Settlement & Annexation Report: March 15, 2024


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

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March 15, 2024

  1. Yesh Din Files High Court Petition to Stop Jordan Valley Regional Council
  2. Construction Starts on New Settlement, Ariel West
  3. IDF Demolishes Outpost Near Ofra
  4. Subcommittee Hearing Defends Settler Violence, Points Finger at Human Rights Activists
  5. US Announces New Sanctions on Three Individuals & Two Outposts
  6. Bonus Reads

Yesh Din Files High Court Petition to Stop Jordan Valley Regional Council

On March 7th the Israeli NGO Yesh Din assisted Palestinians in the Jordan Valley to file a petition with the High Court of Justice seeking to force the IDF Central Command to prevent settlers and settler regional councils in the Jordan Valley from illegally seizing and ransoming herds of livestock belonging to Palestinians, and to return all livestock currently confiscated and funds paid to the regional council for the return of livestock. Since October 7th, Yesh Din has documented several instances of settlers conspiring with the Jordan Valley Regional Council to confiscate herds of livestock belonging to Palestinians based on the claim that they are illegally grazing in the Regional Council’s jurisdiction, and then demanding exorbitant fees for their return. Yesh Din identifies this not only as an illegal practice, but as a policy “designed to annex and take over Areas C while pushing Palestinians out…to force Palestinian communities from their homes.”

The IDF’s own legal council has recently issued a legal opinion confirming that settler municipalities do not have jurisdiction or authority to enforce any laws or regulations against Palestinians. But the settler regional council rejected this opinion, saying that its jurisdiction applies to an area of land – not just a certain type of people (i.e. Israeli settlers). As a reminder, the West Bank remains under Israeli military rule via the Israel Ministry of Defense and the IDF. Israel has extended its domestic laws to settlers, so that settlers are subject to Israeli domestic law and Palestinians remain under military rule. In this case, the settler regional argues that it has authority over land, and any Palestinians (and their property) who enter that land. 

Yesh Din explains why this is a significant legal claim:

“The danger posed by the pretension of the regional council, which seeks to hold the power to regulate the grazing of Palestinian herders, has enormous ramifications. This is a new and predatory form of economic violence by settlers and an authority that has distinct annexationist aspects, as it expresses the degradation of the military commander’s responsibility in the occupied territory and the assignment of its authorities to civilian governmental bodies.”

Over the past six months, settlers have  regional councils have repeatedly kidnapped herds of livestock and demanded exorbitant fees 

Construction Starts on New Settlement, Ariel West

Peace Now reports that Israel has begun construction of a new settlement, Ariel West, plans for which were first made public in November 2021 and tenders were issued in May 2023 — all under the guise of a plan to “expand” the Ariel settlement [for more on how this plan was kept quiet, see Peace Now’s detailed history]. The Ariel West settlement is being built on a hilltop located 1.2 miles away from Ariel, in an area that is non-contiguous with the built-up area of the current Ariel settlement. To perpetuate the framing of this new construction as the growth of an existing settlement rather than a new settlement – settlers and the government call Ariel West the“Amririm Neighborhood.” The new settlement will be directly adjacent to the Palestinian village of Salfit, further limiting the future development of Salfit and restricting Palestinian agricultural workers’ access to land, as illustrated in this video by Peace Now.

Peace Now said in a statement

“The construction of Ariel West, a new settlement deep in the West Bank, just before Ramadan and amidst the imminent danger of escalation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, is further proof that the Israeli government is seeking violent escalation and opening a third front of war. It is also further proof, for anyone still in doubt, that it is doing all it can to destroy the possibility of the two-state solution. Israeli citizens deserve a better government, and its actions and decisions are endangering the lives and futures of both Palestinians and Israelis, as well as that of the entire region. The construction of a new settlement is part of recent initiatives amidst the ongoing war, aimed at advancing thousands of housing units in the territories, declaring thousands of dunams as state land, and approving significant budgets for settlements in the 2024 budget.”

IDF Demolishes Outpost Near Ofra

The Times of Israel reports that on March 11th, the Israeli Civil Administration  demolished an illegal outpost known as “Or Ahuvia,” located close to the Ofra settlement north east of Ramallah. The IDF forced settlers to leave the area, demolished a rudimentary house, and confiscated other materials – saying that the outpost was built illegally on privately owned Palestinian land.

The “Or Ahuvia” or “Ma’aleh Ahuvia” outpost was originally erected (and demolished) in 2022 in memory of Ahuvia Sandak, a settler “hilltop youth” who died when the car he was traveling crashed as it was fleeing Israeli police with a group of settler youth who allegedly has been stoning Palestinian cars. Settlers and their supporters have painted Israeli police as perpetrators of a crime of negligence (or worse) against the settler youth; the Knesset has taken up the issue; and Sandak has been memorialized as a hero and a martyr to the cause of Greater Israel.

Subcommittee Hearing Defends Settler Violence, Points Finger at Human Rights Activists

At the demand of settler groups, the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee convened a subcommittee hearing on March 12th to hear testimony regarding the alleged “harassment” perpetrated by human rights defenders against Israeli security personal. MK Merav Michaeli denounced the hearing saying the chairman, Tzvi Succot, seeks to “present an upside down and false world.” MK Limor Son Har Melech (Otzma Yehudit) said at the hearing:

“They [pro-Palestinian activists] are aggressive to IDF soldiers, to settlers, they damage property, they blacken Israel’s name around the world, engage in the demonization and delegitimization of Israel and damage our image.”

The hearing turned out to be more than a smear campaign against human rights defenders, but also a defense of extremists settlers. The senior police commander in the West Bank perpetuated the claim that settler violence is over exaggerated, testifying to the committee that 50% of complaints regarding settler violence turn out to be false.

US Announces New Sanctions on Three Individuals & Two Outposts

On March 14th the U.S. government announced it had imposed sanctions on three Israeli settlers and two settlement outposts, adding to the four individuals it had previously sanctioned. This is the first time the U.S. has imposed sanctions on entities (the two outposts) in addition to individuals – demonstrating the possible far-reaching targets of U.S. sanction authority. The settlers and outposts were documented to have taken part in (or be a base of action for) acts of violence against Palestinians in the West Bank.

The two outposts sanctioned are known as “Moshe’s Farm” and “Zvi’s Farm” – and the individuals are the leaders of those outposts.

The U.S. Department of State said in a statement

“Today, we are taking further action to promote accountability for those perpetuating violence and causing turmoil in the West Bank by imposing sanctions on three Israeli individuals and two associated entities involved in undermining stability in the West Bank. There is no justification for extremist violence against civilians or forcing families from their homes, whatever their national origin, ethnicity, race, or religion.  The United States is committed to enduring peace and prosperity for Palestinians and Israelis alike and will continue to use all available tools to promote accountability for those engaging in actions that threaten the peace, security, and stability of the West Bank.”

Bonus Reads

  1. “Norway Advises Against Trade, Business With Israeli Settlements” (Bloomberg)
  2. “The government is tightening its grip on Israeli settlements – the Pole is considering stopping the sale” (NRK)
  3. “Israel deploys 15,000 troops in West Bank as Ramadan starts” (Mondoweiss)