights law which puts an emphasis on group vulnerability of occupants facing eviction and institutional, systemic discrimination against them. Where these are present, in certain circumstances, the occupants’ rights, stemming from the human right to housing and specifically, to live in their home and their family’s home – trump the right of the original owner or their substitute to regain possession of the property.

The brief reaches the conclusion that in the Duweik case, the occupants’ property rights and their right to housing supersede the right of the settlers acting on behalf of the pre-1948 original owners to receive possession of the property, based on the following:

1 – The fact that Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem are underprivileged, vulnerable and subjected to discrimination in every aspect of life, and particularly the fact that Israeli law on the restitution of property that changed hands due to wars, openly and deliberately discriminates against them;

2 – The fact that the family entered the property in good faith and/or in accordance with the law applicable at the time, and has developed a legitimate expectation to continue residing in it permanently and without interruption;

3 – The imbalance between the devastating harm the family would suffer and the minor damage the Benvenisti charitable endowment (represented by the settlers), which claims ownership of the property, would sustain, which clearly tips the scales in favor of the family.

In other words, according to the brief, even if the court finds the settlers do, in fact, have ownership, they are not necessarily entitled to remedy in the form of the families’ eviction from their homes, but rather to compensation from the state.”

Israel Begins Construction on New Settlement in Downtown Hebron

Peace Now reports that construction has begun on 31 new settlement units at the site of an old bus station previously repurposed as an IDF base, located  in the heart of the Old City of Hebron on the infamous Shuhada street. This is a new settler enclave in the city and is, in effect, a new urban settlement, disconnected from already existing settlements in the city. It will be the first new settlement construction approved in downtown Hebron – where Palestinians already live under apartheid conditions – since 2002.

Peace Now said in a statement:

“The government is acting like an annexation government, not as a change government. Since the 1980s, no government has dared to build a new settlement in the heart of the largest Palestinian city in the West Bank, with the exception of one building built under the auspices of the second intifada in 2001. The Defense Minister has to stop construction, even if the plan was approved by the previous government. The settlement in Hebron is the ugly face of Israeli control of the territories. The moral and political price of having a settlement in Hebron is unbearable.”

As a reminder: in October 2017, the Israeli Civil Administration approved a building permit for the 31 units, on the condition that the Palestinian municipality of Hebron and others would have the opportunity to file objections to the plan. Soon after, two appeals were filed with the Defense Ministry: one by the Palestinian municipality of Hebron and one by the Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now. The legal objections were based on the legally questionable process by which Israel made land in downtown Hebron available for settlement construction. Located in the Israeli-controlled H-2 area of Hebron (where 500 Israeli settlers live amongst 40,000 Palestinians), Israel seized the land in the 1980s from the Hebron Municipality, for military purposes. In 2007, the Civil Administration’s Legal Advisor issued an opinion stating that once Israel is done using the land for military purposes, it must be returned to the Hebron Municipality, which has protected tenancy rights to the land. Nonetheless, in 2015, the Israeli Civil Administration, with the consent of the Minister of Defense, quietly authorized the Housing Ministry to plan the area for Israeli settlement use, paving the way for that same ministry to subsequently present the plan for the 31 units.

In October 2018, with the legal challenges still pending, the Israeli Cabinet voted to expedite the planning of the new settlement and allocated approximately $6.1 million (NIS 22 million) for the project, which will require Israel to significantly renovate the bus station/military base in order to build the 31 new settlement housing units, as well as a kindergarten, and “public areas” for the new settler residents.  Peace Now explains

The approval of the building permit in the heart of Hebron is an extraordinary move not only because it is a new settlement in Hebron for the first time since 2001, but because it indicates a significant change in Israeli legal interpretation of what is allowed and forbidden in occupied territory. The area in question was owned by Jews before 1948, and it was leased by the Jordanian government in protected tenancy to the Hebron municipality for the purpose of establishing the central bus station. Since 1967, the Israeli authorities managed the land and continued the lease to the Hebron municipality, until in the 1980s when the area was seized for military purposes, the bus station was closed and a military base was established there. A legal opinion of the Judea and Samaria Attorney General on the issue in 2007 emphatically stated that by law the municipality’s protected lease must not be revoked.”

Israel Advances “Silicon Wadi” Project in East Jerusalem

On October 13th, the Jerusalem Local Planning Committee met to initiate the planning process for the “Silicon Wadi” project, which was initiated by the Jerusalem Municipality and outlines plans to build a large industrial zone for hi-tech, commercial, and hospitality businesses in the heart of East Jerusalem’s Wadi Joz neighborhood. The project requires the demolition of some 200 Palestinian-owned businesses that currently operate in the area; dozens of demolition notices for which were issued in November 2020.

Ir Amim writes:

“Beyond the devastating impact of widespread demolitions of existing businesses and structures, the plan also raises concerns that the Israeli authorities will exploit the planning procedures to locate alleged Palestinian absentee properties and transfer lands into the hands of the State. It should also be noted that while Israel focuses on bolstering employment and economic activity in East Jerusalem, it simultaneously continues to suppress residential development in Palestinian neighborhoods. As with nearly all outline plans advanced in East Jerusalem in recent years, the Wadi Joz business park plan only allocates a marginal amount for residential use, which hardly meets the acute housing needs of the Palestinian population. Rather than undertaking measures to rectify the housing crisis, these plans only exacerbate the current situation and perpetuate the residential planning stranglehold, which ultimately serves to push Palestinians out of the city.”

Recap: Israel Advances Settlement Plans Across Greater Jerusalem Area

Over the past two weeks, the government of Israel has advanced four highly controversial and politically consequential settlement plans in the Greater Jerusalem area:

  1. The Givat Hamatos Settlement: On October 13th, the Jerusalem Local Planning Committee approved the expropriation of lands designated for public use in the Givat Hamatos area for the construction of roads, public buildings and the development of open space for the planned new settlement/neighborhood. For more on the Givat Hamatos settlement plan, please see here.

    Map by Haaretz

  2. The E-1 Settlement: The Israel Civil Administration moved forward with advancing plans for the construction of the E-1 settlement, setting a date for a third hearing to discuss public objections to the plan (now set for November 8th). The first hearing was held on October 4th, but Palestinians were denied the ability to participate in that hearing (which was held virtually, making it inaccessible to the many Palestinians affected by the plan who do not have internet access). As a result, the Court scheduled this 3rd hearing (to allow the participation of Palestinians). The second hearing was held on October 18th; at that hearing three objections were presented (one by the Palestinian village of Anata, a second by the Palestinian village of Al-Azariya, and a third joint submission filed by Ir Amim and Peace Now). Ir Amim reports that there was no substantive discussion of these objections, with the Civil Administration panel offering no questions or comments on them. For more on the E-1 settlement plan, please see Terrestrial Jeruaslem’s excellent and thorough reporting.
  3. The Atarot Settlement: The Jerusalem District Planning Committee formally signaled that it will proceed with a hearing on the Atarot settlement plan – scheduled for December 6th – to build a huge new settlement on the site of the former Qalandiya airport (located at the northern tip of East Jerusalem). In its current form, the plan provides for up to 9,000 residential units for ultra-Orthodox Jews (assuming, conservatively, an average family size of 6, this means housing for 54,000 people), as well as synagogues, ritual baths (mikvehs), commercial properties, offices and work spaces, a hotel, and a water reservoir. If built, the Atarot settlement will effectively be a small Israeli city surrounded by Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhoods on three sides and Ramallah to its north. Geopolitically, it will have a similar impact to E-1 in terms of dismembering the West Bank and cutting it off from Jerusalem. For more on the Atarot settlement plan, please see here.
  4. The Pisgat Ze’ev Settlement: The Israeli government advanced plans for 470 new settlement units in Pisgat Ze’ev, the largest settlement located in East Jerusalem.

Recap: Court Pushes for Palestinians to “Compromise” with Settlers in Sheikh Jarrah

The Israeli Supreme Court has set November 2nd as the deadline for Palestinian families living at risk of forced displacement in Shiekh Jarrah to decide wether or not to accept a Court-authored deal which would help them – at least temporarily – avoid eviction from their homes, in part by requiring them to recognize settler ownership over the properties.

Under the terms of the Court’s deal, which it is pressuring both parties to accept, the following would take place:

  • The settler group Nahalat Shimon will be recognized as the owners of the site.
  • The Palestinians will be recognized as protected tenants and be required to pay an nominal annual rental fee to the attorney of the settlers (in effect recognizing the settlers as the owners) but 
    • The Palestinians will be able to continue pursuing legal challenges to the underlying ownership of the land
    • The Palestinians are permitted to renovate the properties without interference
  • Settlers will be able to instigate eviction proceedings against Palestinians if they are in violation of the Court’s compromise agreement or in violation of Israel’s tenancy laws.

Terrestrial Jerusalem writes:

“The most problematic element of the settlement relates to the settlers’ ability to institute evictions even if the residents are not in violation of the agreement or of the tenancy laws. The settlers will be entitled to institute such proceedings in the event that the ownership rights are conclusively awarded to them, or after 15 years, the earlier of the two. This can be done if the settlers either wish to personally use the property or to demolish and rebuild. Under these circumstances, the settlers will need to offer the residents alternative equivalent quarters. Palestinian residents might hope settlers reject the deal to avoid having to make an ‘excruciatingly painful decision.’”

According to Terrestrial Jerusalem, the Court has signaled that further negotiations are acceptable, but that if either party rejects the agreement a decision on the eviction cases will be handed down swiftly.

New Report: State-Backed Settler “Tourism” Projects in East Jerusalem

In a new report entitled, “The Valley of Hinnom: Trees and Flowerbeds in the Political Struggle over East Jerusalem,” the Israeli NGO Emek Shaveh surveys the multitude of recent “tourism” projects jointly undertaken by the Elad settler organization and the Israeli government in the Ben Hinnom Valley — a strategic area between East and West Jerusalem (stretching past the 1967 Green Line), and located within the area designated by Israel as the Jerusalem “Walls National Park”.

Emek Shaveh writes:

“The nature of the tourism-settlement activity in the Valley of Hinnom conducted jointly by Elad and government authorities is familiar to us from the City of David/Silwan.  The series of joint ventures such as the café, the Center for Ancient Agriculture and the cable car in effect hand over large expanses of land to the settlers of the Elad Foundation under the guise of tourism.  Although unlike Silwan, the valley is sparsely populated, the activity there must be viewed as an integral part of the struggle for the Old City Basin of Jerusalem and as a means to clear this highly strategic area from the presence of Palestinians.”

In conclusion, we wish to emphasize the following points:

1 – Development in East Jerusalem is almost always driven by political objectives.  Recent developments in the Valley of Hinnom are part of the grand plan to change the character and the landscape of the Old City Basin and ought to be considered an integral component of the settlement enterprise in the Palestinian neighborhoods surrounding the Old City.

2 – Halting the destructive development schemes in the areas surrounding the Old City is vital in order to preserve Jerusalem as a multicultural historic city and is indirectly essential for safeguarding the status quo at the holy places.

3 – The Palestinian protests against the expansion of the settlers’ grip over the open spaces such as the Hinnom Valley is part of the struggle by the residents of Silwan and the surrounding neighborhoods to preserve the character of their neighborhoods.  In our view, one ought to view the various activities by the settlers and the authorities in the Historic Basin such as the expulsion of residents from their homes, taking over land and the shaping of a historic narrative as part of the same general bid to cement their control over the Historic Basin.”

Bonus Reads

  1. “[PODCAST] The Occupation & the Biden Administration” (FMEP ft. Danny Seidemann and Yehuda Shaul with Lara Friedman and Khaled Elgindy)
  2. “How offshore accounts turned the British Virgin Islands into an east Jerusalem landlord” (JTA)
  3. “Beita residents reach lands for first time since settler takeover” (Al Jazeera)
  4. “After Years of Neighborly Relations, Settlers Try to Foil Recognition of Palestinian Hamlet” (Haaretz)
  5. “Palestinian protests turn deadly as Israel considers the future of a new settlement” (NPR)
  6. “These Palestinian Families Face Eviction From Their East Jerusalem Homes” (Haaretz)
  7. “When Settler Becomes Native” (Jewish Currents)

 

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

August. 6, 2021

  1. Sheikh Jarrah, Part 1: Court Proposes Settler-friendly “Compromise” to Avoid Substantive Ruling on Sheikh Jarrah Dispossession Cases
  2. Sheikh Jarrah, Part 2: Israel Reportedly Asks Biden Administration to Pressure Palestinians Into Accepting Sheikh Jarrah “Deal”
  3. Israel Housing Ministry Moves to Advance Atarot Settlement Plan
  4. Report: Jewish National Fund to Approve “Review” of West Bank Land/Property it Claims to Own but Not Have Registered
  5. New Petition Against Construction on Top of Ruins of Lifta
  6. Members of Congress Seek Codify Trump’s Green Line-Erasing Labeling Policy Into Law
  7. Bonus Reads

Sheikh Jarrah, Part 1: Court Proposes Settler-friendly “Compromise” to Avoid Substantive Ruling on Sheikh Jarrah Dispossession Cases

At a hearing held on Monday August 2nd, the three-judge panel of the Israeli Supreme Court proposed a “compromise” to resolve the cases of pending evictions of four Palestinian families from their longtime homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. The compromise — which appears designed above all else to enable the Court to avoid issuing a ruling on the substance of the case — would enable the Palestinians in the targeted homes to avoid displacement for the time being, while offering settlers formal recognition of their ownership of the properties in question (and turning the Palestinians into tenants paying rent to a settler organization that has made clear its intention to displace them). Moreover, if implemented, the “compromise” would almost certainly become a precedent for the cases of the many other Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan (and almost certainly elsewhere in the future) whose homes/presence is targeted by settlers.

Specifically, under the deal proposed by the Court, the four Palestinian families fighting imminent forcible displacement from their longtime homes in the Sheikh Jarrah (the El Kurd, Jaouni, Abu Hasna, and Askafi families) would be required to recognize the settlers as the rightful owners of the land their homes are built on. In exchange for this recognition — in effect, a repudiation of claims to their own rights to the property — the Palestinians would be designated as “protected tenants,” which would enable the families to continue to live in their homes for 2 generations (protected tenancy rights may be handed down to the children and grandchildren, but not further), so long as the Palestinians pay the required rent to settlers (set at 1,500 shekels a year) and do not otherwise violate the rules of protected tenancy.

The four families swiftly rejected the proposal – which Mohammed El-Kurd observed, accurately, would leave them “at the mercy of settlers, paying rent to live in our own homes.” Despite  this rejection, the Court announced that it intends to continue pursuing the “deal” (while applying pressure on the families to accept it). To that end, the four families were asked to submit a list of individuals who might be eligible to receive protected tenancy rights.

Ir Amim explains not only the trap of protected tenancy rights, but also the larger concerns about how the Court is behaving, writing:

“While protected tenancy offers some assurances against arbitrary eviction, the law still allows for the eviction of protected tenants through a variety of means. Settler organizations are currently using these mechanisms in order to try and evict protected Palestinian tenants in other cases. Alternatively, the settler group could advance an urban renewal building plan, which would ultimately result in the eviction and demolition of the families’ homes. In such a case, the families would be eligible for alternative housing elsewhere, but would lose their community and the homes in which they were living for decades and to which they are strongly tied. Indeed, settler leaders have already applauded the court’s proposal calling it a victory.

Additionally, protected tenancy status will mean, in essence, that the families are not recognized as the owners of their homes. The significance is both symbolic and practical since it means that the families would lose all opportunity to claim ownership in the future – for example when the Israeli Government conducts a land registration process in the neighborhood. Past experience shows that regardless of any phrasing which may be used in an attempt to circumvent recognition of settler ownership, the declaration of protected tenants may be used against future claims by the families. 

The judges’ resolve to push for a settlement indicates their reticence in issuing a substantive ruling which would obligate them to rule against the settler group and the discriminatory legal mechanism which grants Palestinian property to Jews. Such a settlement likewise enables the Israeli government to abdicate responsibility for these measures. 

A fair proposal can only be one that is in accordance with International Law and its basic premise of protecting the occupied population and its right to property, family, and community life.  This basic principle must not be forgotten as the Israeli government is trying to evade the strong pressure which the protests against the Sheikh Jarrah evictions have succeeded in creating.”

Sheikh Jarrah, Part 2: Israel Reportedly Asks Biden Administration to Pressure Palestinians Into Accepting Sheikh Jarrah “Deal”

Haaretz reports that the Israeli government has asked the Biden Administration to pressure the four Palestinian families facing forcible dispalcement from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah into accepting the deal offered by the Supreme Court (see section above for details on the Supreme Court’s “deal”). The families rejected the deal immediately upon presentation, based on their refusal to legitimize settler claims of ownership over their homes.

Haaretz further reported that officials in the Biden Administration is not jumping to implement the Israeli request, but is keeping a close eye on the case. When asked about these  reports at a State Department briefing on August 5th, spokesperson Ned Price responded:

“Well, as you know, we don’t speak to any diplomatic or private conversations, but what I can say is that we believe that the proposal offered by the Israeli court on August 2nd is a matter for the Israeli and Palestinian parties to the case to consider and to decide for themselves. We’ve said this just this week and many times before that: families should not be evicted from their homes in which they have lived for decades. We have encouraged Israeli authorities to avoid evictions and other actions that exacerbate tensions and that undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution...Look, we’re not going to comment or comment on or confirm reports of diplomatic conversations. What we have said as it relates to this – we have both in public and in private encouraged Israeli authorities to avoid evictions and other actions that exacerbate tensions and undercut efforts to advance negotiated two-state solution.”

Reporting around the Court’s and the Israeli government’s efforts to secure Palestinian agreement on the Sheikh Jarrah “compromise” makes clear that this deal is seen by the Court and the government as a solution that can (a) placate the international community, by avoiding immediate evictions; (b) deliver a huge victory to the settlement enterprise in East Jerusalem by creating a legal precedent for settlers to take ownership – and, eventually, possession – of a large number of homes/properties across East Jerusalem); and (c) bolster the Israeli narrative that what is happening in East Jerusalem is merely a real estate dispute, while rebutting claims that Israeli rule in East Jerusalem involves occupation/apartheid policies that systematically dispossess and disenfranchise Palestinians, while in parallel promoting the interests and aspirations of settlers.”

Haaretz columnist Nir Hasson wrote:

“In the end, the Sheikh Jarrah legal battle revolves around one question. Is it simply a real estate dispute, as the settlers assert, or is it part of a campaign by the state – its official arms (the custodian general, Land Registry, the Israel Police) and its unofficial ones (the Nahalat Shimon Company) to dispossess the Palestinians and Judaize the neighborhood? If it’s the latter, it’s a campaign based on discrimination and unjust laws. Needless to say, for the rest of the world, apart from Israel, the Palestinian viewpoint is the one that is accepted; the view that it’s a private dispute is rejected. The three justices struggled to decide where the court stood on this question. On the one hand, they are clearly not happy reopening a discussion on the legal substance of the affair. On the other, they also very much do not want to order the eviction of hundreds of people from their homes – at least not now, when Sheikh Jarrah is the focus of media and diplomatic attention.”

Israel Housing Ministry Moves to Advance Atarot Settlement Plan

The Walla news outlet reports that the Israeli Housing Ministry has placed the Atarot settlement plan on the agenda for the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee, which is scheduled to convene in December 2021. The plan for the Atarot settlement – which calls for 9,000 units to be built on the site of the former Qalandiya airport (located at the northern tip of East Jerusalem) – is at an early stage in the approval process. 

According to the Times of Israel, Prime Minister Bennett was not notified in advance of the Ministry’s move – which is surprising given the sensitivity of the plan (which is opposed by the international community and strikes a deadly blow to the prospects of a two-state solution). Bennet is scheduled to head to Washington, D.C. soon – a trip originally scheduled for August, but now delayed until September.

The Atarot settlement plan dates back to 2007. It was pursued by the Israeli government in 2012 but shelved under pressure from the Obama administration. The plan came back into consideration in April 2017 (a few months following the inauguration of President Trump) when it was rumored to be included on Netanyahu’s master blueprint of settlements for which he was seeking U.S. approval. In February 2020, following the publication of the Trump Plan – which designated the area that would be used for the settlement as a “special tourist zone” for Palestinians –  the Atarot settlement plan was formally introduced. In January 2021 then-Prime Minister Netanyahu dangled the advancement of the plan as an incentive for parties to join his flagging coalition in order to remain in power. At the time, Jerusalem expert Daniel Seidemann noted that the plan faces significant legal obstacles and predicted that it will not come to fruition “anytime soon.”

In its current form, the plan provides for up to 9,000 residential units for ultra-Orthodox Jews (assuming, conservatively, an average family size of 6, this means housing for 54,000 people), as well as synagogues, ritual baths (mikvehs), commercial properties, offices and work spaces, a hotel, and a water reservoir. If built, the Atarot settlement will effectively be a small Israeli city surrounded by Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhoods on three sides and Ramallah to its north.

There are currently 15 Palestinian families living in buildings on the land slated for the settlement, part of which is privately owned by Palestinians. Other land in the area has been declared “state land” by Israel or belongs to the Jewish National Fund. To solve the problem of Palestinian land owners, the Israeli government will need to evict the Palestinians living there and demolish their homes — a step that will be facilitated by the fact that all of the homes lack Israeli-issued building permits (which are essentially impossible for Palestinians to receive). The private Palestinian landowners will then be subjected to a non-consensual process of “reparcelization,” in which Israel will unilaterally reparcel and then redistribute the land amongst its owners on the basis of the value of the land (as determined by Israel) and the percentage of their ownership claim.

 The Atarot airport site is an important commodity and, during past negotiations, it was promised to the Palestinians for their state’s future international gateway. Israeli development of the site as a settlement would — by design — not only deprive a future Palestinian state of the only airport in a Palestinian area, but also dismember Palestinian neighborhoods in the northern part of the Jerusalem, and sever East Jerusalem from a Palestinian state on this northern flank of the city (acting like E-1 on Jerusalem’s northeast flank, and like Givat Hamatos on Jerusalem’s southern flank).

Report: Jewish National Fund to Approve “Review” of West Bank Land/Property it Claims to Own but Not Have Registered

Haaretz reports that the Board of Directors of the Jewish National Fund is set to approve an institutional review of approximately 17,000 assets it claims to own but failed to register  (or take possession of) in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Many of these properties are Palestinian homes, whose residents the JNF refers to as “squatters”. The JNF’s legal review could reportedly take five years to complete, and could result in the eviction of Palestinians if the JNF is found by Israel to rightfully own the land (given the track record of Israeli courts with respect to property disputes between Israeli organizations and Palestinains, such a finding is a near certainty), is then permitted to register the land, and then chooses to pursue the eviction of those Palestinians.

Of the total (17,000 assets), the JNF claims:

  • It has documentation showing the purchase of 360 properties.
  • It has a contract proving ownership of 170 properties
  • It has legal claim to 2,050 plot currently under the control of Israel’s General Custodian (the body set up by the Israeli government to take control of land and properties “abandoned” by Palestinians in the 1948 war).

Peace Now said in response:

“The Jewish National Fund is becoming the Settlers’ National Fund. The registration procedures in the Occupied Territories and in East Jerusalem could bring to massive dispossession of Palestinians, like in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan, and expansion of the settlements. The JNF- KKL is a national institution for the entire Jewish people which should not serve one side of the political map as it puts facts on the ground that endanger the state of Israel. We call upon all the organizations which are party to the JNF- KKL board, including Maccabi, Hadassah and Naamat and others: don’t be political organizations, don’t let your representatives vote for deepening the occupation and the settlements.”

As a reminder, established in 1901, the JNF devoted itself to buying land for Jews. Today, the JNF owns about 15% of all the land inside the Green Line (a figure which stands to increase if the review process leads to more properties being registered to the JNF). In addition, the JNF has used two subsidiary companies – both called Himanuta – to purchase land in the West Bank, even though the stated JNF policy (until now) did not support such purchases. Peace Now reports that the JNF, via Himanuta, has already purchased over 160,000 acres (65,000 dunams) across the West Bank; settlements established on some of those lands include Itamar, Alfei Menashe, Einav, Kedumim, Givat Ze’ev, Metzadot Yehuda (Beit Yatir), Otniel and more. At the same time, the JNF and the settler group Elad have been partnering together to pursue the mass eviction of Palestinians from East Jerusalem neighborhoods, including Silwan.

New Petition Against Construction on the Ruins of Lifta

On August 4th, a new petition was submitted to the Jerusalem Administrative Court challenging the issuance of a tender for construction on the ruins of the Palestinian neighborhood of Lifta in West Jerusalem. The tender was issued for 259 luxury housing units, commercial buildings, and a hotel. The petition was submitted by Adv. Dr. Sami Arshid on behalf of refugees from Lifta  and experts/activists who have been protesting for the conservation of the site, which is on the UNESCO Tentative List of World Heritage Sites.

The Israeli NGO Emek Shaveh writes that the petition was submitted with three expert opinions, one from a civil engineer, a second from an ecologist, and a third written by a team of five architects and conservation planners. All of these opinions object to the construction plan. 

While FMEP’s settlement and annexation report focuses on settlement building in areas located over the 1967 Green Line, the story of Lifta – and of other Palestinian villages forcibly depopulated by Israeli forces in the 1948 – is another facet of the Israeli government’s policy of erasure of Palestinians via the establishment of Jewish Israeli communities. You can read one Palestinian’s account of forced her forced displacement from Lifta, here.

Members of Congress Seek Codify Trump’s Green Line-Erasing Labeling Policy Into Law

On July 27th, U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) and 5 Republican colleagues introduced a bill to “require the maintenance of the country of origin markings for imported goods produced in the West Bank or Gaza, and for other purposes.” Under this legislation, products made in the West Bank and Gaza would be legally required to be labelled “Made in Israel” for the purposes of importing to the United States. 

In a tweet following the introduction of the bill, which has been referred  to committee, Sen. Cotton released a statement  and tweeted:

“Left-wing activists abuse county-of-origin labels in order to stigmatize products made in Israel. Our bill will defend the integrity of the Jewish State by ensuring that Israeli products may proudly bear the label ‘Made in Israel’ 

As a reminder, in the waning months of the Trump Administration, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced new U.S. guidelines that require products made in all areas under Israeli control to be labelled as “Made in Israel” (or iterations thereof) when being exported to the U.S. This was a massive and highly consequential shift in U.S. policy, boiling down to U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty not only over settlements (as the Trump Administration has previously done) but over all of Area C – some 60% of the West Bank), irrespective of whether or not Israel officially annexes the land. This Trump-era labeling policy remains in effect today, as the Biden Administration has not publicly reversed it. Notably, this policy – as laid out by Pompeo – would in principle require even Palestinian-made goods originating from villages in Area C to be labelled as “Made in Israel”. Roughly 150,000 Palestinians live in Area C, where they are subjected to an escalating Israeli campaign to make life untenable for them via discriminatory planning policies and demolitions. 

For more, please see (and subscribe to receive) Lara Friedman’s weekly legislative roundup.

Bonus Reads

  1. Why we went to the UN Security Council about East Jerusalem” (The Times of Israel // Yudith Oppenheimer of Ir Amim)
  2. Ted Cruz blocks bill advancing Israel-Arab normalization, citing pressure on Israel to reach two-state solution” (JTA)
  3. “WATCH: Settler grabs Israeli soldier’s weapon, fires at Palestinians” (+972 Magazine)

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

July 30, 2021

  1. Sheikh Jarrah Updates: Court Issues Delays for Three Cases; Bennett Reportedly Considering Delaying Four Others
  2. In First Since Settlement Regulation Law Was Overturned, Israel Announces Intent to Demolish Settlement Buildings on Privately Owned Palestinian Land
  3. Elad Settler Group Loses Control Over East Jerusalem Holy Site/Archaeological Park
  4. Knesset Votes Down West Bank Annexation Bill, Condemns Ben & Jerry’s
  5. State Allows (& Funds) “Farming Outposts” to Graze Huge Tracts of West Bank Land
  6. Outpost Activity Continues in the South Hebron Hills
  7. Israeli Army Let Settlers Stay at Abandoned Base Despite Knowing Plans for Illegal Outpost
  8. Bonus Reads

Comments or questions? Email Kristin McCarthy – kmccarthy@fmep.org.


Sheikh Jarrah Updates: Court Issues Delays for Three Cases; Bennett Reportedly Considering Delaying Four Others

On July 29th, the Israeli Supreme Court issued notices delaying the forcible displacement of three families (Dajani, Hammad, and Dahoudi) from their longtime homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem. The eviction orders were set to become enforceable on Sunday August 1st, but the Court has halted the evictions while an appeal filed by the Palestinian families is dealt with.

Also sheduled for August  2nd, the Supreme Court is currently set to hold a final hearing to decide on the fate of four other Palestinian families (Jaouni, Iskafi, al-Kurd, and al-Qadi) facing forcible eviction in Sheikh Jarrah. According to press reports, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is considering delaying the final hearing (thus stopping the evictions for the time being). Notably, reports suggest Bennett is looking not to cancel the evictions but only to postpone a final decision on them – a postponement that could be reversed at any time at the whim of the Prime Minister (for example, when the world’s attention is elsewhere).

In an op-ed in The Guardian, Mohammad El-Kurd – whose family is facing eviction – powerfully wrote:

On 2 August, the Israeli supreme court, whose jurisdiction over the eastern part of Jerusalem defies international law, is set to decide whether it will allow the appeal of my family and three others – a last legal obstacle before we can be expelled. There have been postponements before. Palestinians are accustomed to this kind of stalling; it tests our stamina. But we are as stubborn as anyone else faced with the prospect of losing their home – their life, their memories – to those using force, intimidation and biased laws. In the face of this cruelty, and despite teargas and skunk water, we are resisting. We cannot allow them to steal our homes once more, and we refuse to continue living in refugee camps while colonisers live in our houses. We cannot let them throw more of us on to the streets. We are tired of being turned into a refugee population, neighbourhood after neighbourhood, one home at a time. I have no faith in the Israeli judicial system; it is a part of the settler-colonial state, built by settlers for settlers. Nor do I expect any of the international governments who have been deeply complicit in Israel’s colonial enterprise to intervene on our behalf. But I do have faith in those people around the world who protest and pressure their governments to end what is essentially unconditional support for Israeli policies. Impunity and war crimes will not be stopped by statements of condemnation and raised eyebrows. We Palestinians have repeatedly articulated what kind of transformative political measures must be taken – such as civil society boycotts and state-level sanctions. The problem is not ignorance, it is inaction.”

In First Since Settlement Regulation Law Was Overturned, Israel Announces Intent to Demolish Settlement Buildings on Privately Owned Palestinian Land

On July 28th, the Israeli Attorney General’s office informed the High Court of Justice that within three years (!!) it plans to carry out the demolition of two buildings built by settlers on privately owned Palestinian land located inside of the Eli settlement, in the context of a petition filed in 2011 by Palestinian land owners with the assistance of Yesh Din and Bimkom. Notably, the underlying legal petition sought the demolition of a total of 20 buildings constructed illegally on private Palestinian land, 18 of which Israel granted retroactive legalization in February 2020.

According to the Jerusalem Post, this is the first instance of the Court resuming looking at a case of this kind since the Settlement Regulation Law was overturned by the Court in June 2020. Previously, all cases involving illegal construction inside of settlements had been frozen while the Court considered the constitutionality of the law, which sought to create a legal basis by which Israel would be able to grant retroactive legalization to outposts and settlement structures built on land that even Israel acknowledges is privately owned by Palestinians.

In resuming its consideration of the case, the Court first asked to be updated on the State’s reexamination of the status of the land in hopes of finding a means by which to retroactively legalize the illegal construction, despite the fact that a previous government effort confirmed that the two buildings fall outside of the boundaries of state-owned land. With no other avenue available to “legalize” the construction, the State informed the Court this week that it intends to demolish the structures after the three years, which it claimed was the amount of time required to provide new housing for the four affected settler families [demonstrating, as always, that settler law-breakers are never punished and always rewarded]. This long delay also suggests that the State will continue to look for new ways to avoid demolishing the homes.

Leaders of the Land of Israel Lobby in the Knesset, MKs Yoav Kisch and Orit Strock, told Israel Hayom:

 “This week, the government informed the High Court of Justice that it agrees to demolish the homes of four families in Eli. This is a horrifying, shocking announcement. Rather than preventing the destruction of Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria, the government is busy regulating the illegal construction crimes in the Bedouin sector. This is a badge of shame for the government, which is freezing construction, as well as going back on all its promises to regulate [settlements] and also demolishing Jews’ homes.”

Yisrael Gantz – who heads the Benyamim settler regional council –  said:

“We are surprised that the government is falling in line with the Arab petitioners and announcing that it will, heaven forbid, demolish two homes where families have been living for years, which are part of a living, vibrant neighborhood. Razing a home whose status was legal and which a new review by the Civil Administration left outside the settlement’s borders is a new low in crimes against settlement in Judea and Samaria. These two homes are just a preview. We have hundreds of homes with similar status in the Binyamin settlements and thousands throughout the settlements as a whole that suddenly found themselves outside the new ‘blue lines’ drawn in the Civil Administration’s work. No normal country would demolish homes in a situation like this.”

Elad Settler Group Loses Control Over East Jerusalem Holy Site/Archaeological Park

On July 1st, the State of Israel re-asserted control over a significant and highly sensitive archaeological and holy  site – the Davidson Archaeological Park – located just outside of the walls of the Temple Mount/Haram Al-Sharif. The park, which includes most notably tunnels that run directly from the Western Wall plaza to the settler-run Davidson Center in Silawn – had been run by the Elad settler organization since 2018, when the State willingly transferred its authority to Elad to operate the park. 

In 2015 the Israeli NGO Emek Shaveh, which is made up of archeological experts,  filed a petition against Elad’s role at the park, arguing that “it is highly problematic to place the running or management of a holy site that is situated alongside the Western Wall foundations in the hands of a private and politicized organization.”  Emek Shaveh’s argument mirrored an opinion issued by Israel’s Attorney General which held that holy sites should be managed by the State.

Notably, the end of the state’s contract with Elad regarding the Davidson Park reduces but does not eliminate Elad’s role in managing key sites in Jerusalem. Elad continues to operate the nearby City of David archaeological park (just outside the Old City’s walls), where it has been advancing numerous settlement projects meant to strengthen its control over the area and displace Palestinians.

Emek Shaveh said in a statement

“We are pleased that the authorities have put an end to a highly problematic arrangement whereby a private right-wing organization is operating an important site situated in perhaps the most sensitive place in the region. We hope that in the future the State will take full responsibility for additional sites which it handed over to the settlers’ foundation. The City of David is, no doubt, the next site that ought to be returned to full management by the State. Emek Shaveh’s case regarding the tunnel linking the Davidson Center to Givati is still ongoing.”

Knesset Votes Down West Bank Annexation Bill, Condemns Ben & Jerry’s

In a July 28th preliminary vote the Knesset rejected, by a relatively slim margin (64 to 50), a bill to annex the entire West Bank. Members of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s ruling party, Yamina, voted against the bill. The bill had been submitted by members of the Likud party, which is now in the opposition after 15 years of being the most powerful party in the country and having had the ability to pass such a bill if desired. One of the bill’s cosponsors, Miki Zohar, said after the vote:

“You promised again and again that you will take action to bring about sovereignty over Judea and Samaria and you once again broke your word,” Zohar said. “You once again proved that you have no ideology and that no values are holy for you except for keeping your cabinet seats.”

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar (New Hope) responded, saying:

“I heard MK Mikki Zohar relating to the fact that in the last administration, Netanyahu wanted to apply sovereignty but Blue and White prevented him from doing so. And I was just thinking to myself, ‘How far from the truth can you get?’…So you, MK Zohar, party whip for the Likud in the last Knesset, could have brought this bill up in the last Netanyahu government, during the Trump administration, during the amazing window of opportunity – you could have submitted the sovereignty bill and had a majority in the Knesset.”

Around the same time this bill was voted on, 90 members of the Knesset, including Yamina members, signed a letter calling on Ben & Jerry’s to reverse its decision to end sales in the occupied West Bank. The letter refers to settlements as “towns and cities in Israel” – a statement tantamount to a declaration of de facto – if not official – annexation. Notably, 6 MKs – from Labor and Meretz – subsequently removed their names for the letter, claiming that they signed on without seeing the final wording, and that the final wording does not reflect their views.

State Allows (& Funds) “Farming Outposts” to Graze Huge Tracts of West Bank Land

In response to a Peace Now inquiry, the Israeli Agricultural Ministry revealed that it has granted permits to unauthorized (i.e., illegal under even Israel law) agricultural outposts to use over 2,000 acres (8,500 dunams) of land in the West Bank for grazing, in a program which entrenches and expands the outposts’ illegal presence across the West Bank. 

Map by Peace Now

And if that wasn’t enough of a scandal, the Ministry confirmed that it provided sizable grants – totalling over $800,000 (2.6 million NIS) over the past few years – to at least three settlement organizations for the purpose of bringing volunteers to these outposts – which, again, are illegal even under Israeli law – to work the land. Notably, these settler organizations publicly boast about their farming activities with respect to a total of 50 farming outposts, suggesting that settlers are making use of far more than the 2,000 acres permitted by the Ministry (the Ministry clarified that it funds activities only related to the areas where settlers are authorized to work — so apparently they see no problem].

Peace Now said:

“The Ministry of Agriculture takes millions of Shekels of public monies and give them to associations which are intrinsically linked to illegal activity. If the government wants to stop more outposts such as “Evyatar” from existing, and to stop the small group of ideological settlers who allow themselves to set facts on the ground that determines the foreign and security policies for Israel, it must change its ways immediately and stop supporting outposts and illegal activities”.

Two of the outposts to which the Agricultural Ministry awarded grazing permits are located in the south Hebron hills, on land that is privately owned by Palestinians.  One of those outposts, established by a settler named Shavti Kohslaviski, has active demolition orders issued against it. A third outpost that received grazing permits is located near the Elon Moreh settlement, on a site that is partially privately owned Palestinian land that Israel has made inaccessible to its Palestinian owners but on which settlers regularly trespass . 

Israeli Army Let Settlers Stay at Abandoned Base Despite Knowing Plans for Illegal Outpost

Kerem Navot reports that on July 23rd, dozens of settlers were allowed to stay at an abandoned military base in the Jordan Valley with permission of the Israeli army. The Israeli Commander in charge of the area reportedly said that he granted permission for the settlers to hike in the area and spend one night at the army base – – despite the fact that the settlers openly declared their intent to establish a permanent presence there. The settlers left after two nights at the site, though a government source told Haaretz that the problem will continue to linger, saying “the minute the brigade commander allowed this one time, they will go up there regularly, when they feel like it, with or without permission, and the defense establishment will have to start dealing with it.” 

Kerem Navot reports:

“The organization that is behind this current takeover attempt is called “Nahala.” Nahala is the same group behind the takeover of Mount Sbeih south of the village of Beita, upon which the outpost of Eviatar was founded two months ago, and operates behind a fictional NGO (which we wrote about not long ago- https://bit.ly/3763yJW). Yes, you understood that correctly: The same people who broke the law when they established the outpost Eviatar, are advancing a new aggressive takeover of lands that do not belong to them, instead of standing trial. Welcome to the West Bank.”

Outpost Activity Continues in the South Hebron Hills

On July 25th, Palestinian media reported that settlers have begun reestablishing an outpost in the south Herbron hills, near the town of Yatta. Settlers had abandoned the outpost a few months ago under regular protests by Palestinians.

On July 27th, the Israeli government dismantled another outpost – called “Beit Dror” by settlers – in the south Hebron hills. There were seven families of settlers living at the outpost in pre-fabricated homes which were removed from the area by cranes. Following the evacuation, the settlers held a cornerstone-laying ceremony at the site, vowing to return and permanently build on the land. 

Bonus Reads

  1. Over 140 Palestinians hurt after Israeli troops attack anti-settlement protesters” (The New Arab)
  2. A water spring in the occupied Jordan Valley targeted for takeover by Israeli settlers” (WAFA)
  3. Palestinian teenager killed by Israeli troops in West Bank” (The New Arab)
  4. “Ben & Jerry’s Is Shunning Israeli Settlements. The U.S. Should Too” (DAWN)

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

July 23, 2021

  1. Ben & Jerry’s Announces End of Ice Cream Sales in Settlements
  2. Report: Bennett Agreed to Delay Settlement Approvals at U.S. Request
  3. Israeli Lawyers Prepare Amicus Brief Opposing Sheikh Jarrah Displacement
  4. State Delays “Relocation” of Khan Al-Ahmar Community Until September 5th
  5. High Court Green-lights State Sponsorship of Illicit Settlement Activities via Amana Settler Org
  6. New Docs Show the Israeli Government Uses the JNF to Take Control of West Bank Land for Settlements, & How the JNF Uses a Subsidiary to Hide Deals
  7. Israeli Consumer Authority Refuses Request for Proper Labelling of Settlement Products
  8. Coalition of Palestinian Orgs Launches Campaign for Revocation of U.S. Charitable Designation for Settlement Groups
  9. Senior Israeli Government Official Lives in Settlement Under Demolition Order
  10. Testimonies Show Israeli IDF Complicity in Settler Violence
  11. Bonus Reads

Comments or questions? Email Kristin McCarthy – kmccarthy@fmep.org.


Ben & Jerry’s Announces End of Ice Cream Sales in Settlements

Ben & Jerry’s ice cream company has announced that it will not renew the license of its Israeli franchisee because that franchisee refuses to stop operating in settlements. Ben & Jerry’s linked this decision to the illegality of settlements, saying in a statement:

“We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). We also hear and recognize the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners. We have a longstanding partnership with our licensee, who manufactures Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Israel and distributes it in the region. We have been working to change this, and so we have informed our licensee that we will not renew the license agreement when it expires at the end of next year. Although Ben & Jerry’s will no longer be sold in the OPT, we will stay in Israel through a different arrangement. We will share an update on this as soon as we’re ready.”

Ben & Jerry’s decision to stop selling ice cream in the settlements – which are illegal under international law and have been shown by human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International to be at the core of violations of Palestinian rights – has received an inordinate amount of attention from the media and from the Israeli government.

Quickly following the announcement that Ben and Jerry’s was exiting the settlements, pro-Israel allies in the U.S. expressed outrage and threatened legal repercussions under state anti-BDS laws. The U.S. State Department also expressed its disagreement with Ben & Jerry’s policy decision – and its outright opposition to, and commitment to combating, BDS targeting Israel and/or Israeli settlements. During a briefing, Spokesman Ned Price said:

“Our position on BDS has been clear. This is not something that we need to review. Again, the BDS movement unfairly singles out Israel… [the U.S.] will be a strong partner in fighting efforts around the world that potentially seek to delegitimize Israel [in a way that is] consistent with the First Amendment rights of the American people.”

Report: Bennett Agreed to Delay Settlement Approvals at U.S. Request

Israel Hayom reports that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has agreed – at the request of the Biden Administration – to for the time being freeze construction approvals for new settlement units. The outlet reports that over the past month Bennett has prevented the Civil Administration’s High Planning Council from scheduling a meeting in which it could advance settlement construction plans. 

The report has drawn criticism from within Naftali Bennet’s inner circle, with Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked threatening to leave the governing coalition – which cannot survive without her – if Bennett in fact agreed to a settlement freeze. Shaked told the press:

“If the government does something that is ideologically serious in my view, we will not be a part of it. For example, if the US administration demands a freeze in Judea and Samaria — there will be no government.”

In response to a question at a State Department press briefing about reports that the U.S. is pressuring the Bennett government to curb settlements, U.S. Department of State Spokesperson Ned Price did not confirm or deny the reports. Instead he merely reiterated the Biden Administration’s standard response to questions related to Israeli settlements, saying

When it comes to settlement activity, we have also been clear and consistent on that. We believe it’s critical to refrain from unilateral steps that increase tensions and make it more difficult to advance a negotiated two-state solution. This is a message we have conveyed in public, as I have just now, but also in private. And it has been the longstanding position, certainly the position of this administration and had been a longstanding position of prior administrations.”

Israeli Lawyers Prepare Amicus Brief Opposing Sheikh Jarrah Displacement

Peace Now has assembled a group of prominent Israeli legal authorities to prepare and submit an amicus brief arguing to the Israeli High Court that Palestinians living under the threat of forced displacement in Sheikh Jarrah should not be evicted by the state in favor of settlers. The brief – which deals with the spefic case of the Duweik family but can be applied broadly to other pending displacement cases in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan – asserts that the Palestinian residents as long-term tenants the Palestinians have accumulated property rights to their homes and should not be evicted. 

Peace Now summarizes:

“The brief addresses an approach that has emerged in international jurisprudence on human rights law which puts an emphasis on group vulnerability of occupants facing eviction and institutional, systemic discrimination against them. Where these are present, in certain circumstances, the occupants’ rights, stemming from the human right to housing and specifically, to live in their home and their family’s home – trump the right of the original owner or their substitute to regain possession of the property.

The brief reaches the conclusion that in the Duweik case, the occupants’ property rights and their right to housing supersede the right of the settlers acting on behalf of the pre-1948 original owners to receive possession of the property, based on the following:

1 – The fact that Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem are underprivileged, vulnerable and subjected to discrimination in every aspect of life, and particularly the fact that Israeli law on the restitution of property that changed hands due to wars, openly and deliberately discriminates against them;

2 – The fact that the family entered the property in good faith and/or in accordance with the law applicable at the time, and has developed a legitimate expectation to continue residing in it permanently and without interruption;

3 – The imbalance between the devastating harm the family would suffer and the minor damage the Benvenisti charitable endowment (represented by the settlers), which claims ownership of the property, would sustain, which clearly tips the scales in favor of the family.

In other words, according to the brief, even if the court finds the settlers do, in fact, have ownership, they are not necessarily entitled to remedy in the form of the families’ eviction from their homes, but rather to compensation from the state.”

Peace Now said in a statement about the amicus brief:

“There’s an elephant in the room, and the lofty legal debate in the Sheikh Jarrah and Batan al-Hawa eviction cases ignores it, producing a legal distortion and an egregious injustice. This is not just another real estate dispute between equal parties. This is an organized, programmatic effort, with ample governmental support, to dispossess hundreds of Palestinians from their homes and replace them with settlers. This amicus curiae brief can help the court see the bigger picture, deliver justice and avert the iniquity.”

Michael Sfard, one of the authors of the brief, said:

“For years, judges have been considering the eviction cases in East Jerusalem under the assumption that they involve a dispute between a landlord and a tenant and therefore, proof of ownership on the part of the settlers necessarily triggers a countdown to eviction. The brief reintroduces the context of the legal proceeding – dispossession by the stronger, dominant group against a vulnerable, discriminated community whose members, in some cases, entered the properties for lack of choice and always according to the applicable laws and with a legitimate expectation that the property will be their permanent home. I hope the court takes the opportunity provided by the brief to bolster and defend the occupants’ right to continue living in their homes – a right acknowledged by international human rights law.”

State Delays “Relocation” of Khan Al-Ahmar Community Until September 5th

According to reports, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will soon decide whether to move forward with a deal negotiated by his predecessor for the “relocation” of the Khan Al-Ahmar bedouin community. Reportedly, the terms of the deal would see the Khan Al-Ahmar community agree to their relocation in exchange for Israeli residency.  Under the reported terms of the agreement, the community would be allowed to re-establish their community several miles east of their current homes – at an empty site near Abu Dis. In expectation of that transfer, the government of Israel has already connected the area to water, electricity, and sewage.

Though the High Court had previously set July 2021 for the demolition and forcible relocation of Khan al-Ahmar, alternate Prime Minister and current Foreign Minister Yair Lapid requested an extension in order to give the new government time to review the deal which was negotiated under the Netanyahu government, and decide whether to move forward with it. Calling the decision a “sensitive issue,” Lapid asked the Court for additional time “to examine the necessary conditions for the evacuation of the outpost and to conduct a significant and in-depth inquiry of all the legal and international consequences of the move.” The Court subsequently gave the government an additional six weeks – until September 5th – to make up its mind.  

It must be noted that, if reports are correct, Khan al-Ahmar leaders signed the deal to be removed from their longtime lands after prolonged coercive circumstances. Previous allegations regarding the nature of the Khan al-Ahmar relocation – specifically B’Tselem’s accusation that it is tantamount to a war crime – have not necessarily been assuaged by the community’s agreement. Since the 1950s – when the community was forced to leave their land in the Negev during the 1948 war – the Khan al-Ahmar bedouin community has lived and worked the lands located just east of Jerusalem, in the shadow of the land marked for the construction of the E-1 settlement (which is once again in the headlines).

The settler group Regavim – which petitioned the Court to force the government to demolish Khan al-Ahmar last year, in the midst of a global pandemic – is upset that the demolition has once again been delayed. In response, the organization issued a statement saying:

“Lapid’s announcement is a political move intended to signal to Bennett and his partners that none of their election promises can be fulfilled. Not in the Negev, not in the Galilee, and not in Khan al-Ahmar.” [Regavim called on Bennett] “to show who’s in charge. We call on you to evacuate Khan al-Ahmar immediately!”

Jerusalem expert Danny Seidemann has previously written:

“the story of Khan Al-Ahmar is not only about the tragedy for the village and its inhabitants, or about Israel’s readiness to carry out an ostensible war crime in the face of the world. It is also about Israel’s determination to clear the entire area of the West Bank east of Jerusalem, and located within the line of the built and planned barrier, of any Palestinian presence. This clearing will prepare the ground for the future construction of E1 and de facto annexation of this so-called bloc, which extends well beyond the built-up area of Maale Adumim.”

High Court Green-lights State Sponsorship of Illicit Settlement Activities via Amana Settler Org

On July 18th, the Israeli High Court of Justice dismissed a petition filed in 2019 by Peace Now that sought to stop the transfer of state funds to the Amana settler group, which regularly drives unauthorized (i.e. illegal even under Israeli domestic law) settlement activity. In its ruling, the Court did not reckon with the fundamental problem of allowing state funds to finance illegal activities, but instead ruled on a procedural point that the State (specifically settler municipal councils) is only permitted to fund public institutions – and the Court determined that Amana meets the criteria to be deemed a public institution.

One High Court justice, Menahem Mazuz, issued a minority opinion dissenting from the Court’s ruling. Mazuz said that in his opinion Amana should not be eligible to receive state funds because Amana, though it voluntarily operates on a non-profit basis, is not actually a registered non-profit (it is a cooperative association) and is therefore not subject to the same legal requirements of transparency and supervision.

At the time of filing the underlying petition against state funding for Amana, Peace Now wrote:

Amana and the regional councils in the territories have established a sophisticated mechanism to exploit the public coffers for illegal activity and to create facts on the ground. There is no limit to the chutzpah of the settlement heads. On one hand, they build outposts, with far-reaching diplomatic consequences, with public funds, and on the other hand, they cry to the government and ask for their criminality ==to be retroactively legalized. What a responsible and fair government needs to do is shut the spigot to Amana and immediately evacuate the illegal outposts.” And, “the regional councils and Amana go to great efforts to hide the information about their financial sources and illegal activities. Even with the legal process in Peace Now’s petition against granting support money to Amana, the councils have refused to provide basic information on the amount of funds transferred to Amana and their use. Amana received tens of millions of shekels from the regional councils every year, and the information received about the activities in Gush Etzion in 2018 and 2019 is just the tip of the iceberg. Peace Now uncovered the mechanism behind the illegal outposts in its “Unraveling the Mechanism behind Illegal Outposts” report which describes the operation by local authorities in the West Bank, together with Amana and the Settlement Division, to support illegal outposts and construction in the settlements, but not all financial sources have been clarified. The support by the Gush Etzion Regional Council is only a small part of Amana’s multi-million shekels operation in this illegal activity, with far-reaching ramifications for Israel’s future.”

New Docs Show the Israeli Government Uses the JNF to Take Control of West Bank Land for Settlements, & How the JNF Uses a Subsidiary to Hide Deals

Haaretz has revealed new documents that show the Israeli Defense Ministry directed the Jewish National Fund (JNF) to purchase privately owned Palestinian land in the West Bank in order to expand settlements and retroactively legalize outposts. In some of the cases, certain JNF staff and the JNF’s subsidiary called Himunata acted to conceal the land purchases from the JNF’s Board of Directors. What’s more, with respect to a series of deals between 2018-2019, various irregularities call into question the validity of the land acquisitions.

According to Haaretz, the JNF’s board of directors has not yet reviewed or discussed the two reports, One report – the Yahav Report (written in 2020) – covers the land purchases in question. The second report – the Lamberger Report – details the lengths to which Himunata and its co-conspirators went to in order to hide the transactions from the JNF staff and Board of Directors. 

The JNF’s active involvement in the settlement enterprise is not new, but the direct line between the government and the JNF in conspiring to find means by which to take possession of privately owned land that the government has not found other means by which to seize (and reminder: the Israeli government is very inventive and persistent in finding means by which to seize privately owned Palestinian land) is shocking, and new – showing the extent to which the government is supportive of settlement and outpost growth. 

Israeli Consumer Authority Refuses Request for Proper Labelling of Settlement Products

In response to a request made by the nonprofit organization Combatants for Peace, Israel’s consumer protection agency has said it cannot mandate that manufacturers based in the settlements label their products as settlement products instead of using the misleading “Made in Israel” label. The reason given by the agency’s lawyer: the agency does not have the authority to declare that the locations in settlements are “not in the country of ‘Israel’.” 

Eitay Mack, the lawyer representing Combatant for Peace, said:

“Not consuming products from the Israeli settlements and outposts in the West Bank is no different from not consuming animal products, or consuming only organic products and free-range eggs, or consuming kosher or non-kosher products, all of which can result from reasons of conscience, religion, ideology or the politics of a citizen of the State of Israel. The misleading labeling of products from the Israeli settlements and outposts as Made in Israel creates unfair competition toward those same Israelis who genuinely (despite the difficulties involved in it) devote their lives to manufacturing within [the borders] of the State of Israel.”

The consumer protection agency has now waded into an ongoing legal effort led by activists across the world to insist upon a product labelling regime that accurately labels settlement products. This effort is pushing against the ongoing campaign by the Israeli government and its allies to erase the Green Line and assert sovereignty – de facto and increasingly, for all intents and purpose, de jure annexation – over the settlements. 

A centerpiece of this battle is the case of the Psagot Winery, which has been a willing legal test case for the Israeli government’s efforts. In the waning months of the Trump Administration, the Psagot case was delivered a major victory when then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced new U.S. guidelines that require products made in all areas under Israeli control to be labelled as “Made in Israel” (or iterations thereof) when being exported to the U.S. 

This massive and highly consequential shift in U.S. policy, which offers recognition of Israeli sovereignty not only over settlements (as the Trump Administration has previously done) but over all of Area C – some 60% of the West Bank,  was – remains U.S. policy today, as the Biden Administration has not publicly reversed it. Notably, this policy, if focused on territory rather than on people, would in principle require even Palestinian-made goods originating from villages in Area C to be labelled as “Made in Israel”. Roughly 150,000 Palestinians live in Area C, where they are subjected to an escalating Israeli campaign to make life untenable for them via discriminatory planning policies and demolitions. 

Coalition of Palestinian Orgs Launches Campaign for Revocation of U.S. Charitable Designation for Settlement Groups

A group of 150 Palestinian organizations, village councils, and activists have launched a campaign urging Americans to press the U.S. government to revoke the charitable designations of U.S.-based groups that finance Israeli settlement organizations. Since many of these organizations – including Elad, Israel Land Fund, and Ateret Cohanim – have fundraising arms based in New York, the campaign asks supporters to appeal to New York Attorney General Letitia James to revoke the licenses.

Sami Huraini, a Palestinian activist with Youth of Sumud, told WAFA:

“Israeli settler organizations have funneled US charitable money into a political campaign of displacement. Right now, over 100 homes and some 1,500 Palestinians in Silwan are facing displacement in favor of a theme park run on Palestinian lands by the settler organization Elad. Clearly, this is not the intended outcome of US charitable tax law.”

Hisham Sharabati of the Hebron Defense Committee told WAFA:

“Other campaigns seeking to challenge the flow of US charitable money have targeted the IRS and their complaints have been left unanswered by bureaucrats. This campaign is fundamentally different. Since US charities must maintain a 501(c)(3) status at the state level, the campaign targets one elected official who can be held accountable by her constituents – in this case, New York Attorney General Letitia James.”

 Lara Kilani, Advocacy Officer of the Good Shepherd Collective, told WAFA: 

“We can see the interest in joint struggle growing. The mobilization we saw in May to speak out against the eviction of families in Sheikh Jarrah and Israel’s bombing of Gazans illustrates that people want to be in solidarity with Palestinians. We’re offering a campaign that can advance liberation in real ways across movements. White supremacist groups like New Century Foundation exploit US charitable laws to finance violence against Black and Brown communities. If the New York Attorney General enforces the existing laws, it can help us cut the funding for these racist organizations.”

Senior Israeli Government Official Lives in Settlement Under Demolition Order

Newly published documents confirm that the Director-General of the Israeli Interior Ministry, Yair Hirsch, lives in an outpost (Kida) that is currently under demolition order because it was built without building permits. The documents were released thanks to a freedom of information request submitted by the anti-settlement watchdog Kerem Navot. The documents further show that the Israeli Civil Administration issued a stop-work order against Hirsch’s house in 2008.

Kerem Navot reports the story behind the Kida outpost and Yair Hirsch:

“Yair Hirsh lives in the illegal outpost of Kida, which was established in 2003 on a hill located about three kilometers east of the settlement of Shiloh. The outpost was founded on part of the historical lands of the village of Jalud, in an area where a team led by the attorney Plia Albeck implemented a large declaration of state land in 1991.

In 2000, about three years before the outpost was established, the Blue Line Team of the Civil Administration remapped Ableck’s declaration. The goal of the mapping was ostensibly to include as state land only the areas that had been “uncultivated” in the past, and to exclude from the declaration area lands that had been cultivated. But the inspection that we carried out revealed that this mapping was extremely negligently done (link to the aerial photos from 1980 and from 2020, in which the cultivated areas in the area can be seen, in the first comment).

Since 2000, the Blue Line Team has returned to map the state land that was declared for those outposts that the state wants to legalize, but for some reason, of all places, the outpost of the appointed Director General of the Ministry of the Interior was overlooked. The reason for this simple: if serious mapping were done in this place, it would become clear that most of the outposts’ houses were built on land that had been cultivated in the past, and therefore there is no way to legalize them.

This secret is well known in the Kida outpost. Therefore, its residents chose to up the ante, with the not-unreasonable assumption, unfortunately, that no one would dare to evict them. And so in recent years, what was once an outpost of modest caravans has become a neighborhood of luxurious villas, for which over each structure hangs a demolition order issued by the Civil Administration. This is how it is when one builds on looted land–a lot of money remains left over for building beautiful villas.

Yes, you got that right: the individual whom the Minister of the Interior selected to run the office that is responsible, among other things, for all of the local authorities in Israel and in the West Bank is someone who, along with all of his neighbors, built his home illegally on land that does not belong to him, and continues to live on it in spite of the demolition orders pending against him. Makes sense.”

Testimonies Show Israeli IDF Complicity in Settler Violence

Breaking the Silence has published a new collection of testimonies from former Israeli soldiers specifically highlighting how active duty soldiers are systematically complicit in settler violence. In 36 testimonies, you can read how the IDF teaches, positions, and incentivizes its soldiers to protect the settlers at all times and in all circumstances – even when the settlers are violent towards Palestinians and their property, and even when settlers are violent towards the Israeli army itself. 

In releasing the report, Break the Silence writes:

“The testimony collection is titled ‘On Duty,’ which conveys a double meaning: firstly, that the soldiers are “on duty” to protect the settlers and to advance their political ideology on the ground, constantly remaining at the settler’s beck and call. At the same time, the settlers are “on duty” to advance and entrench the occupation and shape the reality on the ground, much of the time through the use of violence, none of which would be possible without the soldiers’ presence, protection, and even active help. ‘On Duty’ conveys the idea that both forces are constantly there, working to advance each other’s interests, and immediately available to each other. Video footage of this phenomenon is frequently documented by B’Tselem and other human rights groups, including this settler attack on Palestinain homes in the Nablus area, in which IDF soldiers were present and did not stop the attack, and this violent settler raid on ‘Asirah al-Qibliyah, in which an IDF soldier killed 19-year-old  Husam ‘Asayrah. 

Beyond providing testimony to the occurrence of settler attacks on Palestinians and their lands, ‘On Duty’ offers an explanation of the system that allows them to happen, described from the point of view and in the words of the soldiers who took part in the enforcement of this system. Testifiers to Breaking the Silence describe settlers’ attempts to ingratiate themselves with soldiers through the  provision of gifts, food, and hospitality, and when soldiers act against the settlers’ desires, testimonies describe violent attacks by settlers against IDF soldiers. In addition, soldiers describe receiving instruction that their mission is to protect the Jewish settlers, but many are unaware of any clear orders as to how they are to enforce the law on violent settlers. These conditions make it near impossible for soldiers to carry out their task impartially when they are required to prevent or halt the violent attacks against Palestinians.

‘On Duty’ presents testimonies from soldiers who served in different units and across the West Bankwhich unequivocally show that the phenomenon of settler violence is an inevitable consequence of Israel’s occupation and policy of settling the West Bank. Were it not for the IDF’s continuous control over and presence in the occupied territories, this violence would not be a possibility.”

Bonus Reads

  1. “Bedouin Shepherds Used Palestinian Land With Permission. Israel Seized Their Tents Anyway” (Haaretz)
  2. “New Israeli government’s land seizure – where’s the EU?” (EU Observer // Sarit Michaeli)
  3. “Israel imposed tight restrictions on Palestinians in Hebron to secure settler raids” (MEMO)
  4. “Jenin becomes flashpoint for Israel-Palestinian confrontations” (Al-Monitor)
  5. “What Israeli soldiers don’t demolish by day, settlers burn by night” (+972 Magazine)
  6. Israel turns Silwan into closed military site” (Al-Monitor)
  7. “Palestinians Fear Eviction From Their Jerusalem Neighborhood To Make Way For A Park” (NPR)
  8. “Palestinian-Jordanian crisis erupts ahead of Abdullah-Biden meeting” (Jerusalem Post)
  9. “No one told this young soldier to protect Palestinians from settlers” (Ynet)

 

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

June 10, 2021

  1. Israeli AG Declines Involvement in Sheikh Jarrah Dispossession Cases, Clearing Way for Supreme Court Ruling
  2. Pending Silwan Dispossession Cases Continue
  3. Israeli Supreme Court Hears Landmark Case on West Bank Land Appropriation for Settlement
  4. Extremists “March of Flags” in Jerusalem Rescheduled for June 15th
  5. IDF Issues Evacuation Notice Against Outpost, Causing Political Stir
  6. Bonus Reads

Comments or questions? Email Kristin McCarthy – kmccarthy@fmep.org.


Israeli AG Declines Involvement in Sheikh Jarrah Dispossession Cases, Clearing Way for Supreme Court Ruling

On June 7th, Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit informed the Supreme Court that he will not submit a legal opinion on the cases threatening the immediate displacement of seven Palestinian families (13 households) from their longtime homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem. These cases will serve as further precedent for even more widespread dispossession of Palestinians in favor of settlers.

Map by Haaretz

Haaretz reports that Mandelblit believes the Palestninians’ have “too weak” of a case, and that his legal opinion would not prevent their eviction. Haaretz also reports that the political leadership in Israel approves of the Attorney General’s decision to allow the cases to proceed.

Peace Now responded to Mandelblit’s decision:

Israel’s Attorney General has decided  not to give his opinion in the Sheikh Jarrah cases. This means Israeli government is ridding itself of responsibility in matters of discriminatory laws and dispossessing hundreds of Palestinian.”

These Sheikh Jarrah eviction cases – which have been at the center of heightened international attention and outcry –  have been in limbo since last month, when the Attorney General was given until June 8th to submit his opinion. Now that Mandelblit has decided against weighing in, the Supreme Court is expected to convene a hearing and issue its ruling on the Palestinians’ appeal before July 20th, which is the last day of the Israeli judicial calendar — notwithstanding the fact that the Supreme Court could delay the hearing under various pretexts, if it was inclined to do so. Commenting on the anticipated quick move by the Supreme Court to hold this final hearing, Terrestrial Jerusalem’s Danny Seidemann tweeted “…The wheels of justice grind slowly, but sometimes we make exceptions. Enough said.” 

Ir Amim said:

“The eviction procedures in both Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan largely reflect one another and are predicated on the same discriminatory legal mechanism, which state-sponsored settler groups are exploiting to systemically dispossess Palestinian families and seize their homes for Jewish settlement. A total of 1000 Palestinians – some 300 individuals from Sheikh Jarrah and more than 700 people from Silwan— are under threat of mass displacement.  These measures not only constitute a flagrant violation of human rights, but also carry far-reaching, humanitarian, geopolitical, and moral implications. Concerted pressure must be exerted on the Israeli government to end these measures of dispossession and to undertake a sustainable and just solution for the families to remain in their homes.”

In a piece entitled “Israel Is Shirking Its Responsibility for Residents of Sheikh Jarrah,” the Haaretz Editorial Board wrote:

“The enlistment of the state employees, from the attorney general to the last of the policemen, for the benefit of the expulsion and settlement enterprise in Sheikh Jarrah is an embarrassment for Israel. It causes moral damage, harms public diplomacy and poses a security risk to all Israelis. Let us hope the new government will have broader considerations and will order the attorney general to intervene for the sake of common sense and justice.”

Ironically, as the clock ticks down to a final decision by the Court – a decision that will almost certainly mean the expulsion of these Palestinains from their homes — Israel seems to be making a special effort to keep the world’s attention focused on how it treats Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah. This effort included arresting (with brutality captured on video) a well-respected Al Jazeera journalist Givara Budeiri, and detaining and interrogating two of the most prominent Paelstinian activists in the world – Muna and Mohammed El-Kurd. The siblings – whose family is one of the seven facing immediate expulsion from their homes – were released following intense interrogation. These high-profile arrests are but a small part of a large wave of arrests Israel is carrying out across Jerusalem and other parts of the country. Budeiri was also released.

Pending Silwan Dispossession Cases Continue

On June 10th an Israeli court in Jerusalem was due to hold a hearing with respect to Palestinian appeals in two cases of pending dispossession of Palestinains of their homes in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem. The Court instead delayed the hearing on the appeals, rescheduling it to July 8.

In addition to the two cases above, the fate of another 15 Palestinians households in Silwan — all facing eviction/dispossession —  awaits the action of Attorney General Mandelblit. The case of eight of those families, all from the Batan al-Hawa section of Silwan, is currently before the Supreme Court, which has ordered Mandelblit to give his opinion in the cases, or formally decline to do so, by June 30. How those cases are decided will become the precedent that will decide the fate of another seven Palestinian households whose cases are currently in an Israeli District Court.

One Silwan resident, Zuheir al-Rajabi – whose family’s case was profiled in the New York Times – told Al-Monitor that the Silwan families are also considering taking their case to the International Criminal Court. As a reminder, the ICC is currently considering whether to launch a full fledged investigation into Israeli war crimes – an investigation which would include settlement activity. 

Israeli Supreme Court Hears Landmark Case on West Bank Land Appropriation for Settlement

Peace Now reports that on June 7th, the Israeli High Court of Justice held a hearing on a petition filed by Palestinian landowners challenging the allocation of “state land” to the Israeli Ministry of Housing in order to enable to the construction of a new settlement called Givat Eitam on a strategic hilltop – which Palestinians call a-Nahle – located just south of Bethlehem. 

Hagit Ofran of Peace Now – which is leading the petition alongside the Palestinian landowners – told FMEP that the hearing concluded with Court giving the State 90 days in which to respond to a proposal to allocate some the land directly involved in the case to the individual petitioners, or whether it will agree to allocate land nearby to the petitioners. This decision by the Court purposefully narrows the scope of Peace Now’s legal challenge by only addressing the case of the land in a-Nahle and the individual petitioners involved. The decision dodges the more fundamental question put forth in the petition challenging Israel’s discriminatory practice of allocating 99.8% of “state land” for settlement purposes. This is the first time the issue of state land allocations to settlements is being challenged in an Israel court.

Map by Peace Now

This petition comes after previous legal efforts have failed to overturn Israel’s declaration of the land of a-Nahle as “state land”. Past attempts to use litigation in Israeli courts to prevent Israel from building new settlements have typically not continued past this point. One reason for this is that in order to challenge how “state land” is allocated, the petitioner must, in effect, concede that the land in question is legitimately “state land” in the first place — something Palestinians do not concede with respect to land seized by Israel. That makes this petition, which is led by Peace Now along with over a dozen Palestinian landowners, novel.

As a reminder, the settlement at the heart of the case is called Givat Eitam by settlers, but it is called “E-2” by anti-settlement watchdogs, in light of its dire geopolitical implications for any future Palestinian state (similar to those of the E-1 settlement on Jerusalem’s eastern flank). The construction of Givat Eitam/E-2 would significantly expand the Efrat settlement in the direction of Bethlehem, effectively cutting Bethlehem off from the southern West Bank and completing the city’s encirclement by Israeli settlements. 

Extremists “March of Flags” in Jerusalem Rescheduled for June 15th

Delayed twice in light of Israel’s concerns of violence, the Israeli Security Cabinet voted to give its permission for radical, ultranationalist Israelis to hold a parade – called the March of Flags – on June 15th through the Old City of Jerusalem, ostensibly in celebration of the reunification of East and West Jerusalem following the 1967 War. Hedging, the Security Cabinet made its permission conditional on the route of the parade being approved by the Israeli police. 

Israeli police have expressed concern that the provocative parade – which organizers want to have go through Damascus Gate and the Muslim Quarter, in a deliberate finger-in-the-eye to Palestinians (the provocative overtones of the annual march are never subtle, with racist/Islamophic signs and chants the norm) – could trigger Hamas rocket fire, and have in the past refused to approve the parade route insisted upon by its organizers.

According to press reports, the police have said that it will consider approving a new proposal for a different, less provocative route. However, organizers of the march have rejected this option, stating, “the outline presented to us by the police does not express the purpose of the parade, by the Jewish people, with Israeli flags in the Israeli capital.” Making clear that provocation is the goal, MK Itamar Ben Gvir, a acolyte of Rabbi Meir Kahane – whom police had, for security reasons, explicitly barred from participating in any flag march at this time, or from visiting the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif – held his own protest at Damascus Gate, leading, as he surely hoped, to a confrontation between Palestinians and Israeli forces accompanying him (and to the arrest of five Palestinians).

Notably, the parade is currently planned for Tuesday, June 15th – a date that falls two days after a new government is expected to be confirmed and sworn in. Commenting on the timing, a Haaretz analyst noted:

“Instead of approving the march on its original date, Netanyahu made his first decision as opposition leader on Tuesday night: He rolled the hot potato into the hands of prime minister-designate Naftali Bennett. This move may become the first crisis of the fragile unity government: Bennett, who is right-wing, has made it clear that his government would have a ‘soft right’ character and would have a hard time explaining to his voters why he was working to thwart the march.”

IDF Issues Evacuation Notice Against Outpost, Causing Political Stir

Haaretz reports that a group of 200 settlers have re-established an outpost (which they call “Evyatar”) on a strategic hilltop called Mount Sabih, located south of Nablus on lands belonging to the Palestinian villages of Beita, Qabalan, and Yatma. On June 9, the Israeli army issued a military order designating the area as a closed zone, and ordered the settlers (and their security team of guard dogs) to vacate the area within eight days. The IDF said it would demolish/remove the more than 40 structures – including tents, a synagogue, prefab houses, and sanitation facilities – that settlers have installed at the site if the settlers do not remove them voluntarily. A spokesperson for the outpost – Daniella Weiss of the Nahala settler organization –  said that 46 settler families (approximately 200 people) have moved to the outpost already, and 75 settler families are “hoping to join them soon.” 

Palestinians from the nearby villages to which the land belongs have actively sought to prevent settler incursions into the lands surrounding Beita. During a recent protest against another outpost settlers were trying to establish on lands belonging to Beita, the Israeli army shot and killed two young Palestinians, and wounded 25 others.  On June 6th, the army closed off the main entrance to Beita in an attempt to quell Palestinian resistance; Beita remains sealed off as of June 10. As a reminder, 

With defiance and pride, a spokesperson for the outpost told Haaretz that the land on which the outpost stands is in the process of being declared “state land” by Israel. The Times of Israel reports that, indeed, the Israeli government regards the land’s status as unclear – and is examining whether it can claim the land as “state land” under the legal pretext that it has not been actively cultivated by Palestinians for a long enough period of time. As a reminder, Palestinians have been prevented from building and farming on this land for decades. In the 1980s, Israel used the hilltop as a “temporary” military base. When the base was removed in the 1990s, Palestinians were prohibited from building on the site – which is in Area C of the West Bank where Israel exercises unilateral power.

If the land is declared as “state land” it could then be allocated to the settlers and the outpost could be retroactively authorized, consistent with the longstanding efforts of the whole of the Israeli government – the Knesset, the Executive, and the Judiciary – which has spared no efforts to find the means by which to issue retroactive authorization to more than 70 outposts scattered throughout the West Bank.

The imminent evacuation of the “Evyatar” outpost has caused controversy in the waning hours of the Netanyahu regime, and might become one of the first points of contention for the incoming government coalition. After the IDF issued an order closing the area and declaring its intent to raze the outpost, Prime Minister Netanyahu wrote a letter to Defense Minister Gantz (who oversees the Civil Administration, which has authority over West Bank building and security) arguing that the outpost should be left alone while the land status is investigated. Gantz rebuffed the letter, writing back that the outpost was built in contravention of Israeli law and the IDF will raze the outpost regardless of the question of land status. The letter from Gantz’s office said: “It is those anomalous characteristics of this case that led to the decision to issue a demarcation order, which followed consultation with all relevant defense and legal authorities.”

Looking forward, Haaretz succinctly explains why the evacuation of this outpost might pose a predicament to the new Israeli government, due to be sworn in over the weekend. Haaretz writes:

“From a legal perspective, the site must be evacuated…But how will [Naftali Bennet] the former director general of the Yesha Council of settlements – who is the prime minister-designate – behave in the face of what remains of his political base?”

Bonus Reads

  1. “Fights over settlements holding up coalition deal signings” (Jerusalem Post)