Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
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April 20, 2018
- Israeli Police Assist Settlers in Taking Over Three Palestinian Apartments in East Jerusalem
- Palestinians Petition Civil Administration to Evacuate Squatting Settlers from Hebron Compound
- Bibi Govt Proceeds with Effort to Strip High Court of its Powers
- IDF Aids Settlers in Closing Off Key Road to Palestinians
- $120 Million Investment into Jordan Valley Communities, Including Settlements
- Settlers Assault IDF & Terrorize Palestinians in Nablus Area
- Americans for Peace Now: “From Creeping to Leaping: Annexation in the Trump-Netanyahu Era”
- Bonus Reads
Comments, questions, or suggestions? Email Kristin McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org
On April 9, 2018, Israeli police officers assisted settlers in evicting three Palestinian families from apartments in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem, making way for the settlers to move in. The take-over seemed to have happened prematurely, since the family that owns the apartment units – the Ruweidi family – filed an appeal with the Court that had not yet been heard. The High Court ordered a temporary delay on the eviction order, but the delay was issued too late and the settlers had already emptied out the apartments. According to Haaretz, the apartments will remain empty until further notice from the Court.
In February 2018, the Jerusalem District Court ruled that the property rightfully belongs to the radical settler group Elad, which claims to have bought it from one member of the Ruweidi family, Raziq Ruweidi. The Ruweidi family disputes the court’s decision, saying that the properties were jointly owned by six other family members and therefore could not have been lawfully sold. The matter wound up in court after Raziq Ruweidi was murdered three years ago, leaving debts that the Israeli courts had to settle.
As documented in previous editions of the FMEP settlement report – here, here, here, and here – the Elad settler group frequently works with the Israeli government and the courts to accomplish its goal of erasing the Palestinian presence in East Jerusalem in favor of Israeli Jews, including cooperation on major projects like the touristic Kedem Center in Silwan and the cable car line that will service it.
Three weeks after settlers broke into and took up residence in the “Zaatari Compound” in Hebron, the Palestinian al-Zaatari family filed an appeal this week with the Israeli Civil Administration to have the law-breaking squatters evacuated. The settlers – who were reportedly given permission to enter the property by the IDF and Defense Minister Lieberman – claim to have legally purchased the properties. A lawyer representing the al-Zaatari family wrote in the petition that claim “has no basis in reality, since my clients and/or their representatives never sold their ownership rights in their homes.” The court has
Like hundreds of Hebronites, the al-Zaatari family was forced to leave the home during the Second Intifada due to the IDF’s suffocating restrictions on the freedom of movement of Palestinians in and around the Old City of Hebron, conditions which persist today.
Peace Now released a statement saying:
“The ink has not yet dried in the High Court of Justice’s decision to evacuate the Abu Rajab House, where settlers also broke into and squatted, yet the settlers dare to break into another house without the same approval they lacked in that case. The government must evict the trespassers immediately; the settlers have not proven any ownership. The behavior of the government and recent statements by the defense minister raise the suspicion that this home invasion was carried out in coordination with the defense ministry, and that the government lent a hand to breaking the law and stealing. Instead of protecting the landowner’s rights, the government is helping robbers seeking to take possession of the property without allowing the current owners their rightful legal avenue to prove ownership. The establishment of a new settlement house in the heart of Hebron is a severe blow to the fragile situation in Hebron and is liable to cause new restrictions on the movement of Palestinians.”
It was decided by the the Israeli government’s ruling coalition this week that the next Knesset – which opens on April 29 – will vote on legislation aimed at stripping the High Court of its power to strike down laws passed by the Knesset. At the weekly cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon agreed to form a “small ministerial committee” to try to bridge various proposals to restrict the High Court’s power to overturn laws – a move that could impact the fate of (among other things) the Regulation Law.
Notably, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit was permitted to attend the cabinet meeting to present his opposition to most serious of the proposed versions — the Netanyahu-backed model, according to which laws could be overturned only by a unanimous vote in the High Court; Kahlon’s issue-specific formulation, seeking to allow the Knesset to overturn the High Court decision vis-a-vus a single piece of legislation, related to African asylum seekers; and a version, backed by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Education Minister Naftali Bennet, allowing the High Court to be overruled by a simple majority vote in the Knesset. Mandelblit recommended his own version — one that would require a super-majority vote by the High Court (7 of 9) to strike down a law, and would allow the Knesset to overturn such a decision by the High Court by a super-majority of 70 votes.
Netanyahu and Transportation Minister Levin (Likud) rejected Mandelblit’s proposal, and said that the High Court should only be able to strike down laws by a unanimous vote (meaning that it would be highly unlikely that the Court would ever succeed in striking down any law). Following the cabinet meeting, Levin also specifically took issue with Khalon’s version of the bill (which seeks to create a unique exception for the Knesset to overturn the High Court’s ruling against a law related to the detention and deportation of African asylum seekers). Making clear his real objectives and concerns (and making explicit the connection to settlements), Levin told reporters that this version is:
“significantly erroneous and will lead to striking down laws, including the Regulation Law (legalizing Israeli outposts in the West Bank).”
You can follow the key events regarding the progression of this legislation via FMEP’s recently published resource, “Israel’s Creeping Annexation Policies.”
See this Haaretz overview for more even more detail.
Haaretz reports that the IDF is contributing to the efforts of settlers from Halamish, a settlement located north of Ramallah, to restrict Palestinian access to a critical highway along which the settlers recently established a new unauthorized outpost.
According to testimonies collected by Haaretz, IDF soldiers at two military roadblocks near the settlement and the new outpost have been conducting prolonged searches of Palestinian vehicles and buses headed for Ramallah via road 450. The vehicles and their passengers are regularly delayed and harrassed. One Palestinian recounts a soldier reportedly admitting that the actions are meant to incentivize Palestinians to take a detour around the area of the settlement and outpost (which is a longer route). In addition, settlers have repeatedly posted – and the IDF has repeatedly removed – a sign on the road that reads:
“The area where you are now is under the control of the Jews. Entry by Arabs to this area is completely prohibited, danger of death!”
Months ago, Halamish settlers started a Saturday morning prayer event in the middle of the road (between the settlement and the outpost on the other side). In cooperation with the settlers, IDF soldiers have been shutting down all Palestinian traffic and guarding the settlers during the prayer event.
The settlers intent has long been clear. By sealing off Palestinian access to the road, it will become an interior road between the settlement and the new outpost, effectively expanding the boundaries of Halamish at the cost of Palestinians.
The Halamish settlers established the outpost – which they call “Yad Ahi” or “My Brother’s Hand” – in July 2017, following the brutal murder of four of the settlement’s residents by a Palestinian attacker. Since then, the settlers have worked determinedly to fortify and expand the settlement to include the outpost and more, as extensively documented by the Israeli NGO Kerem Navot.
The office of the Prime Minister announced a $120 million grant program for infrastructure projects in Israeli communities in the Jordan Valley. According to The Times of Israel, the budget earmarks $7 million to “help local farmers acquire more agricultural land and locate additional water sources and to build affordable homes for first-time buyers through the Housing Ministry Program.” One Israeli business news outlet reports that this is an “aid program for settlements in the Dead Sea area coping with the problem of sinkholes.”
Some 11,000 settlers and 65,000 Palestinians live in the Jordan Valley – the latter facing severe restrictions on land use and freedom of movement, and lack of access to municipal services like water and electricity.The current Israeli government has publicly and repeatedly demanded complete Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley in the context of any peace agreement (meaning that any future Palestinian state would be entirely encircled by Israel, having no international border with any other nation). One Likud MK, Sharren Haskel, recently unveiled a bill to annex the Jordan Valley. Haskel is seeking government backing for the bill before formally introducing it in the Knesset.
A recent report by B’Tselem documents how Israeli settlers were allowed to establish two new outposts in the Jordan Valley last year. In recent months, Israel has delivered eviction notices to entire Palestinian communities near Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley. Simultaneously, settlers have been allowed to continue construction on a tourist project – a car race track built in a closed military zone (land expropriated from Palestinians ostensibly for security purposes), despite a court ordered stop-work order.
Three settlers were arrested for throwing stones at IDF soldiers engaged in the evacuation of an unauthorized outpost near the Itamar settlement, south of Nablus. The outpost – called “Rosh Yosef” by the settlers – has been evacuated several times before, but settlers have repeatedly re-occupied the hilltop site. The settlers, one of whom is a minor, were released a day later and put under house arrest.
The evacuation comes against the backdrop of frequent attacks perpetrated by Israeli settlers in the Nablus area recently. Last week, settlers allegedly set the entrance to a mosque on fire and spray painted the building with anti-Arab, anti-Muslim threats. On April 18th, settlers destroyed at least two dozen olive trees and spray painted hateful words on houses in the village of Urif. The Ynet news outlet reports that the radical and violent “Hilltop Youth” settler group is responsible for most of these crimes, noting that its members are increasingly outraged by outpost demolitions, fixated on calls for “revenge” against Palestinians following terrorist attacks, and resentful of recent criminal punishments levied against their members as a result of the Shin Bet’s crackdown on the group’s criminal activities.
Americans for Peace Now published a new policy paper analyzing how “the Israeli right has launched an unprecedented drive to annex the West Bank, piecemeal or in its entirety” since the inauguration of President Donald Trump. The paper “lays out the recent developments that present a quantum leap in Israeli annexation efforts, analyzes these moves against the historical backdrop of Israel’s 50-year occupation of the West Bank, examines the ramifications of the transition from ‘creeping’ to ‘leaping’ annexation, and considers why this transformation is happening now.”
FMEP’s recently published resource, “Israel’s Creeping Annexation Policies” is being updated to include several items from APN’s excellent work.
- “Israel and Annexation by Lawfare” (Michael Sfard, The New York Review of Books)
- “How Israel’s Government is Aiming to Outweigh the Supreme Court” (Haaretz)
- “Attempts to ‘bypass’ Israel’s High Court will create a ‘tyranny of the majority’ ” (+972 Mag)
- “As Israeli pushes for West Bank railway, Palestinians brace for more land grabs” (Middle East Eye)