Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
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**The settlement report will be taking a two-week break, and is planned to return the week of October 18th**
September 24, 2021
- New Givat Hamatos Settlement Plan – to Replace Existing, Approved, & Tendered Plan – Advances in Jerusalem
- Settlers, IDF Continue to Impose Control Over Sebastia Archaeological Site As Settlers Amp Up Campaign to Takeover Sites in Palestinian Areas
- Bonus Reads
New Givat Hamatos Settlement Plan – to Replace Existing, Approved, & Tendered Plan – Advances in Jerusalem
Ir Amim reports that, on September 12th, the Jerusalem Local Planning Committee approved for public deposit a new outline plan for the Givat Hamatos settlement in East Jerusalem. This new plan would replace the existing outline plan for Givat Hamatos, under which tenders for the construction of 1,257 settlement units were awarded in January 2021.
Ir Amim explains:
“According to the information currently available, the new plan neither expands the territorial area of the future settlement nor does it explicitly call for an increase in the number of housing units. However, it does cite a 30% increase in the total scope of construction, which appears contradictory. Additional information is still needed to definitively confirm the details of this apparent 30% increase; however, it could be allocated, for example, towards the enlargement of individual housing units. The Jerusalem Municipality has long sought to expand the number of housing units in Givat Hamatos as demonstrated by a master plan it attempted to advance last year, which included an additional 3,900 units. The plan, however, did not move forward.
It should be noted that the approval process for the new outline plan (TPS 979336) will be fast-tracked since it is under the jurisdiction of the Local Planning Committee and will therefore not need to go before the District Planning Committee. While submission of new outline plans after completion of a tender process does occasionally occur, it is typically initiated by contractors in order to maximize future profits. In this instance, it is the municipality who has submitted the new outline plan.
The new plan’s potential impact on the tendered units is still unclear; however, it will certainly not terminate the contracts with the tenders’ winning bidders. Moreover, the ongoing construction of infrastructure works on Givat Hamatos indicates that the process is advancing at full speed. These measures underscore that the current government is continuing to accelerate further settlement and steps towards de facto annexation regardless of promoting the notion of change and reform to Israel’s policies and actions.”
The existing outline plan for Givat Hamatos, under which the tenders were issued, continues to face a legal challenge initiated by Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem (with the assistance of Ir Amim). That petition – which alleges that the planned construction of government-subsidized housing has discriminatory eligibility guidelines – is still pending. A hearing was scheduled on May 27th, but was delayed at the request of the State. The hearing has been rescheduled for October 20th, and Ir Amim secured the Court’s condition that applications for Givat Hamatos housing will not be accepted in the intervening period.
Givat Hamatos has long been regarded as a doomsday settlement by parties interested in preserving the possibility of a two-state solution, in that it will prevent the division of Jerusalem into an Israeli capital and a Palestinian capital (if the Givat Hamatos settlement is built, the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa in East Jerusalem will be completely surrounded by Israeli construction, severing its connection to the West Bank). Indeed, regardless of the implications of Givat Hamatos on a two-state solution, the impact of the new settlement on the Beit Safafa neighborhood are severe.
Settlers, IDF Continue to Impose Control Over Sebastia Archaeological Site As Settlers Amp Up Campaign to Takeover Sites in Palestinian Areas
In what has become routine, on September 22nd the Israeli army sealed off the archaeological site in the Palestinian city of Sebastia, in order to allow a settler tourist group to visit the site. In addition to securing the site itself, the Palestinian Mayor of Sebastia, Mohammad Azem, told Palestinian media that Israeli troops were also stationed at the town’s entrances as well as all the roads leading to the site, and prevented Palestinains from opening their stores and businesses.
As FMEP has chronicled, settlers and their allies are intent upon taking control of archaeological sites in the West Bank, including Sebastia, and and seizing artifacts that are currently under Palestinian control. Settlers claim the sites are neglected and/or damaged. To that end, the settler groups known as “the Shilo Forum” and the “Shomrim al HaNetzach” (“Preservers of the Eternal”) — see background on these groups here — recently issued a report surveying 365 sites in the West Bank and arguing that the Palestinian Authority is moving to “erase all traces of Israel’s ancient Jewish heritage.” The accusations were in addition to allegations of neglect, mismanagement, and intentional damage. The report is part of the organizations’ campaign to push the Israeli government to assert control over these sites.
An advocate for this strategy – – Michael Freund, who served as a deputy communications director in the Netanyahu government – – wrote in the Jerusalem Post:
“Ever since the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords, and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinians have been serially abusing our heritage, from digging up the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to attacking and burning Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem (Nablus). It should be clear to all that the Palestinians cannot be entrusted with safeguarding or administering Jewish historical sites under any circumstances whatsoever. The State of Israel needs to assume and assert responsibility for the national and historical heritage of the Jewish people in Judea and Samaria.”
- “Palestinians aim to prove right of return with ancestral land titles” (Middle East Eye)
- “The Illegal Settler Outpost Has Running Water. Its Palestinian Neighbors Don’t. This Is Apartheid at Its Starkest” (Haaretz)
- “Why the climate movement must support the Palestinian cause” (Middle East Eye)
- “Opinion | Israel Is Crushing My Right to Protest Its Occupation” (Haaretz // Galia Golan)