Settlement & Annexation Report: June 30, 2023


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

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June 30, 2023

  1. Israel Advances Plans for 5,700 New Settlement Units, Making 2023 (after just 6 months) A Record Year for Settlement Growth
  2. In the Midst of Settler Rampages, Six New Outposts Established Last Week
  3. New “Youth Center” Planned for East Jerusalem Settler Enclave
  4. Terrestrial Jerusalem on The Big Picture of Jerusalem Settlement Activities
  5. Ir Amim & Bimkom Warn of Potential for Mass Dispossession Via East Jerusalem Land Registration
  6. Bonus Reads

Israel Advances Plans for 5,700 New Settlement Units, Making 2023 (after just 6 months) A Record Year for Settlement Growth

As anticipated, the Israeli High Planning Council convened on June 26th and advanced plans for nearly 5,700 new settlement units. These include plans that, if given final approval, would grant retroactive legalization to three outposts, in the process massively expanding the Eli settlement (plans publicly announced by the Israeli government as retaliation for the recent killing of four Israeli settlers near that settlement). With these latest moves to advance new construction in settlements and legalize illegal construction, Peace Now reports that just in the first half of 2023 the Israeli government has advanced plans for more than 13,000 new settlement units — more than three times as many as were advanced in all of 2022 and more than in any year since 2012 when Peace Now began systematically tracking such things. 

Peace Now said in a statement

“The Israeli government is pushing us at an unprecedented pace towards the full annexation of the West Bank. The approval of nearly 5,700 housing units today and over 13,000 in the first half of this year alone should make it clear that the government is rushing headlong towards an annexation coup, turning Israel into an apartheid state.”

Of the total, 818 new settlement units received final approval and 4,915 settlement units were approved for deposit for public review (a key step in the approval process).

Final approvals were given to 818 settlement units, including: 

  • Carmel – 42 units. These units are part of expansion of construction in the settlement towards the southeast.  This settlement is located in the South Hebron Hills, where Palestinians are facing ongoing displacement and forcible relocation.
  • Elkana – 359 housing units. Elkana is located in the northern West Bank in an area where the Israeli separation barrier cuts deeply into the land in order to keep settlements on the Israeli side of the barrier. 
  • Givat Ze’ev – 29 units. Givat Ze’ev is located north of Jerusalem (viewed by Israelis as part of Greater Jerusalem).
  • Revava – 381 housing units. Revava is located west of the Ariel settlement in the heart of the northern West Bank.
  • Hermesh – 7 settlement units. Hermesh is located in the northern West Bank, west of the Palestinian city of Jenin. Back on May 30, 2023, a settler from Hermesh was killed in an attack claimed by the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. 

The Council approved for deposit a total of 4,915 units, including plans that would transform three illegal outposts – Palgei Maim, HaYovel, and Nof Harim – into so-called “neighborhoods” of the Eli settlement, regardless of the fact that the outposts are not contiguous with the built-up area of the settlement. For more details on the settlement plans advanced through this earlier stage of the planning process, please refer to Peace Now’s reporting.

In the Midst of Settler Rampages, Six New Outposts Established Last Week

In the midst of the settler rampages in the West Bank last week, Peace Now reports that overnight on June 20th into the morning of June 21st, settlers succeeded in establishing six new outposts (illegal even under Israeli law). These new outposts come in addition to the re-occupation/re-establishment of the Evyatar outpost by settlers on the same day.

As of publication, two of the new outposts have been removed by the IDF, and a third – called “HaMor” – is the latest focus of the ongoing power struggle between Bezalel Smotrich (who has angrily worked to prevent the demolition of one of the new outposts) and Defense Minister Gallant (who signed off on the outposts’ evacuation). As has been the case in the past, Smortich appears to have won this battle, and the petition seeking the removal of the outpost has been withdrawn. Smotrich argued that he, in his role as a minister within the Defense Ministry and head of the new “Settlement Administration,” has authority over all building enforcement in the West Bank, and he was not properly informed of (nor did he approve of) the decision to evacuate the outpost

Peace Now said in a statement

“Violating the law, destroying the possibility of a future Palestinian State, creating further points of friction between settlers and Palestinians and rewarding settler violence has become the official policy of the State of Israel in the West Bank. The establishment of seven new outposts disregards not only international law but also the Israeli legal system itself. Beyond the devastating consequences that these outposts will have, first and foremost on Palestinians, the government of Israel is also destroying the possibility of a life of dignity and peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”

Peace Now reports the following details on the six new outposts:

  1. A new outpost settlers call “HaMor” is located on the land of the Palestinian villages of  Luban al-Sharqiya and Sinjil, near the Givat Levona settlement and the Givat HaRoeh outpost – though settlers claim it was built on “state land”. The outpost is by far the most organized and serious effort to establish a permanent presence. While the rest are singular tents and unprofessional building, this outpost currently consists of five caravans, a newly created access path, electricity poles, and the land had been leveled by heavy equipment. On the morning of June 29th, IDF forces arrived at this outpost to enforce a military evacuation order, but were stopped (literally as IDF forces were onsite and prepared to begin removing settlers and their belongings) by an temporary injunction freezing the evacuation issued by the Jerusalem Municipal Court. On June 30th, the petition seeking the removal of this outpost was withdrawn, suggesting that the settlers have been successful in establishing a permanent new outpost.
  2. A new outpost is located near the Tekoa settlement (located south of Bethlehem), which appears to consist of a tent and a trailer. This outpost is located on lands belonging to the Palestinian village of Tuqu’. 
  3. A new outpost is located near the Mevo’ot Yericho settlement in the Jordan Valley, built on the lands of the Palestinian village of Taybeh. This outpost was removed by the IDF on June 29th.
  4. A new outpost was set up east of the Neve Erez settlement, on the lands of the Palestinian village of Mukhmas, located north of Jerusalem. This outpost was removed by the IDF on June 29th.
  5. A new outpost, consisting of a single tent, was established west of the Halamish and Atarot settlements, on lands of the Palestinian village of Umm Safa. Peace Now reports: “the establishment of the outpost led to clashes between Palestinians and settlers as well as to settler violence inside the Palestinian village over the weekend. The settlement Watch Team observed that on Tuesday, June 27, 2023, the tent was not in place, and it is possible that the outpost has been abandoned or removed.”
  6. A new outpost was established near the Emanuel settlement, on lands of the Palestinian village of Deir Istiya, located southwest of Nablus

New “Youth Center” Planned for East Jerusalem Settler Enclave

Haaretz reports that the Jerusalem Municipality has allocated nearly $1 million (NIS 3.5 million) to build a youth center in the Ma’ale Hazeitim settlement enclave, located in the middle of the Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras Al-Amud. Around 120 settler families live in the enclave, in the midst of some 23,000 Palestinians living in Ras Al-Amud, and another 26,000 Palestinians living in the nearby A-Tor neighborhood. Notably, there is no state-funded youth center in either Ras Al-Amud or A-Tor, notwithstanding the fact that there are far more youths living in these neighborhoods than in the settlement enclave. Indeed, of the 20 youth clubs funded by the Israeli government in Jerusalem since 1967, only four are located in Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem.

Not coincidentally, Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Aryeh King — a driving force behind settlement across East Jerusalem — lives in the Ma’ale Hazeitim settlement enclave. Laura Wharton – a member of the Jerusalem City Council – told Haaretz:

“The person involved [in the project] and who’s pushing for its promotion is the deputy mayor, Aryeh King, who lives in the settlement inside the neighborhood. Promoting this plan reflects no public interest, but a personal and settler-oriented interest alone.”

The Ma’ale Hazeitim settlement has a peculiar history of receiving large government investments – including the 2015 construction of a $3 million (NIS 11 million) ritual bath (mikveh) – built at a time when the tiny enclave already had 2 mikvehs. Earlier this year, in March 2023, it was reported that King is also pushing plans to build 140 new settlement units in the Ma’ale Hazeitim enclave – which would double its current capacity.

In a 2011 paper describing the Ma’ale Hazeitim settler enclave, Ir Amim wrote:

“In addition to the government construction, another policy, of building ideological settlements in the midst of Palestinian neighborhoods, has also been pursued in East Jerusalem, especially since the early 1990s. The settlements are usually promoted by private right wing organization and focus on the area of the historic basin of the Old City. Their goal is to break up the Palestinian homogeneity of those neighborhoods and prevent territorial contiguity between the Palestinian core of Jerusalem and the surrounding Palestinian areas. Although these projects are initiated by private organizations, they enjoy the clear and sweeping support of the relevant official and public bodies, including the planning authorities, which routinely grant these settlement plans all of the necessary permits and allow them high building densities….the largest of those settlements [is] Maale Zeitim”

Terrestrial Jerusalem on The Big Picture of Jerusalem Settlement Activities

Terrestrial Jerusalem has issued a sweeping new report on settlement activity in East Jerusalem. The report lays out how current Israeli policies and actions constitute “fundamental changes in the trajectory and nature of the conflict gripping Jerusalem, some of which pose threats not only to the potential of any future political agreement, but to the unique character of the city of Jerusalem.”

The report covers the following areas of settlement activity (as excerpted from the Executive summary):

  1. The Southern Flank: A critical mass of settlement construction is underway on the border between East Jerusalem and its sister city of Bethlehem towards creating a buffer between the two. In addition to the devastating impact that this may have on a future political agreement, it is yet another blow to the already vulnerable Christian presence in the Holy Land.
  2. The Eastern Flank: In addition to the currently suspended threats of the approval of E-1 and the demolition of Khan al Ahmar, a third threat is emerging: the completion of a segregated road system in the Ma’aleh Adumim salient, with one set of roads designated for Israelis and another for Palestinians. 
  3. Settlement Enclaves in East Jerusalem, Unprecedented GOI Construction: Since 1967, the Gol has refrained from directly building settlements inside Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. Today, and for the first time, it is planning to construct six such settlements, under the auspices of the Ministry of Justice’s Custodian General. The first such scheme in Sharafat provides for the construction of more than 700 units and is in the advanced planning stages in the run-up to statutory approval.
  4. The Fragmentation of the East Jerusalem-Ramallah Corridor: To date, the unimpeded urban corridor from the northern half of East Jerusalem to Ramallah, the integrity of which is essential for the integration of East Jerusalem into any future Palestinian State, has remained intact. However, there is a major plan being advanced for the construction of a new 9,000-unit settlement neighborhood in Atarot.
  5. The Government-Sponsored Encirclement of the Old City: For years, and under the radar, the GoI has been engaged in an ambitious project to ring the Old City with Biblically-inspired settlements and settlement-related projects. To date, more than 1.1 billion shekels have been invested in the project. The most acute manifestation is the plan to create a national park on the Mount of Olives, which would place major Christian holy sites under the authority of the Biblically-driven East Jerusalem settlers. The plan poses a threat to the religious, historical and cultural integrity of Jerusalem, and to its character as a city of universal significance.

For a detailed explanation of each of these six areas, read the report.

Ir Amim & Bimkom Warn of Potential for Mass Dispossession Via East Jerusalem Land Registration

Ir Amim and Bimkom have issued a succinct new analysis of how Israel’s effort to impose new land registration requirements in East Jerusalem – known as the Settlement of Land Title Process, aka SOLT – is advancing settlers’ takeover of East Jerusalem properties and has the potential to result in the mass displacement and dispossession of Palestinians from the city. The numbers and data show that the land registration process is being operationalized by Israel, often in a secretive manner, in order to advance a pro-settlement agenda. The report concludes by calling on Israel to bring these land registration procedures to an immediate end.

The report, entitled “The Grand Theft,” explains the history of land registration in East Jerusalem. It unpacks how the entire legal land ownership situation Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem find themselves in today is an Israeli-imposed “Catch-22”, resulting directly from Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967. The report explains:

“Although the lack of settlement of land title procedures has had detrimental consequences for Palestinian communities in East Jerusalem, its renewal carries far worse repercussions. After five years of monitoring the implementation of SOLT [settlement of land title]  in East Jerusalem, its alarming nature has become clear. SOLT is being exploited as a new and potent tool of land theft, under the guise of a legitimate legal process to establish Palestinian property rights. It appears to have become the State of Israel’s main method to appropriate more land in East Jerusalem and advance the displacement and dispossession of Palestinians from areas of strategic interest to the State. SOLT is almost exclusively being initiated to finalize ownership rights in existing or planned Israeli settlements, settler enclaves in the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods, areas with state-deemed ‘Absentee Property,’ or property allegedly owned by Jews pre-1948.”

Read the report to learn more about the legal basis by which Israel is carrying out land registration in East Jerusalem.

Bonus Reads

  1. “Israel Poisoned Palestinian Land to Build West Bank Settlement in 1970s, Documents Reveal” (Haaretz)
  2. “Jerusalem’s Armenian community fears erasure after controversial land deal” (Mondoweiss)
  3. “Can’t or won’t? IDF fails to prevent settler attacks, and that’s unlikely to change” (The Times of Israel)
  4. “Israel’s Push to Expand West Bank Settlements, Explained” (New York Times)