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January 22, 2021
- Cashing In Before Trump Cashes Out, PART 1: Israel Awards Tender for the Construction of Givat Hamatos
- Cashing In Before Trump Cashes Out, PART 2: Israel Issues Tenders for 2,572 Settlement Units
- Cashing In Before Trump Cashes Out, PART 3: In Final Hours of Trump Era, Israel Advances Plans for 780 Settlement Units Across the West Bank
- Netanyahu’s Bid for Mass Legalization of Outposts Fails (For Now)
- Bonus Material
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Cashing In Before Trump Cashes Out, PART 1: Israel Awards Tender for the Construction of Givat Hamatos
On January 19th, the Israel Land Authority issued the tender for the construction of the Givat Hamatos settlement in East Jerusalem (the tender is for a total of 1,257 settlement units). The issuance of the tender came a mere 6 hours before Joe Biden was sworn in as the President of the United States.
Prior to the issuance of the tender, the Jerusalem District Court rescinded its injunction against the tender, which the Court had issued last week in response to a petition filed by Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem and the Israeli NGO Ir Amim. That petition – which alleges that the planned construction of government-subsidized housing has discriminatory eligibility guidelines – is still pending, and the Court scheduled a discussion of the petition for May 27th.
According to Jerusalem expert Daniel Seidemann (of the Israeli NGO Terrestrial Jerusalem), now that the tender has been issued and awarded, construction of Givat Hamatos is now “virtually inevitable.” Givat Hamatos has long been regarded as a doomsday settlement by parties interested in preserving the possibility of a two-state solution, in that it will prevent the division of Jerusalem into an Israeli capitol and a Palestinian capitol (if the Givat Hamatos settlement is built, the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa in East Jerusalem will be completely surrounded by Israeli construction, severing its connection to the West Bank). Regardless of the implications of Givat Hamatos on a two state solution, the impact of the new settlement on the Beit Safafa neighborhood are nonetheless significant.
Explaining how Netanyahu bears direct responsibility for the highly consequential decision to move ahead with Givat Hamatos, Terrestrial Jerusalem writes:
“Netanyahu could have made this ‘go way’ at ZERO political cost to himself. He could have said truthfully: I tried, but the Court didn’t let me. Instead, he pulled out all plugs and instructed the State Attorney to aggressively pursue the rescission of the injunction. He went out of his way to make this happen. The tender process may now be completed, after which construction is virtually inevitable.This is happening because Netanyahu wants it to happen. This is happening now, because Netanyahu wants it to happen now.”
Ir Amim punctuates its analysis of the move by writing:
“The fact that the ILA hastened to announce the winners of the tender only 6 hours before Joe Biden’s inauguration serves to underline how determined the Israeli government is to create as many facts on the ground as possible before Biden takes office.”
Regarding the prospects of its petition against the Givat Hamatos tender, Ir Amim writes:
“The petition targets the conditions of eligibility for subsidized housing within the tender which discriminate against Palestinians. The petition does not call for cancellation of the tender but it remains to be seen how the petition will be viewed by the court and whether or not this will affect more than the specific discrimination present. One possible result of the petition – although we do not think its likelihood is high – can be that subsidized housing be completely removed from the tender in which case it is very possible that the tender will have to be reissued.”
On January 20, 2021 – inauguration day in the U.S., the Israeli government issued tenders for the construction of 2,572 units (total) in settlements across the West Bank, as well in East Jerusalem. Now that the tenders are issued, construction companies are invited to bid to win the contract. Peace Now estimates that building is likely to happen within two years from now.
The issuance of these tenders comes in addition to the Givat Hamatos tender (see section above) and the advancement of plans for 780 more settlement units (see section below).
Commenting on the tenders, Peace Now said in a statement:
“Our out-of-touch government leadership continues to press on with its mad scramble to promote as much settlement activity as possible until the last minutes before the change of the administration in Washington. By doing so, Netanyahu is signaling to the incoming President that he has no intention of giving the new chapter in US-Israel relations even one day of grace, nor serious thought to how to plausibly resolve our conflict with the Palestinians.”
The 2,572 tenders issued on January 20 provide for:
- 941 units in the Emanuel 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 – which includes the settlements of Karnei Shomron and Alfei Menashe – with the stated goal of bringing 1 million settlers to live in the area.
- 460 units in the Pisgat Zeev settlement, the largest settlement in East Jerusalem. This involves the issuance of two tenders, one for 210 units and a second for 250 units.
- 377 units in the Adam (aka Geva Binyamin) settlement, through the issuance of three tenders, one for 94 units, a second for 263 units, and a third for 20 units. The Adam settlement is located northeast of Jerusalem, just beyond the separation barrier. Israel has for some years been steadily building the Adam settlement in a manner meant to connect the settlement seamlessly with East Jerusalem settlements and infrastructure, erasing the Green Line.
- 359 units in the Beit Aryeh settlement, located northwest of Ramallah, through the issuance of two tenders, one for 159 units and a second for 200 units.
- 220 units in the Maaleh Efraim settlement, located in the northern West Bank in the area between the central ridge and the Jordan Valley, through the issuance of three tenders, one for 24 units, a second for 178 units, and a third for 18.
- 150 units in the Alfei Menashe settlement, located in the northern West Bank east of the Palestinian village of Qalqilya. Israel is planning to continue expanding this area – which includes Karnei Shomron and Emmanuel – with the stated goal of bringing 1 million settlers to live in the area.
- 49 units in the Karnei Shomron settlement, through the issuance of two tenders, one for 48 units and a second for 1 unit). Israel also advanced plans for construction of 24 more units in the Karnei Shomron settlement through an earlier stage of the planning process (see the section below). Karnei Shomron is located in the northern West Bank east of the Palestinian village of Qalqilya. Israel is planning to continue expanding Karnei Shomron with the stated goal of bringing 1 million settlers to live in the area.
- 16 units in the Beitar Illit settlement. through the issuance of two tenders, one for 14 units and a second for 2 units). Beitar Illit is located west of Bethlehem, near the Green Line.
Cashing In Before Trump Cashes Out, PART 3: In Final Hours of Trump Era, Israel Advances Plans for 780 Settlement Units Across the West Bank
At its final meeting of the Trump era — which took place the day before Joe Biden’s inauguration — Israel’s High Planning Council advanced plans for 780 new settlement units. This includes final approval for plans for a total of 365 units plus the expansion of an industrial zone and approval for deposit for public review (one of last steps before final approval) for a total of 415 units, including retroactive legalization to two illegal outposts.
Commenting on the Council’s actions, Peace Now said in a statement:
“By promoting hundreds of settlement units, Prime Minister Netanyahu is once again putting his personal political interests over those of the country. Not only will this settlement activity erode the possibility for a conflict-ending resolution with the Palestinians in the long-term, but in the short-term it needlessly sets Israel on a collision course with the incoming Biden administration.”
Specifically, plans granted final approval by the Council include:
- 152 new units in the Shavei Shomron settlement, located in the northern West Bank, northwest of Nablus.
- 123 new units in the Itamar settlement, located southeast of Nablus in a cluster of notoriously violent settlements and outposts.
- 66 new units in the Oranit settlement, located in the northern West Bank, in the “seam zone” between the 1967 Green Line and the Israel separation barrier (a barrier 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).
- 24 new units in the Karnei Shomron settlement, located in the northern West Bank east of the Palestinian village of Qalqilya. Israel is planning to continue expanding Karnei Shomron with the stated goal of bringing 1 million settlers to live in the area.
- Expansion of the Barkan Settlement Industrial Zone, located in the northern West Bank and a part of a strand of settlements connecting Israel proper and the Ariel settlement. Ariel is located in the very heart of the northern West Bank, reaching literally to the midpoint between the Green Line and the Jordan border. The future of Ariel and the settlements between Ariel and Israel proper have long been one of the greatest challenges to any possible peace agreement, since any plan to connect Ariel to Israel will cut the northern West Bank into pieces. For background on this industrial zone and others, see here.
Plans the Council approved for deposit for public review include:
- The retroactive legalization of 118 existing units in the Nofei Nehemia outpost. If implemented, this plan would have the effect of retroactively legalizing the outpost as a “neighborhood” of the Rehelim settlement, notwithstanding the fact that the Nofei Nehemia outpost is a fair distance from the Rehelim settlement and is not contiguous with the built-up area of Rehelim. In reality, Nofei Nehemia – if authorized – should be understood as a brand new settlement in its own right, rather than an expansion of an existing one (as the Israeli government wants the world to believe). The Nofei Nehemia outpost is located east of the Ariel settlement in the very heart of the northern West Bank. The Nofei Nehemia outpost made news this week with launch of a public bus route through the outpost – an overt act of entrenching and normalizing its presence by Israeli authorities.
- 107 new units in the Tal Menashe settlement, 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. Tal Menashe is technically a neighborhood of the Hinanit settlement, though the built-up areas do not connect. The plans for 107 units would, if implemented, “dramatically increase” the size of the Tal Menashe settlement, which is the settlement where Esther Horgan – who was murdered by a Palestinian in late December 2020 – lived. Israeli government officials have made it a clear policy to advance settlement construction in response to deadly attacks on settlers by Palestinians, an approach publicly endorsed by U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.
- The retroactive legalization of 96 units in the Havot Yair outpost, with the intention of granting retroactive legalization (under Israeli law) to the entire outpost. The Havat Yair outpost is located near the Karnei Shomron settlement in the northern West Bank, east of the Palestinian village of Qalqilya. Israel is planning to continue expanding Karnei Shomron area with the stated goal of bringing 1 million settlers to live in the area.
Despite an intensive last ditch effort, Netanyahu did not succeed in pushing through a government decision to grant retroactive legalization to dozens of outposts in the waning hours of the Trump era.
According to reports, Netanyahu made a last minute effort to gain Gantz’s support for a more narrow authorization – for 6 outposts instead of the 43 outposts as included in an earlier draft government decision. Gantz reportedly blocked Netanyahu’s proposal from coming up for a vote at the Israeli government cabinet meeting on January 19th, saying that “no diplomatically irresponsible proposal will be raised at such a sensitive time.” Other reports suggest European leaders intervened to make their objections to outpost authorization clear.
According to Haaretz, Netanyahu made several attempts to get the decision passed, including convening a call with Israel’s Attorney General to make progress. During that call Netanyahu complained that “jurists” were getting in his way. Netanyahu then surprised Gantz by adding the outpost issue to the Cabinet’s meeting planned for January 19th (a meeting devoted solely to the COVID-19 crisis).
The 6 outposts Netanyahu’s proposal reportedly listed for legalization are: Tel Zion, Ovnat, Metzoke Deragot, Kedem Arava, Avigail, and Asa’el. For more information on those outposts, see Peace Now’s reporting. Of those outposts, three would have been legalized as neighborhoods of existing settlements (Tel Zion, Ovnat, Metzoke Deragot), and three would have been authorized as full-fledged independent settlements (Kedem Arava, Avigail, Asa’el). Netanuyahu’s new proposal also called for the government to allocate over $6.2 million (NIS 20 million) to hire 13 new staff members at the Civil Administration tasked with continuing outpost legalization legal efforts.
FMEP has traced this saga for weeks – from the time when Likud and Blue & White officials were collaborating to draft such a decision, to last week’s news that Gantz decided to continue blocking the move despite a private meeting with settlers asking him to give his OK. It’s worth reiterating that Gantz has made clear he is not opposed to granting retroactive legalization to outposts, but is opposed to this manner of doing so. Gantz prefers for each outpost to be considered on an individual basis.
- “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid” (B’Tselem)
- “Al-Haq Welcomes B’Tselem’s Recognition of Israeli Apartheid” (Al-Haq)
- [VIDEO] “Calling the Thing by its Proper Name: “Apartheid” Between the Jordan River & the Mediterranean Sea” (FMEP)
- “Palestinian factory workers strike in West Bank industrial zone” (Al-Monitor)
- “West Bank demolitions and displacement | December 2020” (OCHA)