Settlement & Annexation Report: May 10, 2024


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

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May 10, 2024

  1. Israeli High Court Order Investigation into Unauthorized Construction Financed by Settler Regional Counciln
  2. Israeli Supreme Court Suspends Four Evictions in Sheikh Jarrah
  3. Smotrich Threatens to Defy Netanyahu and Start Settlement Construction
  4. Gallant Calls for Establishment of a New Settlement East of Ariel
  5. Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Returning Palestinians to Khirbet Zanouta
  6. IDF Demolishes “Threatening” Palestinian Building Following Regavim Petition
  7. Yesh Din Wins Case After Citing International Sanctions on Settler
  8. Israel Tracks 1.9% Rise in Settler Population Over Last Year
  9. Bonus Reads

Israeli High Court Order Investigation into Unauthorized Construction Financed by Settler Regional Council

On May 9th the Israeli High Court ordered a criminal investigation into the illegal construction in the Hayovel outpost, located near the Eli settlement in the northern West Bank. This is the first time the High Court has ordered a criminal investigation into illegal settlement construction. The order was the result of the Court’s six year consideration of a petition filed by Peace Now, which included evidence that a new residential neighborhood was built in the Hayovel outpost without any approved plan and without building permits. The petition also documented the involvement of the Binyamin Regional Council and its funding of the illegal activity. 

Following the 2017 publication of its investigative report Unraveling the Mechanism Behind Illegal Outposts” – which included a comprehensive investigation of how the various authorities are involved, assist, and finance the construction of illegal outposts in the West Bank – Peace Now filed many petitions with the High Court demanding an investigation into illegal outpost construction and the state’s complicity. The State stalled the Court’s consideration of these cases by promising to create and direct a unit tasked with investigating these complaints. It’s unclear if the unit was ever established, and if it was what progress it made, but the unit was formally dissolved by Bezalel Smotrich when he assumed authority over West Bank construction. The Court’s decision this week comes in light of Smotrich’s dissolution of the investigative unit.

The investigation ordered into Hayovel this week is the first petition that has been ruled upon, potentially setting precedent for the rest, which include four similar petitions filed by Peace Now regarding illegal construction in the Haroeh outpost, the Karnei Shomron settlement, the Shvut Rachel settlement, and the Sde Boaz outpost.

Adv. Michael Sfard, one of the lawyers who represented Peace Now in this petition, said

“The illegal construction in outposts and settlements is an organized crime on a huge scale. It’s time for the law enforcement authorities to do their job. It’s a shame that judicial intervention was needed to make it clear to the police and the prosecutor’s office that no one is above the law, even if they are settlers.”

Peace Now said in a statement

“The illegal construction in the settlements is not a marginal phenomenon. There is a fraudulent mechanism involving official bodies and public funds, through which a small and organized group of settlers builds settlements, sets facts on the ground and imposes its vision on an entire country. Law enforcement authorities have been defending settler criminality for years, and today the court ordered them to stop this lawlessness.”

Israeli Supreme Court Suspends Four Evictions in Sheikh Jarrah

On May 9th, the Israeli Supreme Court annulled the evictions of three Palestinian families – Hammad, Daoudi and Dajani – from their longtime homes in Sheikh Jarrah. 

According to lawyer and Jerusalem expert Daniel Seidemann, the Court relied upon precedent set in its 2022 decision to overturn the eviction of four other families in Sheikh Jarrah, the al-Kurd, al-Qassem, Iskafi and al-Ja‘ouni families. In that case, the High Court ruled that final ownership of the land has not been determined and must be revisited, and that until that determination is made (via the settlement of title and registration processes), the families are permitted to remain in their homes as legally “protected tenants,” paying rent into an escrow account managed by lawyers involved in the case – funds that won’t go to the settlers who claim ownership unless and until the title and registration processes conclude that the land does, in fact, belong to the settlers.

As a reminder: With its annexation of  East Jerusalem following the 1967 war, Israel suspended the process of land registration and settlement of title in East Jerusalem. Israeli lawmakers have pointedly stated over the past two years their intentions to reinitiate these processes, and reports have suggested that Israel has begun to do so – secretively – in Sheikh Jarrah. The launching of an Israel-run process of registering ownership of land in East Jerusalem land will have far-reaching consequences for Palestinians, who have not had a formal, legal avenue for registering land ownership with the Israeli government since East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel in 1967 – meaning, for example, that if a property owner has died, his/her heirs have had no legal way to register as the current owners. As a consequence, such a process is liable to be used against Palestinians by settlers.

Smotrich Threatens to Defy Netanyahu and Start Settlement Construction

Smotrich has continued his criticism of Netanyahu over what he sees as a de-facto freeze on settlement construction, as detailed in last week’s settlement report. In a new letter to the Prime Minister this week, Smotrich gave a four day window to receive a response to his criticism threatening that, “Since the authority is mine, please notify me within four days that you are not allowing construction…If you do not send notification, I consider myself entitled to begin construction.”

Gallant made the speech while attending the opening of an expanded IDF checkpoint that leads from Israel into the West Bank along Route 5.

Gallant Calls for Establishment of a New Settlement East of Ariel

In a speech on May 9th, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant called for the establishment of a new settlement east of the Ariel settlement and support for building more roads for settlers in the norther West Bank. Gallant said, “logically, a significantly larger city should be developed [east of Ariel]….[the area is] the most central junction that allows us to divert the population of Israel to the east,” 

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Returning Palestinians to Khirbet Zanouta 

OCHA OPT reports that on May 2nd the Israeli Supreme Court has ruled in favor of returning 360 Palestinians to their homes in Khirbet Zanouta, a herding community which was forcibly expelled from their lands in the South Hebron Hills by incessant settler violence. The ruling ordered the Israeli authorities to ensure the ability of the community to safely return to their land and homes.

One of the settlers who has led violent attacks on Khirbet Zanouta is Yinon Levi, who founded the illegal outpost Meitarim Farm near the herding community. Levi was recently sanctioned by the United States and others.

IDF Demolishes “Threatening” Palestinian Building Following Regavim Petition 

The Israeli Civil Administration demolished a two-story building built along Route 398 – a settler bypass road – in the southern West Bank, a road which connects the nearby settlements of Tekoa, Kfar Eldad, and Nokdim to Jerusalem. The petition submitted by Regavim argued that the building was illegal and that it posed “a clear and imminent threat to thousands of motorists.”

Roi Drucker, a Field Coordinator for Regavim told the Jerusalem Post: 

“We are encouraged when our efforts achieve results, and hope that small but significant victories like these will empower the Israeli government to change its approach and take a proactive stance toward protecting our Israel’s national interests and the security of its citizens…This road cannot be allowed to turn into a replica of Huwara. Israeli motorists must not be sitting ducks on the roads of Judea and Samaria.”

Yesh Din Wins Case After Citing International Sanctions on Settler

Yesh Din provided an update on a case it filed in December 2023 seeking the removal of a barrier that settlers had installed on an access road that Palestinian landowners relied upon to reach their land. The case had not progressed until Yesh Din supplemental response to the Court submitting that the United Kingdom recently sanctioned a settler, Zvi Bar Yosef, whos illegal outpost is located near the illegal barrier. In a small success (as there are hundreds of similar barriers installed by the military and settlers after October 7th that significantly harm Palestinians right to movement and property), the barrier was removed from the access road in March 2024.

Yesh Din said in a statement:

“Road barriers have become a widespread tool used by the Israeli military all over the West Bank since October 2023. Under the pretense of security needs – the military is violating Palestinians’ freedom of movement and severely harming everyday life of millions in the West Bank for over six months. The fact that once challenged, some obstructions (whether placed by the military or civilians) can be removed, proves that at least in some cases, they are arbitrary and unnecessary. More importantly, this case is an example of the impact that sanctioning violent settlers and outposts in the West Bank can have on the protection of human rights on the ground. The international community can and should take consequences such as these into account when making decisions regarding this issue.”

Israel Tracks 1.9% Rise in Settler Population Over Last Year

The Israel Central Bureau of Statistics published new demographic information showing a 1.9% growth in the West Bank settler population over the past year (figures do not include East Jerusalem settlements, which Israel illegally annexed).

Bonus Reads

  1. “West Bank: Israeli Forces’ Unlawful Killings of Palestinians” (Human Rights Watch)
  2. “A West Bank village feels helpless after Israeli settlers attack with fire and bullets” (ABC News)
  3. “Israel razes entire Bedouin village to expand a highway” (+972 Magazine)
  4. Thread on X regarding Noam Federman, a settler sanctioned by the Uk (Kerem Navot on X)