Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
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January 26, 2024
- Israel To Advance Plan for New Settlement in East Jerusalem
- IDF Considers Arming Settlers Militia Groups with Anti-Tank Missiles
- More on Settlements In Gaza
- Antiquities Theft in Gaza
- Bonus Reads
Ir Amim reports that the Jerusalem District Planning Committee will convene on January 29th for a hearing on a plan to build a new settlement enclave in the small Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhood of Umm Lysoon. At the hearing, the Committee could move to deposit the plan for public review. The plan calls for 450 settlement units to be built on a piece of land in the northern section of Umm Lysoon, abutting the Jabal Al Mukkaber neighborhood. Unsurprisingly, some of the same settlers who are pushing the Umm Lysoon plan not only live in Jabal Al-Mukaver, but have already succeeded in massively expanding the Nof Zion/Nof Zahaf settler enclave in that neighborhood.
Ir Amim explains:
“If constructed, the plan would constitute a major settlement within the heart of Umm Lysoon, which until now has remained untouched from the threat of setter presence or encroachment. As with other East Jerusalem neighborhoods, Umm Lysoon continues to suffer from a severe shortage in housing, public buildings, and basic infrastructure. Instead of promoting residential development to meet the needs of local residents, the plan is rather being advanced to establish a new Jewish settler enclave inside a Palestinian neighborhood on land marked in policy documents for the community’s development…It should be underscored that these settlement plans are being promoted on the remaining land reserves of each community, while ignoring the extreme housing crisis within these neighborhoods. In contrast to its robust residential development for Israelis across the city, the Israeli government continues to abdicate responsibility for providing housing opportunities for Palestinians despite them constituting nearly 40% of Jerusalem’s population.”
In July 2023, Ir Amim and Bimkom first reported on Israel’s plans to build the new settlement enclave in the Umm Lysoon neighborhood in East Jerusalem, highlighting that the State was simultaneously carrying out land registration for the land where the enclave was designed for. Indeed, the plan for the new Umm Lysoon enclave hinges on the settlers’ work with the State to transfer ownership of the land into the hands of settlers using the land registration process – – which Ir Amim and Bimkom have shown to be a politically-driven tool used by the State to fuel the expansion of settlements across the city.
The land where the new enclave is being planned for has been managed by the Israeli Custodian General, the State body which acts as a caretaker for property abandoned by Israeli Jews as a result of the 1948 war, with the idea that the property will be returned to its original owners. Settlers have worked with the state to secure ownership rights to East Jerusalem land despite having no relation to the previous Jewish owners. Such is the case with the Umm Lysoon land, where the Israeli Custodian General is submitting the plans (even though it does not own the land, just manages it) for the new enclave alongside Topodia LTD, a settler-linked construction company. Topodia managed to acquire ownership of a very small percentage of the land within the enclaves planned borders, but the planning requires the willing participation of the Israeli Custodian General.
Haaretz reports that the Israeli military is close to approving a plan that will deliver anti-tank missiles to some of the 700 newly-created settler militia groups across the West Bank, specifically to groups located in isolated settlements close to Palestinian population centers.
The settler militia groups (also referred to as “security units” and “standby squads”) were established in the wake of Hamas’ attack on October 7th, and continue to operate under the authority and supervision of the IDF’s Central Command. So far, these militia units have received a large supply of weapons and munitions, including thousands of pistols, M-16 semiautomatic rifles and machine guns.
The campaign to reestablish settlements in Gaza continues to gain traction in the Israeli political arena. This week, Likud ministers Haim Katz (Tourism Minister) and Miki Zohar (Sports and Culture Minister ) have been vocally encouraging their fellow lawmakers and ministers to attend an upcoming conference entitled, “Only Settlement Will Bring Security”.
In addition to the two Likud ministers, confirmed participants include National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir; Minister for the Development of the Periphery, the Negev and the Galilee Yitzhak Wasserlauf; and Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu, all from the Otzma Yehudit party. Fellow party members MKs Limor Son Har Melch, Yitzhak Kroizer, Almog Cohen and Zvika Fogel will also attend, the report said. Religious Zionism MKs Moshe Salomon, Zvi Sukkot and Michal Woldiger are also planning to participate. Bezalel Smotrich is not reportedly confirmed as a participant, but has vocally supported the resettlement of Gaza in the recent past.
Pushing back on the increasingly mainstream endorsement of the resettlemetn of Gaza, the Haaretz Editorial Board writes:
“The racist/settler wing of the cabinet, the Knesset, and the public is endangering Israel’s existence. In the name of a zealous, messianic vision, it is knowingly intensifying hatred between the two peoples, distancing any possibility of reconciliation and turning Israel into a pariah in the enlightened world. This is additional proof of the urgent need to hold a general election as soon as possible and oust this disastrous government.”
Over the past week there have been reports and documentation from Gaza of IDF antiquity theft. While this is not squarely under the scope of this settlement report, FMEP has long tracked the weaponization of archaeology for the purpose of displacing Palestinians and replacing them with Israeli Jews. See the following reports on the IDF’s recent
- Emek Shaveh: “IDF Invites Israel Antiquities Authority to Gaza following “discovery” of Antiquities Storage Facility.”
- On Facebook, the Israel Antiquity Authority celebrates the “discovery” of an ancient lamp and mortar bowl by IDF soldiers in Gaza, confirming that the treasures have been transferred to Israel.
- “Israeli Forces Display Stolen Gaza Artifacts in Knesset – Reports” (Palestine Chronicle)
- “The West Bank economy has been hammered by war“ (NPR)