Settlement & Annexation Report: May 31, 2024


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

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May 31, 2024

  1. Gallant Further Rolls Back 2005 Disengagement Law to Allow Reestablish of Three More Settlements in Northern West Bank
  2. Israel Court Finalizes the Dispossession of Shehadeh Family in Silwan
  3. Activists Petition for Demolition of Violent Jordan Valley Outpost Under Int’l Sanctions
  4. Two New Outposts Reported
  5. Extensive Updates on the Continued Politicization of Archaeology in Service of Settlements
  6. 21 New Roadblocks & 8 Newly Closed Gates Propel Settler Takeover in Bethlehem Area
  7. Bonus Reads

Gallant Further Rolls Back 2005 Disengagement Law to Allow Reestablish of Three More Settlements in Northern West Bank

On May 22nd, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant announced that he had ordered the IDF to lift the military order barring Israeli citizens from entering the areas where the Sa-Nur, Ganim, and Kadim settlements once stood in the northern West Bank. Gallant said:

“The Jewish hold on Judea and Samaria guarantees security, the application of the law to cancel disengagement will lead to the development of settlement and provide security to residents of the area,” 

The Times of Israel reports that the head of the IDF Central Command, Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox, signed lifted the military order as Gallant had ordered, but Fox also signed a new order making the three settlement sites closed military zones. Intimating the eventuality of the settlers’ return to the areas, a source in the Israeli military was quoted by Army Radio explaining that the IDF will need to plan and move additional forces to the area in order to provide security for the settlers. Peace Now further reports that over the past year, settlers have visited and held events in the evacuated settlement areas with coordination and security from the IDF.

As a reminder, the Israeli Knesset passed legislation repealing the 2005 Disengagement Law in order to clear the way for settlers to reestablish four settlements in the northern West Bank – Homesh, Sa-Nur, Kadim, and Ganim. The IDF then issued a military closure order against three of the settlements, allowing settlers to enter the Homesh area (where settlers had illegally built and continue to run a yeshiva). 

Peace Now said in a statement

“Instead of safeguarding Israel’s security and political interests, Gallant is catering to the extreme settler factions. The last thing Israel needs is more isolated and unnecessary settlements that will be a security burden and move us further away from a necessary and urgent political solution. Our political leadership must change direction, work to end the war and pursue a comprehensive regional agreement based on two states. Only this way will we bring security, return the hostages, and prevent international isolation. This is the real victory.”

Israel Court Finalizes the Dispossession of Shehadeh Family in Silwan

On May 26th, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected a last ditch appeal by the Shehadeh family against their eviction from their home in Silwan at the behest of the Ateret Cohanim settler organization. In dismissing the procedural appeal (which alleged that the presiding judge mishandled the case, seeking a retrial), the Court once again affirmed its April 2024 ruling that ordered the 15-member family to leave their home by June 1, 2024 – or face eviction by Israeli authorities. 

The Shehadeh family has spent years fighting against their eviction from their home of 60 years in the Batan Al-Hawa section of Silwan at the behest of the Ateret Cohanim settler organization. The settler group’s claim to the home is based on having gained control of the historic Benvenisti Trust, which oversaw the assets of Yemenite Jews who lived in Silwan in the 19th century. In 2001 the Israeli Charitable Trust Registrar granted Ateret Cohanim permission to revive the trust and become its trustees, (following 63 years of dormancy). In 2002, the Israeli Custodian General transferred ownership of the land in Batan al-Hawa to the Trust (i.e., to Ateret Cohanim). Since then, Ateret Cohanim has accelerated its multi-pronged campaign to remove Palestinians from their homes, claiming that the Palestinians are illegal squatters. To date, 14 Palestinian families have been evicted under legal campaigns waged by Ateret Cohanim, with many more under threat.

Underscoring how the Israeli legal system is fundamentally unequal, Ir Amim writes:

“The Shehadeh family is among some 85 Palestinian families, numbering over 700 individuals, who face largescale displacement from Batan al-Hawa as a result of eviction demands filed by the Ateret Cohanim settler group, via the Benvenisti Trust…The eviction lawsuits are filed on the basis of the 1970 Legal and Administrative Matters law. Article 5 of this law exclusively affords Jews with land restitution rights for assets they allegedly owned in East Jerusalem before 1948 despite many of these properties now inhabited by Palestinians. This provision was established despite the fact that some Jews who lost properties in East Jerusalem in 1948 reportedly received compensation at the time by the state in the form of alterative property in West Jerusalem (formerly belonging to Palestinian refugees). No parallel legal mechanism exists for Palestinians to recover pre-1948 assets on the Israeli side of the Green Line, many of which are now inhabited by Jews. To the contrary, the 1950 Absentee Property Law enshrines that Palestinians who were forced to abandon their homes and lands in what became Israel after the war of 1948 can never retrieve them.”

The Supreme Court ruling ignores ongoing litigation initiated in 2020 by Ir Amim that challenges the legitimacy and legality of Ateret Cohanim’s control of the Benvenisti Trust. In response to the filing, the Israeli Registrar of Trusts (department within the Justice Ministry) announced that it will open an investigation into the allegations. Ir Amim is still awaiting news on the investigation.

Activists Petition for Demolition of Violent Jordan Valley Outpost Under Int’l Sanctions

Peace Now and activists in the Jordan Valley filed a petition with the Israeli High Court of Justice seeking the enforcement of existing demolition orders against the illegal outpost called “Moshe’s Farm.” The outpost is is illegal under Israeli law and has recently been subjected to international sanctions by states targeting settlers and associated organizations that perpetrate violence in the West Bank. The founder of the outpost, Moshe Sharvit, was also sanctioned.

The Israeli Civil Administration issued demolition orders against Moshe’s Farm in 2021 because it has been build without Israeli building permits. The demolition orders have never been enforced, allowing the outpost to take over more land, terrorize surrounding Palestinian communities, and expand the number of buildings and amenities – including a water and electricity supply for air conditioning, a pool, and enough infrastructure to support up to 100 people. The outpost also herds livestock in the area – which has proven to be and effective means for settlers to coerce the displacement of Palestinians and assert control a maximal amount of land with a minimal number of Israeli settlers.

Highlighting the impact the outpost has had on the area, Peace Now writes:

“Since the farm was established, the lives of the surrounding Palestinian shepherd communities have become unbearable, to the point that some have been forced to flee their homes. Moshe Sharvit and other young people from the farm go out daily to drive away Palestinian herds and prevent them from reaching grazing areas. The Jordan Valley Activists group, a group of Israeli volunteers who invest their time and energy in trying to assist and protect the Palestinian shepherd communities in the Jordan Valley, began accompanying the shepherd communities near Sharvit’s farm immediately after the farm was established. They go to the grazing areas with the Palestinian shepherds, document the harassment and attacks, try to prevent harm to the Palestinians and reach out to the police. The Jordan Valley activists have accumulated testimonies and videos of dozens, if not hundreds, of incidents of harassment and violence by the farm residents, for which dozens of complaints have been filed with the police.”

Two New Outposts Reported

Peace Now reports that settlers have illegally constructed a new outpost in the South Hebron Hills, near the Otniel settlement. From pictures, it looks like settlers have driven in at least six mobile homes onto a cleared plot of land. This outpost is the 200th illegal outpost that Peace Now has documented.

In addition, Wafa News also reported a new outpost north of Jericho in the Jordan Valley. According a local activist Ayman Gharib, “Around 15 illegal settlers brought building equipment and set up a new settlement outpost about 300 meters from Al-Auja water canal.” Gharib further reports that this is the second new outpost in the area in the same number of weeks and that the canal is a significant source of water for communities north of Jericho.

Extensive Updates on the Continued Politicization of Archaeology in Service of Settlements

Emek Shaveh provides extensive updates showing how antiquity continues to be weaponized by Isareli settlers in full cooperation with the government, including the following news:

  • New Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Heritage. On Sunday May 5th the Israeli government approved the appointment of a new CEO for the Ministry of Heritage, Itay Granik, who is a right-wing political activist
  • Head of IAA is strengthening relationships with ultra nationalists. The Director General of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) Eli Escusido gave a lecture at Ben Gvir’s Jewish Power party faction meeting in the Knesset. Emek Shaveh writes: “The fact that the IAA is deepening its partnership with political actors and ideological-messianic organizations represents a further shift away from the authority’s obligation to professionalism and public service.  The choice to harness archaeology to the agenda of the extreme Right in Israel and their evangelical counterparts is a highly worrying departure from its professional and ethical foundations. Pursuing this path  will no doubt result in the  growing isolation of the entire Israeli archaeological community.”
  • Tender for Jerusalem Cable Car possibly coming up. Emek Shaveh says, The progress made by the JDA in recruiting multiple consultants lead us to believe that a tender for construction of the cable car will likely be published in the near future.”
  • Hapoalim Bank Subsidizes Visits to Settler Sites in the West Bank: Bank Hapoalim and the Jewish National Fund (JNF) sponsored, advertised and subsidized tours/events for Israelis in settlement sites in the Greater Jerusalem area, including at a site operated by the Elad settler organization in the Hinnom Valley, in Nabi Samuel, and in collaboration with a settler organization called “Eshkolot“, which runs tourist centers for Israelis in the West Bank.

21 New Roadblocks & 8 Newly Closed Gates Propel Settler Takeover in Bethlehem Area

In a new report entitled, “An Israeli roadblock: How Israel Took Control Over the West Bethlehem area,” Kerem Navot takes a detailed look at how – in the wake of October 7, 2023 –  Israeli settlers and the IDF have significantly entrenched and expanded their control over the areas to the south and east of Bethlehem through the restriction of freedom of movement and denial of access to agricultural land. Kerem Navot emphasizes that “the reality described [in this report] is the outcome of decades of planning and efforts aimed at taking control of lands and displacing their owners. These efforts have been greatly intensified since October 7.”

The report’s main findings are that, since October 7th:

  • 21 roadblocks and barriers have been added on agricultural roads. Today, there are a total of 60 roadblocks and barriers. This means that over a third of the roadblocks and barriers in the area were installed in the seven months following the onset of the war. The new roadblocks and barriers in this area serve two interconnected purposes: 1) Preventing Palestinians from exiting their villages onto the bypass roads. 2) Blocking agricultural roads leading to agricultural lands, primarily situated west of Route 60.
  • A roadblock on the Nahalin-Bethlehem road was relocated from its original location to a new location, in order to facilitate the settlers of Neve Daniel in taking control of an area west of the settlement.
  • One metal gate was relocated and completely closed to the east of the illegal outpost of Sde Boaz, enabling the settlers to extend their control over additional areas surrounding the outpost.
  • Three gates (two on the access roads to Husan village and one south of Nahalin village) that were open prior to the 7th of October have been completely closed ever since.
  • Four gates that Palestinian farmers previously used to access their lands adjacent to the settlement of Efrat, have been completely sealed off to Palestinians. As a result, these lands remained uncultivated ever since.

The report was covered by Haaretz, in which Amira Hass wrote:

“The de facto expulsion of Palestinian farmers and shepherds is one of the means through which the army and the settlers have been preventing Palestinians across the West Bank from cultivating fields and vineyards, or from tending their flocks, more intensively so since October 7. Here, west of Bethlehem, in an area dotted with settlements and outposts in what is known as “Gush Etzion,” the expulsion of Palestinians from their lands is also achieved through an extensive network of locked iron gates, as well as 24 rock and earth barriers across agricultural roads. This is in addition to barriers across exits to main roads, meant to reduce the traffic of Palestinian vehicles….Theoretically, every roadblock requires some kind of land expropriation order. Etkes is unaware of any such order, and in truth, there are no supporting orders for the old roadblocks either. For a long time, it’s been hard to distinguish between local initiatives by settlers (military or civilian) to block access to Palestinians and temporary orders of the army. The boundaries are completely blurred”

Bonus Reads

  1. “PRESS RELEASE sued for laundering profits from Israeli war crimes in Palestine” (Al-Haq, SOMO, ELSC, TRF)
  2. “Al-Aqsa ‘belongs only to Israel’, says Ben Gvir during ‘incendiary’ visit” (Middle East Eye)
  3. “Israel’s FM Cuts Ties Between Spanish Embassy and West Bank Palestinians After Recognition of Palestinian State” (Haaretz)
  4. “​​Opinion | The Polite Israeli Settlers, Courteously Dispossessing Palestinians” (Amira Hass, Haaretz)
  5. “Backing settlement, Ben Gvir says he’d be ‘very happy to live in Gaza’ after the war” (The Times of Israel)