Settlement & Annexation Report: February 9, 2024


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

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February 9, 2024

  1. State Begins Land Registration in the Armenian Quarter, Where Settlers Look to Win
  2. Tender Issued for Efrat Settlement
  3. Terrestrial Jerusalem Updates Settlement Tracking Tool
  4. Peace Now: Final Report on 2023 Settlement Activity
  5. U.S. Now Requires Countries to Certify Compliance with International Law as Condition for Military Aid
  6. Israeli Banks Respond to U.S. Sanctions on Four Settlers
  7. Bonus Reads

State Begins Land Registration in the Armenian Quarter, Where Settlers Look to Win

Ir Amim reports that the government of Israel has recently initiated land registration in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, where the state appears to be backing efforts by settlers to take control over a significant portion of land. Elsewhere in Jerusalem, it has become painfully obvious that the State has weaponized the land registration (also called settlement of land title) process to transfer ownership of strategic land wanted for settlement construction into the hands of settlers, thereby fueling the dispossession of Palestinians who have not had access to land registration 

The specific tract of land undergoing land title registration proceedings is located in the heart of the Armenian Quarter, and is involved in a disputed land transaction between the Armenian Patriarchate and an Israeli real estate developer believed to be aligned with the Ateret Cohanim settler organization. For a detailed history of events, see Ir Amim’s reporting here.

Terrestrial Jerusalem has previously warned that these events are not a mere land dispute, and:

“are of such consequences as to jeopardize the viability of the Armenian community and the very character of Jerusalem…This purported sale of rights [by the Armenian Patriarchate to the Israeli real estate company] was done without legal authorization, and with the community intentionally uninformed as to what was happening.”

Ir Amim warns:

Such a move threatens to solidify the company’s attempted seizure of the land and challenge the community’s right of standing to contest the deal. This should be seen within the larger context of state and settler efforts to Israelize the Old City and erode its historically multicultural and multireligious character, including the Christian presence in Jerusalem. Recent threats against the Christian population have been marked by attempted settler takeovers of properties, plans to expand a National Park onto church lands on the Mt. of Olives, and acts of desecration of Christian sites and cemeteries among other incidents of harassment.”

In a June 2023 report, entitled “The Grand Theft,” Ir Amim and Bimkom explain the history of land registration in East Jerusalem, unpacking how the entire legal land ownership situation Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem find themselves in today is an Israeli-imposed “Catch-22”, resulting directly from Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967. The report explains:

“Although the lack of settlement of land title procedures has had detrimental consequences for Palestinian communities in East Jerusalem, its renewal carries far worse repercussions. After five years of monitoring the implementation of SOLT [settlement of land title]  in East Jerusalem, its alarming nature has become clear. SOLT is being exploited as a new and potent tool of land theft, under the guise of a legitimate legal process to establish Palestinian property rights. It appears to have become the State of Israel’s main method to appropriate more land in East Jerusalem and advance the displacement and dispossession of Palestinians from areas of strategic interest to the State. SOLT is almost exclusively being initiated to finalize ownership rights in existing or planned Israeli settlements, settler enclaves in the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods, areas with state-deemed ‘Absentee Property,’ or property allegedly owned by Jews pre-1948.”

In September 2022, FMEP hosted a podcast with Ir Amim’s Amy Cohen on land registration, which you can listen to (or watch) here.

Tender Issued for Efrat Settlement

Peace Now reports that on February 4th, the Israeli Ministry of Houseing published a tender for the construction of 62 settlement units in the Efrat settlement. The Efrat settlement is 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 said in a statement:

“Advancing construction deep in Palestinian territory, adjacent to Palestinian population, undermines the chances for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel and deepens the conflict. The current tender is a clear statement by the Israeli government that settlement construction continues unabated, and any political resolution is far from the goals of this government.”

Terrestrial Jerusalem Updates Settlement Tracking Tool

On February 6th, Terrestrial Jerusalem published an updated version of its detailed table tracking settlement plans in East Jerusalem. In the introduction to the table, Terrestrial Jerusalem writes:

“In recent months, the pace with which settlement schemes have been advancing through the statutory processes that advance them towards final approval and implementation has been frenetic. That pace has been so intense that even those who follow these developments have found it difficult to keep abreast of them. On occasion, significant development goes unnoticed. This in turn makes it more difficult to detect the underlying trends, to prioritize the plans that are most consequential and to identify means of engaging on them. 

This report – a table of all of the significant settlement schemes in East Jerusalem that are being currently expedited – aspires to address these challenges. For those who monitor settlement activity with high granularity, it will draw attention to the relevant developments as they occur, accessing the relevant documentation and maps through links in the document. For those who track the settlement issues in East Jerusalem from a wider perspective, the table will serve as a reference, when needed, and allow for an overview of the more general trends that have emerged. 

This is not a comprehensive list. We have selected only those town plans that we deem to be consequential in the context of the conflict that grips East Jerusalem. For example, numerous plans for adding stories to buildings in existing settlement neighborhoods are no less illegal than new settlements, but citing these in the current context would merely be a distraction. On the other hand, we do include statutory plans that are settlement-related, but not plans for new settlement units: plans for expanding roads, plans entailing large-scale demolitions of Palestinian homes and national parks are also included, provided that they directly serve the settlement enterprise .”

Peace Now: Final Report on 2023 Settlement Activity

Peace Now has issued a report reviewing the major settlement advancements of 2023, calling it the best year for the settlement enterprise since the Oslo Accords. The report’s key finding are:

  1. Establishment of new outposts and displacement of Palestinian communities – A record number of 26 new outposts were established during 2023, while 21 Palestinian communities were forcibly displaced from their homes. 
  2.  Advancement of construction plans – A record number of 12,349 housing units were promoted in settlements in the West Bank (East Jerusalem excluded). 
  3. The legalization of 15 illegal outposts was advanced. 
  4. Structural and administrative changes towards annexation of the Occupied Territories. 
  5. Development and promotion of roads – Allocation of approximately 3 billion Shekels for roads in settlements, constituting around 20% of the total Israeli road investment.

U.S. Now Requires Countries to Certify Compliance with International Law as Condition for Military Aid

On February 8th, U.S. President Biden issued a new national security memorandum that requires all recipients (with no exception) of U.S. military assistance to submit a written certifications that they are complying with humanitarian and international law, and will cooperate with U.S. humanitarian aid efforts. Specifically for countries which are presently engaged in hostilities, the memo gives a 45-day deadline for those countries to provide these assurances to the U.S., or face the possibility of a suspension in aid. Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. military assistance. 

The memo further requires that the White House provide periodic briefings and reports to Congress including “an assessment of any credible reports or allegations that such defense articles and, as appropriate, defense services, have been used in a manner not consistent with international law.” It also requires Congress to receive a formal notification when the measure is waived.

Israeli Banks Respond to U.S. Sanctions on Four Settlers

One week after the U.S. announced sanctions against four Israeli settlers accused of participating in violence in the West Bank, two Israeli banks have followed suit by closing the accounts for each of the designated individuals (reminder, these individuals are sanctioned by the U.S. but are not in Israeli jail or under criminal proceedings in Israel, the U.S. sanctions were announced in large part because the U.S. did not believe Israel was doing enough to prosecute criminal settlers and discourage violence in the West Bank). 

In response to outcry against the Israeli banks which close the accounts, the Bank of Israel defended the banks, explaining:

“Banking corporations by virtue of their international activity must establish policies and procedures for the use of international sanctions lists and foreign countries’ national sanctions lists, and for engaging or carrying out actions with entities declared on such lists. Overriding such sanctions regimes can expose banking corporations to significant risks, including compliance risks, money laundering risks and terrorism financing, legal risks and reputation risks. Maintaining the proper management and regular activity of Israel’s banking corporations is necessary for maintaining the regular activity of the economy as a whole, maintaining a proper relationship with the global economy, and finally for the proper functioning of the Israeli economy.”

The U.S. investigative research and advocacy group DAWN issued a call for the U.S. Treasury Department to investigate and possibly sanction several other monetary bodies, including Israeli Bank Leumi, which DAWN discovered to be continuing to service U.S. sanctioned individuals.  Notably, the Israeli bank Hapoalim continues to process payments for a crowd-funding campaign explicitly in support of a sanctioned individual and his family. Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man, director of research for Israel-Palestine at DAWN said in a statement: 

“If the administration is serious about sanctioning violent Israeli settlers, it should ensure that it creates consequences for the Israeli banks and charities openly defying the sanctions rules. Sanctions against individuals without enforcement against the institutions helping them evade those sanctions only formalizes Israeli impunity.”

Finally, +972 Magazine published an in-depth look at each of the four sanctioned individuals – — David Chai Chasdai, Shalom Zicherman, Einan Tanjil, and Yinon Levi — revealing the failure of Israeli law enforcement against settlers and the far-reaching ramifications of the violence in which these individuals participate.

Bonus Reads

  1. “Silwan faces escalating home demolitions in fight against messianic settlers” (Mondoweiss)
  2. “Biden Executive Order on West Bank violence more likely to be used against Palestinians than Israeli settlers” (Mondoweiss)
  3. First Settlers, Now Cyber: U.S. Threatens to Cancel Entry Visas for Spyware Makers”  (Haaretz)
  4. “Biden’s Wake-up Call: Reminding Israelis That the West Bank Stands Apart From Israel” (Carolina Landsmann for Haaretz)