Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
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January 12, 2024
Peace Now reports that the Israeli Supreme Court will convene on January 29th to hear a petition concerning an illegal outpost that settler built initially on July 23, 2023 on land belonging to the Beit ‘Awwa municipality, west of Hebron. The petition was filed by the municipality, Peace Now, and a group of Palestinian residents who have been severely affected by the outpost and accompanying construction.
The petition seeks the re-opening of a road that leads to six homes and agricultural land, a road that has been blocked by the UDF since August 2023. Since then, Palestinians who live in those six homes have been forced to walk several hundred meters uphill with their water, supplies, and food (amongst other challenges posed by the inability to access one’s home and agricultural land by vehicle). Meanwhile, since October 7, 2023 settlers have illegally paved at least two new roads between the outpost and the Negohot settlement.
Peace Now said in a statement:
“The establishment of the new outpost has had severe consequences on the lives of Palestinians in the area. The military’s involvement with the settlers, through securing illegal activities and blocking Palestinian roads, is unbearable. Instead of halting the settlers and preventing the establishment of illegal outposts and roads in an area that affects the future of the State of Israel and regional security stability, the IDF is assisting lawbreakers. It is time to put an end to lawlessness in the territories and dismantle the illegal outposts.”
The outpost was established in July 2023 by setters from the nearby Negohot outpost. Settlers initially took over dozens of dunams of land, bulldozing and clearing th area with heavy machinery and assistance from the IDF. Since then, the outpost has evolved and grown to have many structures and a permanent settler presence. These settlers have engaged on violent intimidation and harassment of Palestinians who live and work near the outpost.
With Eyes on Gaza, Four Major Developments Regarding West Bank Antiquity Sites Targeted for Annexation by Israel
Emek Shaveh has raised concerns over recent developments at four different antiquity sites in the West Bank, explaining that these events taken together show how “processes tantamount to the weaponization of heritage in the service of settlement expansion in the Occupied Territories continue unhindered.” Details of the developments are below.
New Outpost in Battir
As FMEP has previously reported, on December 24, 2023 settlers established an illegal outpost on land near the Palestinian village of Battir (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Emek Shaveh adds, “The new outpost established […] is situated half a kilometer from the village Battir in the core zone of the World Heritage Site. The announcement of plans to expand the Har Gilo settlement in 2022 also remains a threat to the integrity of the World Heritage site.”
Allocation of Funds for Secret “Khirbet Eqed” Site
Emek Shaveh reports that on December 31, 2023 the Knesset’s Finance Committee approved a $3.25 million (NIS 12.25 million) budget for the preservation and development of a site called “Khirbet Eqed,” located in a JNF-established Park (the Ayalon-Canada Park) in the “seam zone” area between the Israeli separation barrier and the 1967 Green Line.
Emek Shaveh explains:
“Khirbet Eqed and its environs has been excavated multiple times by Israeli archaeologists since 1976, mainly by the Civil Administration’s Staff Office for Archaeology (SOA) and Tel Aviv University. Since the construction of the separation wall east of Mavo Horon in the early 2000s, this area had been de-facto annexed both physically and, with the help of the park, also conceptually…The Ayalon-Canada Park and the investment in Khirbet Eqed is an example of a site where the process of annexation has been completed. What began with the expulsion of Palestinian communities in 1967 and was followed by the establishment of a settlement segued into the creation of a park which has been cut off from the West Bank. The latest plan takes this process to its logical conclusion with the development of the archaeological site and tourist attractions, all in service of erasing the greenline. Investment in Khirbet Eqed has the same purpose of entrenching Israeli control and normalizing tourism on Palestinian land like at multiple other sites throughout the West Bank.”
Military Activity in Bani Naim
Over the past week, Emek Shaveh has fielded many reports about increased military activity in the village of Bani Naim, where there are three antiquity sites. Bani Naim is located in Area A of the West Bank as defined by the Oslo Accords, where the IDF does not have authority to operate. Settlers have targeted at least two of these sites, located a bit south of the village, in their lobbying efforts to push the Israeli government to unilaterally seize and “safeguard.”
Government Budget Allocation Funds Settlers’ Antiquity Agenda
Emek Shaveh reports key details on the government’s December 2023 approval and allocation of $19 million (NIS 72 million) for a “Jerusalem and Heritage” program.
The approved budget and later additions include:
- $4.25millino (NIS 16 million) to promote tourism to antiquity sites in the West Bank.
- $8.8million (NIS 33 million) for a project entitled “Strengthening and Branding of Jerusalem’s Historical Basin”.
- $4.25 million (NIS 16 million) for the Shalem Plan C which is focused on the excavation, preservation and development of archaeology in the Historic Basin mainly in the archaeological park of the City of David, located in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem.
- $670,000 (2.5 million NIS) for the Sebastia plan () aimed at turning the site into a tourist stronghold with a total budget of 32 million NIS.
In early January 2024, the Knesset “Caucus to Strengthen the Awareness of Israeli Victory” held a meeting to encourage the re-establishment of settlements in Gaza. Led by MK Tzvi Succot, the caucus discussed what “victory” in the context of the current war on Gaza could look like, with applause for nearly every time a speaker mentioned resettlement.
MK Zuccot led the charge, encouraging that:
“At least in the northern Gaza Strip we first have to conquer, annex, destroy all the houses, build neighborhoods – large and expansive neighborhoods, large settlements in that place that will be named after our heroes, after the nation’s heroes who fought there. We will distribute free plots there to the soldiers who fought, to the wounded who fought. This image, and this is the most important thing, of the destroyed Gaza, of Palestine Square that will become Israeli Heroism Square, this image will echo in every home around the world so that everyone will see what happens to those who mess with the people of Israel.”
One of the figures leading the calls for the resettlement of Gaza, is settler leader Daniella Weiss who attended the caucus meeting. Weiss later claimed on X that she is planning a convoy to the northern areas of Gaza on January 11th. Weiss has said that over 1,000 Israelis are ready to move to Gaza, and called for the Israeli government to clear all Palestinians out of Gaza so that the settlers can see the sea. It is unclear at the time of publication if the convoy proceeded.