Settlement & Annexation Report: August 17, 2023


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

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August 17, 2023

  1. New Petition Filed Against Israel Moves to “Legalize” the Homesh Outpost
  2. Israel Massively Expanding Size of Outposts As Part of “Legalization” Process
  3. Israel to Allocate $180million to Settlements & Outposts
  4. Smotrich Orders Outpost Evacuation
  5. Emboldened Settlers Attack Village of Burqa, Murder Palestinian Teen
  6. Bonus Reads

New Petition Filed Against Israel Moves to “Legalize” the Homesh Outpost

Palestinian landowners have filed a new petition with the Israeli High Court of Justice against the legalization of the Homesh outpost on a small sliver of state land surrounded by privately owned Palestinian land. The petition, which was filed in cooperation with the Israeli NGO Yesh Din, comes two weeks after another petition seeking the removal of the outpost was dismissed by the Israeli court. The State has been ordered to submit an initial response by mid-September.

The new challenge asks the Court to reverse the State’s recent transfer of the small amount of state land to the settler regional council for the establishment of the settlement. Instead, the petitioners call for the State to allocate the land for the benefit of Palestinians from the nearby village of Burqa. The request cites the severe discrimination against Palestinians in how the State allocates West Bank land. The petition further argues that, if the Homesh outpost were legalized as an official settlement, it would perpetuate the violation of Palestinians’ property rights and freedom of movement given that the land is surrounded by privately owned Palestinian land. Undoubtedly, Palestinians would be prevented from accessing that land should the settlement remain.

Yesh Din said in a statement:

“The allocation of land to the Samaria Regional Council for the sake of establishing a new settlement deepens the continuation of systemic and blatant discrimination in the allocation of public lands in the West Bank. Less than one percent (! ) From the public lands were allocated for the benefit of the Palestinian public, while 99% were allocated to the settlements factory.

In this case, the purpose of the allocation is to promote political interest of a political level that cannot be part of the considerations of the military commander both according to international law and according to the High Court ruling. And in the specific context, the decision to allocate the land specifically to the Samaria Regional Council – in light of its many years involvement in breaking the law in the region – is unreasonable and in terms of awarding a prize specifically to the factors behind the violation. It even contradicts the authority and the main duty of the military commander to preserve and promote public order.”

As a reminder – Homesh was built on lands historically belonging to the Palestinian village of Burqa. The land was never returned to its Palestinian owners even after the settlement was dismantled in 2005. The legalization of the Homesh yeshiva – which was built illegally by settlers in the area where the Homesh settlement once stood – was explicitly agreed to in the coalition deals which formed the current Israeli government.  On May 18, 2023 the IDF Commander signed a military order that finalized the Knesset’s recent repeal of key sections of the 2005 Disengagement Law, allowing Israelis to legally enter the area in the northern West Bank where the Homesh settlement stood before it was dismantled. In parallel, the Israeli Defense Minister announced that the government plans to relocate the Homesh outpost from its current location on land that Israeli courts have recognized as private Palestinian property, to a small plot of nearby “state land.” Settlers quickly rebuilt the yeshiva on the “state land” and the new outpost was soon connected to the State water grid.

Israel Massively Expanding Size of Outposts As Part of “Legalization” Process

As part of the process of granting retroactive legalization to the outposts of Asa’el and Avigail (both located in the South Hebron Hills), the IDF recently published new maps of the proposed jurisdiction of the new settlements, showing that the government is planning to massively expand the new settlements’ boundaries. The Israel government approved the outposts for retroactive legalization, along with eight others, in February 2023. Now that the maps have been published, the public has 21 days to submit objections to the plans.

The Israeli non-profit Kerem Navot reports that the proposed new boundary of the Asa’el settlement is eighteen times larger than the outpost. The boundary of the Avigail settlement is nearly three times the size of the outpost. The Avigail outpost is located in Firing Zone 918 in the South Hebron Hills. This is the same firing zone that is home to the Palestinian communities of Masafer Yatta — whose existence pre-dates Israel’s declaration of the area as a firing zone. Those communities are today in the process of being ethnically cleansed by Israel.

Both Avigail and Asael have, illegally, built access roads on privately owned Palestinian land. Legalization of the outposts will undoubtedly also include the theft of the Palestinian-owned land these roads were illegally built on.

Israel to Allocate $180million to Settlements & Outposts

According to news reports, the Israeli government will soon vote to allocate an additional $180million (NIS 670 million) in the 2023-2024 state budget to settlements, including over $7 million (NIS 27.6 million) specifically for improving infrastructure in unauthorized outposts. The effort is being led by Finance Minister and minister in the Defense Ministry Bezalel Smotrich aligned with Settlements Minister Orit Strock. Ynet reports that the new funding calls for the conversion of five IDF bases in the West Bank to be converted into new settlements or industrial zones.

Peace Now reports further details of the budget:

  • $25 million (NIS 95 million) allocated directly to the World Zionist Organization’s Settlement Division. As a reminder, the Settlement Division is a body within the WZO established in 1971 and fully funded by the Israeli government. Its mission was, and remains, to provide a channel by which the government can establish settlements – legally and illegally – in the occupied territories, while avoiding the pesky rules, regulations, and transparency requirements to which government entities are bound. The Israel government assigned management responsibilities to the WZO for over 60% of the land in the West Bank which the government declared to be “state land” (90,000 acres/400,000 dumans). The WZO has given that land to settlers to build settlements and secretly funnel government money to illegal outposts.
  • $13 million (NIS 50 million) for encouraging Israeli Jewish citizens to move to settlements
  • $3.6 million (NIS 13.7 million) for developing West Bank archaeological tourism sites, which comes in addition to the May 2023 invest of $9 million into these sites.
  • $11.9 million (NIS 45 million) for the establishment of a new hospital.
  • $15 million (NIS 57 million) for encouraging Israelis and others to move to the settlements.

The budget for these investments is being taken from the budgets of domestic programs.

Peace Now said in a statement:

“The Government of Israel is exerting all its power and the budget at its disposal to support one specific sector at the expense of the entire public. The allocation of 700 million NIS by the current government decision is evidence of the public officials’ shamelessness in prioritizing the interests of a small group living in occupied territory over the broader Israeli society. Instead of investing in Israel’s future, the Israeli government is pouring money into settlements, perpetuating the occupation, and fueling the conflict and confrontation with the Palestinians.”

Smotrich Orders Outpost Evacuation

On August 14th, on the orders of Bezalel Smotrich the IDF dismantled five buildings in an illegal outpost called “Aira Shahar“, from lands located east of Ramallah. The outpost remains on the land, with at least 15 structures allowed to remain. In explaining the demolition of the five buildings, Smotrich stressed that he attempted to negotiate the relocation of the buildings from lands recognized as privately owned Palestinian land to nearby state land. But settlers did not agree, and even attempted to stop the security forces from demolitioning the buildings by burning tires and scattering spikes on the access road.

Smotrich took heavy criticism from members of his own parties and the settlers who he serves. In his defense, Smotrich said:

“We are talking about several new buildings that were erected on regulated and private lands that belong to Arabs. We really want to settle anywhere in the Land of Israel, but there are laws and restrictions. We are doing things that have not been done for many years.”

Bonus Reads

  1. “Samaria farms open to public touring for the first time” (Arutz Sheva)
  2. “6 Things to Remember When Covering Israeli Settler Violence“ (IMEU)
  3. “West Bank: Entire Palestinian communities disappeared due to Israeli settler violence” (Norwegian Refugee Council)
  4. “Settlements Are the Engine of Israel’s ‘Forever Occupation’—and a War Crime” (Michael Lynk for DAWN)
  5. “The settlers wanted supreme power. They got a rebellion instead” (Meron Rapoport for +972 Magazine)
  6. Palestinian Family Evicted From East Jerusalem Home Ordered to Pay for Own Eviction” (Haaretz)
  7. “‘Israel wanted a silent, perfect victim. We refused’” (+972 Magazine)
  8. “Ex-Israeli General Says Army Partner in West Bank War Crimes, Invokes Nazi Germany” (Haaretz)
  9. Israeli Court Orders Release of Settler Suspected of Killing Palestinian in West Bank” (Haaretz)
  10. “Israel Prevents Palestinians From Defending Themselves as It Empowers the Settlers” (Amira Hass for Haaretz)
  11. “Radical Settlers Now Control the Israeli Government. This One Became a Left-wing Activist” (Haaretz)