Settlement & Annexation Report: March 17, 2023


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

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March 17, 2023

  1. E-1 Final Hearing Postponed Until June 12
  2. Disengagement Repeal Law Passes First Reading
  3. Israel Delivers Demolition Order on Salem Family Home in Sheikh Jarrah, As International Community Calls on Israel to Stop Displacement
  4. Bonus Reads

E-1 Final Hearing Postponed Until June 12

On March 12th Israeli press reported that the High Planning Council has postponed its final consideration of the E-1 settlement plan. As noted previously in FMEP’s settlement report, a subcommittee of the Higher Planning Council was scheduled to convene to discuss objections to the E-1 settlement plan on March 27th. This discussion is a final step in the approval of the plan. That meeting has now reportedly been postponed until June 12th. This is the fourth time that final consideration of the E-1 plan has been delayed.

The press reports have so far not been confirmed by the Civil Administration, which houses the High Planning Council (under the authority of Finance Minister Smotrich). Notably, none of the most rabidly pro-settlement senior figures in the Israeli government (including Ben Gvir and Smotrich) have commented on these reports, nor has the settler Yesha Council.  Previous postponements of the plan were the result of international opposition. As a reminder: the E-1 settlement is slated to be built in the West Bank on land abutting the border of Jerusalem to the northeast, and is considered by the international community to be a “doomsday” settlement, in what its construction would mean for the two-state solution.

Disengagement Repeal Law Passes First Reading

On March 13th, the Knesset approved a first reading of a bill that will repeal clauses of the 2005 Disengagement Law. Repeal of these clauses will pave the way for implementation of the government’s plan to reestablish settlements in the northern West Bank that were dismantled as part of then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s disengagement initiative (including, most notably, the Homesh settlement). The bill must now pass two more readings before becoming law.

Underscoring the current government’s legislative style, the Knesset drafted and voted on the bill without receiving formal opinions on its substance and impact from the Israeli National Security Council, the Israel Defense Forces, the Foreign Ministry, or the Shin Bet. The Knesset is under pressure to pass this legislation quickly due to a court-ordered deadline for the government to explain to the Court why the illegal outpost established by settlers at the site of dismantled Homesh settlement has not yet been demolished and the land returned to its Palestinian owners. Once this law is passed, the government can (ostensibly) tell the Court that it intends to grant retroactive legalization to the Homesh outpost. Legalization of this outpost was explicitly agreed to in the coalition deals which formed the current Israeli government.

As a reminder, for nearly three years Israel has put off responding to a 2019 legal petition filed by Yesh Din, seeking the removal of the illegal outpost (including a yeshiva) at the Homesh site, as well as the site’s return to its Palestinian landowners. Despite Homesh being dismantled in 2005, Israel has never permitted Palestinians to regain access to or control of the land, instead declaring the site a closed military zone. That status has enabled the IDF to prevent Palestinians from entering the area, even as IDF soldiers have routinely permitted settlers not only to access the site, but to set up residence there (illegally, under Israeli law), and to illegally establish a yeshiva there. That yeshiva, according to the Israeli NGO Kerem Navot, has become one of the West Bank’s “hardcore centers of settler terror”. Settlers associated with the outpost have also reportedly wreaked terror on nearby Palestinian villages, most notably Burqa and Sebastia. One Israeli politician even went so far as to say that settlers at one point were “carrying out a pogrom” in Burqa.

After the disengagement repeal  bill was approved in its first reading, MK Merav Michaeli (Labor) told Army Radio that the bill: 

“gives the crazy settlers permission to do whatever they want in Judea and Samaria, and to hell with Israel’s security.”

The bill will repeal clauses from the 2005 Disengagement Law that prohibit Israeli entry into the area of four former settlements (Homesh, Ganim, Kadim, and Sa-Nur) in the northern West Bank, in effect bringing the status of those sites in line with the rest of Area C. Many lawmakers were pushing for the bill to also include articles that would give outright permission for the reestablishment of Israeli settlement in these  areas – articles to permit Israelis to buy and own property/real estate there – but the final text did not include those articles. The law also does not apply any changes to the Gaza Strip.

Israel Delivers Demolition Order on Salem Family Home in Sheikh Jarrah, As International Community Calls on Israel to Stop Displacement

On March 13th, Israeli authorities posted a demolition order on the home of Hajja Fatima Salem in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem. One day later, on March 14th, twelve European governments issued a joint statement calling on Israel to reverse its decisions on eviction cases threatening the mass displacement of Palestinians from East Jerusalem, with six families under imminent threat.

A little over a year ago – in February 2022 –  the Jerusalem Magistrate Court froze the impending eviction of the Salem family (which had been initiated in 1988) based on the family paying the court a $7,700 “guarantee”. The case has not evolved since; however, around that same time the Israeli government seized a piece of the Salem property, located adjacent to the home that is now under demolition threat. Itamar Ben Gvir (who is now serving as the National Security Minister, with authority over demolitions in East Jerusalem) subsequently set up a tent on that seized property and called it his parliamentary office – a deliberate provocation. 

The state violence doesn’t stop there, the men behind the years-long effort to evict the Salem family are Yonaten Yousef, a Jerusalem city councilmember, and former deputy mayor of Jerusalem Aryeh King. Yousef and King claim to have bought the house from the Jewish family that owned it before 1948 — based on an Israeli law known as the Legal and Administrative Matters Law of 1970. This law provides Jewish Israelis the right to “reclaim” properties lost in the 1948 War. In contrast, under Israeli law the Salem family lacks any legal basis to claim both its home in Sheikh Jarrah – where the family has lived since being displaced from their home inside the Green Line during the 1948 War – or to their original home inside Israel, which they lost in the 1948 War (Israel law recognizes no such property claims by Palestinians who fled or were otherwise absent from the areas that became Israel in the course of that war)/. 

Bonus Reads

  1. “Bezalel Somtrich’s West Bank Takeover is What Annexation Looks Like” (Dr. Debra Sushan, J Street)
  2. “The Rapid and Predictable Rise of Israeli Settler Violence Against Palestinians” (Yara Asi, Arab Center DC)
  3. “From Huwara to Jerusalem and Washington” (Terrestrial Jerusalem podcast)
  4. “Measures which will Determine Calm or Escalation during Ramadan” (Ir Amim)
  5. “Sameh Aqtash Was an Aid Worker Who Had Settler Friends. It Didn’t Save Him From the Pogrom” (Haaretz)
  6. “Enforcing Apartheid in the West Bank” (Tareq Baconi, NY Book Review)