Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
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May 5, 2023
- Planning Initiated for New East Jerusalem Settlement Enclave, Kidmat Zion
- May 8 Hearing Set to Advance Plan Massively Expanding Nof Zion Settlement Enclave
- Israel Announces Start of Construction of the “Sovereignty Road,” Which Enables E-1 Construction & Annexation of Area C
- IDF Created Unit Specifically for Radical, Violent “Hilltop Youth” Settlers to Terrorize
- Two Major New Reports: Amnesty on Surveillance and B’Tselem on Water
- Bonus Reads
Ir Amim reports that on April 27th a new plan was submitted to the Jerusalem District Planning Committee outlining the construction of a new settlement in East Jerusalem, between the Ras al-Amud neighborhood and the Israeli separation barrier, with the Abu Dis neighborhood on the other side of the wall. This new enclave – dubbed Kidmat Zion – is slated to have 384 settlement units built on a strip of land surrounded by Palestinian neighborhoods and only accessible by driving through the densely populated areas of Ras Al-Amud.
The plan is being promoted by an affiliate of the Ateret Cohanim settler group – Bahorim Company – which filed documents with the planning committee that show it (Bahorim) only owns 10% of the land the new plan seeks to build on. The land is unregistered, but Bahorim submitted a table of ownership purporting to show that dozens of plots were owned by Jews prior to 1948, still other plots are owned by settler affiliated groups including one run by U.S. millionaire and settlement financier Irving Moskowitz, and 1 or 2 plots are owned by Palestinians. Part of the land is owned by the Israeli Custodian General, and though it is unknown whether or not the Israeli government is involved in the promotion of this plan Ir Amim speculates:
“Although this does not appear in the documents published thus far, it is possible that the General Custodian is involved in the plan’s preparation, which could explain how Bahorim Ltd. has submitted a plan while only allegedly owning 10% of the area. Last year, the General Custodian covertly transferred into its management 12 dunams of land near the area designated for the new settlement and subsequently completed land registration of the property. The assumption is that the General Custodian likely intends to advance another settlement plan on these respective dunams of land. It should be noted that the General Custodian has become one of the leading state institutions who works in close cooperation with settler groups to expand Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem.”
Ir Amim reports that on May 8th the Jerusalem District Planning Committee is scheduled to take up a plan to massively expand the Nof Zion settlement enclave located in the middle of the Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabal Mukaber. The Committee is set to hold its second discussion to decide whether to submit the plan for public objection; it’s first discussion in March 2023 resulted in the committee sending the plan back to its initiators for a few minor revisions.
The plan – called “Nof Zahav” – would allow for 100 new residential units and 550 hotel rooms in the settlement enclave, which currently consists of 95 units, plus another 200 under construction. In order to provide sufficient land for this expansion, the Jerusalem Planning Committee is simultaneously advancing another plan to relocate an Israeli police station [the Oz station], currently located on the border of Jabal Mukaber, to a new site across the street. This will leave its original location free for the planned expansion of Nof Zion, while the new site will become a massive new Israeli security headquarters. Ir Amim filed a petition against the police station plan, arguing that it is an affront to the planning needs of the local community and that it represents a continuation of Israel’s systematic, city-wide discrimination against the housing, educational, and service-based needs of Palestinian neighborhoods.
Israel Announces Start of Construction of the “Sovereignty Road,” Which Enables E-1 Construction & Annexation of Area C
Peace Now reports that the Israeli Civil Administration has announced that it will begin preparatory work for the so-called “Sovereignty Road” in early May. Terrestrial Jerusalem further reports that In recent days, Israeli authorities have: issued notices to Palestinian landowners whose land will be seized for construction of the road, began testing borings where the road will be paved, and allocated millions of shekels to fund components of the road. If built, the “Sovereignty Road” will seal and divert Palestinian traffic around the area where Israel intends to build the E-1 settlement just east of Jerusalem. [map]
The road was dubbed as the “sovereignty road” by Naftali Bennett, in light of Bennett’s argument that the Palestinian-only, Israeli-controlled road answers key international criticism over the ramifications of the construction of the E-1 settlement. For decades, construction of the E-1 settlement – which is scheduled for its final discussion on June 12th – has been adamantly opposed by the international community because, in part, it would effectively cut the West Bank in half – preventing any two-state solution. The new road has long been Israel’s answer to that criticism, with Israel arguing that it will replace territorial contiguity with limited “transportational continuity” – via a sealed road that is under Israel’s total control.
However, in order to plan for the road, Israel has had to make more than a few exceptions to its own planning laws (suggesting again that for Israel, “rule by law” rather than “rule of law” is the prevailing paradigm). Peace Now explains:
“Officially, the planned road is defined as a ‘security road’. The excuse for its construction is the intention to build the separation barrier around the Ma’ale Adumim settlement bloc, which is defined as a security need. As a derivative of this, there is a need to build a road that will allow the continuation of the ‘abric of life’ of the Palestinians travelling from north to south of the West Bank. Furthermore, by being defined as a security road, it is not brought for planning approval in the Higher Planning Council of the Civil Administration. Subsequently, the public is not given the opportunity to object to it, as in a formal planning process. Seemingly, this is because the State of Israel has no official authority to plan this road as significant parts of it pass through Area B (see map). According to the 1995 Interim Agreement with the Palestinians, planning authority in it is given only to the Palestinian Authority. To bypass this, the Ministry of Defense chose to define the road as a security road. The lands taken for its construction do not go through a process of seizure for public purposes, but rather a process of military seizure, and therefore the planning process is done behind closed doors.”
Terrestrial Jerusalem explains the significance of this road:
“this [road] is the last link in the creation of an ‘Israel-only’ national road grid in Area C, located to the East of East Jerusalem. The completion of this road will be a quantum leap towards de facto annexation of a large portion of Area C. Dovetailed with E-1, and the demolition of Khan al Ahmar, which are intimately-linked to the road project, would further solidify the irrefutable reality of de facto annexation.”
An investigation by +972 Magazine and Local Call has revealed that two years ago the IDF created a special unit – “Desert Frontier” – composed mostly of settlers from the Hilltop Youth movement who are known to the army to be violent. The unit is based in the West Bank, operating now almost entirely in the Jordan Valley, and its soldiers police the area to assert Israeli control and presence, protecting settlers and outposts while harassing Palestinians and clearing them out of Israeli declared firing zones. +972 obtained testimony of at least 12 incidents in which the “Desert Frontier” perpetrated terrible interrogations and beatings of Palestinians – often driving their victims to remote areas in the desert and leaving them there without a phone or keys, sometimes blindfolded and handcuffed.
According to a security official who spoke to +972 on the basis of anonymity said that the idea behind the unit was/is to rehabilitate hilltop youth members, who are not only notoriously and violently anti-Palestinian, but who also regularly challenge the Israeli government’s authority. The source said the unit “consists mainly of hilltop youth … the extreme of the extreme, who otherwise would not have enlisted.”
In case you missed it, two new reports have been released this week that are worth reading for those tracking settlements and annexation.
Amnesty International released “Automated Apartheid: How facial recognition fragments, segregates and controls Palestinians in the OPT”, revealing new information about Israel’s use of technology to enforce apartheid rule in the OPT. The publication of the report was covered by The New York Times.
B’Tselem released “Parched: Israel’s Policy of Water Deprivation in the West Bank.” The report details how Israel uses water rights and planning to strengthen its control over the West Bank and advance the apartheid regime’s principles: reinforcing and entrenching Jewish supremacy in the entire area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
- “Recent Developments in the Situation of Palestinian and Israeli Human Rights Defenders – April 2023” (Human Rights Defenders Fund)
- “Israelis Settlers Suspected of Assaulting Two Palestinian Men in West Bank” (Haaretz)
- “Legalizing the Younger Settlement Enterprise (Hanan Greenwood / Israel Hayom)
- “Israel Razed the Last Orchard in Silwan in Search of Siloam Pool. It Still Can’t Be Found”
- “Netanyahu Meets with Settler Leaders” (Arutz Sheva)