Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
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December 8, 2023
- Israel Approves First New East Jerusalem Settlement Since 2012 – the “Lower Aqueduct plan”
- “Kahanist” March Calls for Israeli Control Over Western Wall, Clash With Israeli Police
- In Armenian Quarter, Settler Group Believed to Be Behind Disputed Land Deal
- U.S. & Belgium Imposes Visa Ban on Dozens of Settlers, Criticizes Israel’s Lack of Action
- Miftah Reports on “State Sponsored Settler Terrorism”
- A Roundup of Settler Violence
- Bonus Reads
On December 4, 2023 the Jerusalem District Planning Committee approved a plan to build a new settlement – called the “Lower Aqueduct” plan – on a sliver of land located between the controversial settlements of Givat Hamatos and Har Homa in East Jerusalem. The settlement will be adjacent to the Palestinian neighborhood of Umm Tuba and fall on both sides of the 1967 Green Line. Its location is intended to connect the two and in so doing, it will establish a huge, uninterrupted continuum of Israeli settlements on the southern rim of Jerusalem, and will destroy Palestinian contiguity between the West Bank and East Jerusalem. [map]
The final approved plan provides for the construction of 1,792 settlement units. According to Ir Amim, this is the first major new East Jerusalem settlement established by Israel since 2012.
Ir Amim says:
“This plan carries serious ramifications on the political future of Jerusalem. If constructed, it will extend the Israeli settlement wedge along East Jerusalem’s southern border, further creating a sealing-off effect of East Jerusalem from the southern West Bank, while fracturing the Palestinian space and depleting more vacant land for Palestinian development….Beyond its geopolitical ramifications, the advancement of this plan underscores the systematic discrimination implicit in Israeli planning and building policy in Jerusalem. Since the beginning of 2023, over 18,500 housing units have been advanced for new or existing Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, while residential development for Palestinians has been all but neglected. This is despite the fact that Palestinians constitute nearly 40% of Jerusalem’s population. 2023 is slated to join 2022 as being the two years with the highest number of settlement units advanced in the last decade in East Jerusalem. Such inequitable urban planning policy has long served as a driver of Palestinian displacement in service of solidifying a Jewish demographic majority in Jerusalem and further cementing Israeli territorial control to foil prospects for a just political resolution.”
Peace Now said in a statement:
“The Israeli government continues to undermine any viable two-state solution. While the IDF is engaged in the Gaza Strip, and hundreds of Israelis living in border areas in the north and south are uncertain about when they can return to their homes, the government is advancing construction beyond the Green Line, further jeopardizing the security of all Israeli residents seeking a hopeful future with secure borders.”
On the first night of Hanukkah, approximately 150 far right wing Israelis gathered for a planned march through the Old City of Jerusalem calling for Israeli control over the Temple Mount. Israeli police – which had previously approved the march (likely with the knowledge and approval of Netanyahu) and its route – ultimately stopped the march from leaving its convening point, resulting in clashes and at least one arrest.
The point of the march was to call on Israel to “restore full Jewish control over the Temple Mount and Jerusalem,” an inflammatory message that threatens to further undermine the very delicate status quo. Indeed, the march’s organizers dubbed the march the “Maccabi March,” referencing an important Jewish revolt that ended in the rededication of the Temple. An the night of the march, attendees were shouting racist slogans and raising racist signs.
Israeli Opposition Leader Yair Lapid said in a tweet that the march is:
“A blatant Kahanist attempt to set other [war] fronts on fire and to bring about more destruction and death.”
Daniel Seidemann, founder of Terrestrial Jerusalem, said:
“If there is any provocation more dangerous, more incendiary and more likely to trigger an eruption of violence in East Jerusalem and/or the West Bank and/or the Lebanese border, I can’t think of one.”
Ir Amim reports that senior executives of the Ateret Cohanim settler groups have recently been seen meeting with representatives of the real estate company behind the controversial purchase of a significant amount of land in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. The reports appear to confirm suspicion that Xana Gardens is actively collaborating with settlers in, according to Ir Amim, “attempts to Israelize the Old City and erode its historically multicultural and multireligious character.”
On December 5th, the U.S. Department of State announced that it has placed visa restrictions on dozens of settlers believed to be complicit in violent attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank. The U.S. also imposed visa bans on several dozen Palestinians believed to have perpetrated violence against Israelis.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in announcing the new policy:
“Last week in Israel, I made clear that the United States is ready to take action using our own authorities. Today, the State Department is implementing a new visa restriction policy targeting individuals believed to have been involved in undermining peace, security, or stability in the West Bank, including through committing acts of violence or taking other actions that unduly restrict civilians’ access to essential services and basic necessities. Immediate family members of such persons also may be subject to these restrictions.”
The list of individuals affected by this effort is not expected to be made public, but individuals will be notified if their visas are being revoked. Settlers who are U.S. citizens will not be affected. Axios reports that the last time the U.S. imposed such restrictions was under the Clinton administration.
It is unclear what process the U.S. government is undertaking to identify acts of violence and the individuals involved in them. On December 6th, OCHA reported that since October 7th settlers have launched 318 attacks against Palestinians, resulting in:
- 8 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli settlers;
- 84 Palestinians have been injured by settlers;
- 241 incidents resulting in damage to Palestinian-owned property;
- 1,014 people, including 388 children, have been displaced amid settler violence and access restrictions. The displaced households are from 15 herding/Bedouin communities.
Israel, for its part, is currently holding four settlers and two Israeli (non-settlers) in administrative detention who are believed to have perpetrated violence against Palestinians since October 7th. In announcing the visa bans, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the U.S. continues to push the Israeli government to “do more to hold accountable extremist settlers who have committed violent attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank.”
Soon after the U.S.’s announcement, Belgium announced a similar policy banning settlers suspected of engaging in violence from entering the country. Belgium Prime Minister said in a tweet that he will work with the U.S. in implementing this policy.
Last week, the spokesperson for the French Foreign Ministry publicly stated that the European Union should also consider sanctions on violent settlers. The comments were in support of U.S. President Biden’s op-ed in which he had threatened to impose visa bans, a week before the policy was implemented.
The Palestinian NGO Miftah has published a short new report on settler violence, saying “settler violence and terror is a systematic state policy pursued by every Israeli government past and present, and the whole government apparatus is complicit and responsible for such terrorism.”
The report calls on the international community to “muster the courage and political will to hold Israel accountable with effective measures.” Specifically, it calls on the International Criminal Court to investigate war crimes in Palestine, label settlement products, impose a complete ban on trade with settlements, blacklist settler groups on terrorists lists, freeze assets of individuals and companies involved in the settlement enterprise, and more.
You can read the full report here.
The following are a few examples of settler violence that have been picked up by major media outlets over the past two weeks:
- “Left-wing Israeli Activists Attacked While Protecting Settler-targeted West Bank Village” (Haaretz – Dec. 4th)
- “Homes and EU-funded school in West Bank village wrecked after threats by settlers” (The Times of Israel – Dec. 4th)
- “Israeli Soldiers Documented Shooting Disabled Palestinian in West Bank” (Haaretz – Dec. 7th)
- “Two Palestinians Killed in Separate Incidents in West Bank” (Haaretz – Dec. 3rd)
- “Return to Gush Katif: A determined movement emerges to resettle Israelis in Gaza” (The Times of Israel)
- “With All Eyes on Gaza, West Bank Palestinians Are Facing Unprecedented Violence” (Haaretz)
- Israeli Army Mulls Shutting Down Unit of Settler ‘Hilltop Youth’ Amid Violent Incidents Against Palestinians““ (Haaretz)
- “A Bitter Season in the West Bank” (The New York Review)
- “Northern Israeli Kibbutz Residents Prevent Palestinians From Harvesting Their Olives” (Haaretz)
- “West Bank settlers unwavering in support for Israeli government” (Al-Monitor)
- “Amid a Settler Onslaught, Protective Presence Activism Falters” (Jewish Currents)