Settlement & Annexation Report: June 16, 2023


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

To subscribe to this report, please click here.

June 16, 2023

  1. E-1 Hearing Canceled, Israel Announces Plan for 4,570 of New Settlement Units
  2. Ir Amim Warns Plans for 7,000+ East Jerusalem Settlement Are on the Agenda
  3. Homesh Outpost Connected to State Water Grid
  4. Settlers Press for Jordan Valley Annexation
  5. Israel Begins Work on New Industrial Zone Near Ramallah
  6. Ghaith Sub Laban Family Under Eviction Order
  7. New Report Shows Nearly Half of West Bank Land Taken By Israel “For Public Purposes” Has Gone for Exclusive Use of Settlers
  8. Adalah Spells Out What Annexation Looks Like, Calls for Urgent Intervention
  9. Bonus Reads

E-1 Hearing Canceled, Israel Announces Plan for 4,500 of New Settlement Units

Haaretz reports that Prime Minister Netanyahu intervened to postpone a decisive hearing on plans to build the E-1 settlement that was set to take place on June 12th, with no new date set. The delay followed the typical international opposition to the E-1 settlement, which for decades has been viewed as a “dooms-day” settlement and treated a red line for countries pushing diplomatic efforts towards a two state solution. E-1 is also vehemently opposed by Palestinians and human rights activists because of the impact it will have on thousands of bedouin who live in the area slated for the settlements’ construction, just east of Jerusalem.

Daniel Seidemann – founder of Terrestrial Jerusalem and an expert on all things Jerusalem – commented on the cancellation of the E-1 hearing:

“This not at all trivial. But there is an iron-clad rule. Any time that Netanyahu does anything that can be seen as conciliatory, he compensates by doing other outrages, especially in Jerusalem, sometimes the West Bank.”

True to the format, some three days later, on June 12th, news broke that the Israeli government plans to advance 4,570 new settlement units at an upcoming meeting of the Civil Administration’s High Planning Council, set to convene near the end of June. 

Preliminary reports on what will be on the agenda indicates that 1,000 units will be up for final approval, including:

  • 500 units in Givat Ze’ev
  • 300+ units in Elkana
  • 300+ units in Revava

Settlements plan which might be advanced through earlier stages of the planning process include:

  • Givat Ze’ev (in addition to the 500 units up for final approval)
  • Ma’ale Adumim
  • Kiryat Arba
  • Beitar Illit
  • And a dozen more.

This will be the second time the High Planning Council meets this year, and will come some four months after Israel signed the Aqaba Agreement – in which Israel agreed to a four month freeze. Of course, there has been no such freeze in settlement planning, construction, and other annexation activities across the West Bank (as this weekly report has chronicled – all accomplished without convening the High Planning Council. As a reminder, in its first meeting in February 2023, the High Planning Council advanced the largest slate of settlement plans – 7,287 units –  in the past decade, including granting retroactive legalization to ten outposts.

Ir Amim Warns Plans for 7,000+ East Jerusalem Settlement Are on the Agenda

Ir Amim warns that – in addition to the actions that the High Planning Council might take in the West Bank – various other domestic Israeli authorities are poised to advance plans for over 7,000 new settlement units across East Jerusalem.

East Jerusalem settlement plans that are on the agenda of planning authorities include:

  • Givat Hamatos A (“Tzmerot” Plan) – scheduled for June 12th, but no updates are available at the time of publication. This plan aims to massively expand the current construction outline for the Givat Hamatos settlement in East Jerusalem by adding an additional 1,200 units to the existing plan, bringing the total number of settlement units to be built in Givat Hamatos to 3,810 (assuming, conservatively, an average family size of 5, this means housing for an additional nearly 20,000 Israelis).
  • Givat Hamatos / New Talpiyot Hill – scheduled to be discussed by the Jerusalem Local Planning Committee on June 28th. This plan will expand the area of the Givat Hamatos settlement in East Jerusalem by 40%, more than doubling the number of housing units slated to be built there. It involves the construction of 3500 units and 1300 hotel rooms, to be built on a strategic strip of land that will expand the area of Givat Hamatos eastward, connecting it with another new settlement plan – the “Lower Aqueduct Plan.”
  • Kidmat Zion – scheduled to be discussed by the Jerusalem Local Planning Council on July 12th. Kidmat Zion will be located between the Ras al-Amud neighborhood and the Israeli separation barrier, with the Abu Dis neighborhood on the other side of the wall. The settlement enclave will be accessible only by driving through densely populated areas of Ras Al-Amud; and,
  • Ramot A and B -scheduled for discussion and approval for deposit for objections on June 26. These two plans, outlining a total of 1,918 units, for deposit for public review. Both plans will expand the existing settlement of Ramot northeastward towards the Palestinian town of Bir Nabala.  See more details from Ir Amim here. 

There are several additional plans for East Jerusalem settlements that, though unscheduled at the moment, are also important to watch: Givat HaShaked, Lower Aqueduct Plan, Nof Zahav, and the Wadi Joz (“Silicon Wadi”) project.

Ir Amim writes:

“Although the E1 plans were again halted due reportedly to international pressure, a spate of other detrimental settlement plans are moving forward at full force in East Jerusalem which require immediate attention.   

Against the backdrop of the 56th year anniversary of the Israeli occupation and illegal annexation of East Jerusalem, it is clear that such developments only continue to cement a one-state reality of permanent occupation and systematic oppression whereby one group is afforded full human and civil rights and the other is deprived of those rights.

In Jerusalem, one of the most severe expressions of this reality is the Israeli urban planning policy which aims to engineer Jewish demographic dominance, while pushing significant parts of the Palestinian population out of the city. In contrast to the thousands of housing units advanced annually for Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, residential development in Palestinian areas is systematically suppressed and neglected, which undermines Palestinian rights to housing and serves as a lever of displacement.  

In the absence of equitable urban planning and housing solutions, Palestinians are either forced out of Jerusalem or compelled to construct homes without building permits, which subjects them to the threat of demolition. Between January 1-June 15, 2023, there have been 68 home demolitions across East Jerusalem under the pretext of lacking building permits. This marks a significant rise from 2022 for the same period.”

Homesh Outpost Connected to State Water Grid As Settlers Move In

Weeks after being moved some one hundred yards from its original location – – to a small island of land Israel believes to be “state land” amidst privately owned Palestinian land – – Homesh settlers have swiftly worked to build a more “permanent” yeshiva, which is already hosting 40-50 religious students. The illegal Homesh yeshiva is now connected to the Israel water system – becoming what Haaretz called an “irreversible reality.” Settlers are now agitating for the state to pave access roads, which will necessarily require the expropriation of private Palestinian land. 

Settlers have carried out their work to build a new Homesh yeshiva with the unofficial permission of the Israeli government (and an obedient IDF) even though their construction is illegal. Over the past few months, the Israeli government has taken several radical steps towards establishing a new settlement in the area of the former Homesh settlement – including the repeal of relevant clauses in the Disengagement Law and the issuance of a military order to allow an Israeli civilian presence in the area. Haaretz further revealed that a state-funded organization –  B’nai Horin-Neriya – has acted as a conduit to obscure the investment of state funds into the Homesh outpost. The organization has paid salaries of two Homesh yeshiva teachers since at least 2020.

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.

In a new website promoting a campaign to stop the establishment of Homesh, Yesh Din – an Israeli NGO which has assisted Palestinians’ legal efforts to regain access to their land – writes

“For 45 years Israel has denied residents of the Palestinian village Burqa in the West Bank access to their privately-owned land where the Israeli settlement Homesh once stood. The private Palestinian lands were expropriated in 1978 through a military seizure order for ‘security’ needs and two years later the settlement of Homesh was erected there. For 25 years, several dozen Israeli families lived in the settlement until Israel evacuated Homesh in 2005 as part of the disengagement plan. Almost continuously since the evacuation, an illegal Israeli outpost has been present in this area. For over a decade, Yesh Din has been assisting the residents of Burqa in their persistent legal battle aimed at evacuating the outpost that was established on their lands and allowing them free and safe access to them.”

Settlers are celebrating their triumph at Homesh, and have continued to openly discuss their goals of reestablishing the three other settlements dismantled by the Israeli government as a result of the 2005 Disengagement Law.

Shmuel Wende, executive director of the Homesh Yeshivah for the past three-and-a-half year, told JNS: 

“We moved into our new permanent structure but had to do so in the middle of the night so as not to make a fuss. We are calling on the government to make this area 100% official, to pave roads, and go back to the way it was before the expulsion [disengagement].”

On the B’nai Horin-Neriya website – the state-funded organization which pays Homesh salaries and raises money to support constructions there –  boasts

“It’s not often in history that we get to see history taking shape in front of our eyes… this is one of the greatest events of the settlement enterprise to have taken place! The State of Israel is returning to northern Samaria!”

Settlers Press for the Annexation of the Jordan Valley

With a mounting number of victories, parts of the settler lobby are once again centering a longtime demand to annex the Jordan Valley. Justice Minister Levin and several other ministers offered supportive speeches and videos at a recent youth conference hosted by the “Sovereignty Movement”.

The Sovereignty Movement’s co-chair, Yehudit Katsover, said at the conference:

“We are beginning with the Jordan Valley. This is the eastern wall of the State of Israel and it must be strong. There is a broad consensus regarding the Jordan Valley. It is not an issue of Right and Left, It is clear to everyone that we must be here. Gantz also spoke about it at the time, the Prime Minister spoke about it, and opposition Knesset members proposed legislation on this issue. The Jordan Valley will be, with God’s help, under Israeli sovereignty, it’s only a matter of time. Of course, we are not relinquishing Judea and Samaria, but we are taking one step forward because the chance is greater in the Jordan Valley.”

Justice Minister Yariv Levin (Likud) said in a video  sent to the conference: 

“The Land of Israel, did, does, and will always belong to the people of Israel, as its name indicates. I am convinced that the joint effort that we have been exerting over the years to promote and strengthen our hold in the country and responsibly facilitate the application of Israeli law throughout the Land of Israel will ultimately produce results.”

Settlement and National Missions Minister, Orit Struk (Religious Zionism) said

“The Jordan Valley is the most important place for the application of Sovereignty because it is, in fact, the place that secures our current eastern border. Therefore, your gathering here today and your continued activity are crucial. It is important that you know that our government established the issue of sovereignty as part of its agenda. It is found in the guidelines of the government and it is found in its political program as an objective when it will become politically possible. There is an excellent chance that we are on the way to achieving that objective.”

Annexation of the Jordan Valley has, in the past, garnered serious effort from the Israeli government. During his 2019 campaign, Netanyahu announced that he would immediately annex the Jordan Valley if reelected, and presented an error-ridden map explaining how he would annex the area without annexing a single Palestinian. His plan called for the annexation of an area which constitutes nearly a quarter of the area of the West Bank (22.3%) where (at the time) 30 settlements and 18 outposts had been established. Peace Now estimated 20% of the targeted land (62,000 acres) is privately owned by Palestinians – a fact that Netanyahu did not even mention, much less explain how he would address. After being elected, Netanyahu faced international opposition to the plan, and in order to quiet the criticism while saving face with his base – Netanyahu formed an inter-ministerial task force dubbed the “Sovereignty Committee” to design a plan for the annexation of the Jordan Valley.

Israel Begins Work on New Industrial Zone Near Ramallah

Kerem Navot shares photographs of bulldozers appearing to begin clearing land just west of Ramallah, a site where Israel intends to build a new industrial zone. The new industrial zone was fully approved in 2016, and will be constructed along the “Apartheid Road” route. In addition to a commercial area, the development will include public buildings, stores, roads, a parking lot and open space.

Ghaith Sub Laban Family Under Eviction Order

On Sunday June 11th an eviction order came into effect allowing for the removal, at any moment, of the Ghaith Sub Laban family from their longtime home in the Old City of Jerusalem. The forcible removal of the couple was not carried out as of publication, and it is reported that the settlers behind the eviction have requested a flexible timeline for carrying out the eviction – normally two weeks. Meaning the Ghait h Sub Laban family is living under constant insecurity.

Since then, their streets outside of their home have been a near constant scene of protest and solidarity, with activists organizing to stop any attempts to forcibly remove the couple from their home.

The Ghaith-Sub Laban family has spent the past 40-years in a legal battle against settlers (and the State) over their home in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. This family’s story is not unique, and the broader, systemic processes behind the forcible dispossession of Palestinians in Jerusalem is also discussed. In March 2023, FMEP hosted Rafat Sub Laban and Ir Amim’s Amy Cohen on a podcast – “‘We Are Determined to Stay”: One Palestinian Family’s Story of Dispossession in Jerusalem” – to discuss the Sub Laban case and how it relates to broader State-back settler efforts to dispossess Palestinians across Jerusalem.

Ir Amim explains:

“The family of veteran Ir Amim staff member, Ahmad Sub Laban, has been embroiled in a 45-year legal battle against persistent attempts by the state and settler groups to displace them and takeover their home for Jewish settlement. The family rented the house in 1953 from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and as such was afforded protected tenancy rights. After 45 years of recurring lawsuits and harassment by the Israeli authorities and settler organizations, the Supreme Court recently ruled to terminate the family’s protected tenancy status and evict them from their home.”

For a comprehensive overview of the Sub Laban family’s legal battle, as well as other East Jerusalem eviction cases, please see Ir Amim’s report.

New Report Shows Nearly Half of West Bank Land Taken By Israel “For Public Purposes” Has Gone for Exclusive Use of Settlers

In a first of its kind report published by the Israeli NGOs Kerem Navot and Haqel – entitled, “For the Common Good” – military orders from 1967-2022 are examined to show how the Israeli government has mis-used expropriation orders that are issued “for the public good” to give land to settlements and outposts.

After a thorough legal examination of Israel’s ability to expropriate West Bank land, the report closely examines all 313 expropriation orders, finding that out of a total of 74,000 dunams seized (over 18,000 acres):

  • 50% of the land (37,000 dunams / 9,142 acres) now serves both Palestinians and Israelis. These orders were issued mainly to pave shared roads throughout the West Bank;
  • 48% of the land (36,000 dunams / 8,895 acres) now serves Israeli settlers exclusively. Much of the land was eventually handed over for the construction of settlements and/or access roads to settlements;
  • 2% (1,532 dunams / 378 acres) are now used by Palestinians only. 

The authors write:

“The conclusion of this study is evident: under the guise of its legal obligation to ensure the wellbeing of the Palestinian population in the West Bank, Israel has nevertheless expropriated extensive areas of land to promote the settlement project beginning in 1967. In some cases, it has done so while completely and blatantly ignoring its duty to ensure that the expropriated area is for the use of the Palestinian population, and in other, more sophisticated cases, it has done so by creating a dependency between the mutual interests of both Palestinian and settler populations.”

The issue of Israel’s use of expropriate orders to further the settlement movement is highly relevant to the events unfolding in the West Bank today, particularly in light of the government’s undisguised efforts to grant retroactive legalization to outposts that were built on land determined to be privately owned Palestinian land. On this score, the report offers this important history (p.22):

“Recently, the issue of expropriation for settlement purposes has been raised again when Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit approved the expropriation of private land in order to pave a road leading to the illegal outpost of Harasha. His legal opinion relied, among other things, on the verdict of Justice Salim Jubran in the HCJ Ziada case, which referred to settlers as part of the area’s ‘local population,’ rendering their welfare as the concern of the military commander. This position, as stated by the Attorney General, diverged from ‘the traditional legal position accepted for many years, according to which the expropriation of private land for public purposes that serve Israeli settlement may be allowed only when it also serves the Palestinian population”. In the summary of his opinion he stated that in light of the final verdict, there is no longer any legal principle that impedes the promotion of a regulated access road to the Harasha outpost by way of expropriation for public purposes, subject to criteria based on proportionality and reasonability. Note that afterwards, as part of a request for an additional hearing in the HCJ Ziada case given its precedents, including the allowance to take possession of private Palestinian land for the exclusive benefit of settlers, Supreme Court President Esther Hayut stated that “indeed, as noted by the plaintiffs, it appears that the verdict contradicts previous law in this context, and presents both renewal and difficulty”. 

After the hearing in the HCJ Ziada case, the court addressed this issue directly as part of the petitions against the Regulation Law. Supreme Court President Hayut ruled with the majority opinion: 

‘Indeed, as this court ruled, the military commander is entitled by the power of his authority according to Article 43 of the Hague Regulations to consider the benefit of the local population in its entirety as well, including the Israeli population in the area (the Abu Safia issue, in paragraph 20). However, as far as we are concerned with the question of “public purpose” according to the expropriation laws applicable in the area, I do not find that these allow the expropriation of private land owned by Palestinians or claimed to have proprietary relations, for the purpose of building and expanding Israeli settlements, and for that purpose alone.’

Thus, the court reverted to the traditional legal position whereby Palestinians’ private land must not be expropriated to serve the needs of the Israeli settler population exclusively.”

Adalah Spells Out What Annexation Looks Like, Calls for Urgent Intervention

The Palestinian NGO Adalah issued a blistering paper showing the ongoing ways in which the Israeli government is annexing Palestinians lands in the West Bank. The short and to the point document calls on the international community to intervene to stop Israel’s actions. 

Joining a chorus of other analysts asserting that annexation is happening via bureaucratic changes within the Israeli government, Adalah’s analysis offers a detailed accounting of how the current Israeli government has brought the West Bank under the control of its civilian government.

The report concludes:

“The Israeli government is working systematically to implement the policy goals declared in its coalition agreements. Its actions express an intention to continue to entrench a regime of Jewish supremacy that grants the Jewish people an exclusive right to self-determination, as enshrined in the 2018 Basic Law: Israel- the Nation-State of the Jewish People, and to extend it beyond the Green Line into occupied Palestinian territory. All of the government’s declarations and actions demonstrate that its stated intention is not merely de facto annexation camouflaged in the framework of a temporary occupation but annexation de jure, in flagrant violation of international law. 

The measures adopted by the government and the legislation approved by the Knesset thus far clearly reveal the trend of transferring parts of the military regime’s sphere of operation associated with the settlements to various Israeli government offices. The concept regarding the unification of laws between the localities in Israel and the settlements is expressed in a most alarming way in the aforementioned decisions. 

These measures and laws deepen and expand the subjugation and oppression of the Palestinian people and express the total denial of their right to self-determination in their homeland, while implementing laws and institutional measures which, in practice, bypass the applicability of IHL and replace it with domestic Israeli law. 

These decisions constitute annexation of parts of the West Bank, wherein a variety of government ministries will administer the settlements and, in practice, manage occupied territories as if they were an integral part of Israeli territory. Hence, these decisions will lead to the deepening of the de facto annexation of occupied territories and could be considered part of a de jure annexation process, in absolute violation of the laws of occupation.”

Bonus Reads

Israel’s military called the settler attack on this Palestinian town a ‘pogrom.’ Videos show soldiers did little to stop it” (CNN)