Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
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April 5, 2019
- Israel Expected to Advance Nearly 5,000 Settlement Units
- Glassman/Or Sameach Yeshiva Project at Entrance of Sheikh Jarrah Neighborhood Approved for Public Deposit
- Also in Sheikh Jarrah, The Sabbagh Family Receives Another Eviction Notice
- New Settler Bypass Road Gets Go-Ahead After Deadly, Disputed Incident at Huwwara Interchange
- Settlers Are Cultivating Palestinian Farmland Taken by the Construction of Israel’s Separation Wall
- Transportation Ministry Voices New Concern About Elad’s Zipline Project in East Jerusalem
- Yesh Din Issues Authoritative Report on Israel’s “Racist Endeavor” to Retroactively Authorize Outposts
- Al-Haq Report: Israel Appropriated ‘Ein Fara Spring; TripAdvisor Now Promotes It as an Israeli Tourist Destination
- Settler Leader: “Settlements are a Bridge to Socio Economic Peace”
- Bonus Reads
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According to reports last week, Israeli planning bodies were expected to meet and advance plans for nearly 5,000 new settlement units at a meeting on April 1st. However, that meeting appears to have been delayed.
Nonetheless, it is worth reviewing the leaked details of the settlement plans slated to be advanced, of which 1,427 are reportedly set to receive final approval from the High Planning Council, including
- 603 new units in the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement just east of Jerusalem;
- 325 new units in the Alon settlement, near the disputed Palestinian village of Khan al-Ahmar east of Jerusalem;
- 108 new units in the Etz Efraim settlement, in the northern West Bank, one of several settlements slated to become a “super settlement” area;
- 110 new units in the Givat Ze’ev settlement just north of Jerusalem;
- 281 new units in the Beitar Illit settlement.
A subcommittee of the Israeli Civil Administration was also set to meet on April 1st (no press reports indicate that the meeting actually happened), and was expected to advance plans for 3,474 new settlement units for public deposit, an earlier stage of the settlement planning process (reminder: all stages of the settlement planning process are significant, as each step through the publication of tenders is a political act of the Israeli government). The plans slated to be approved for public deposit include plans in settlement across the West Bank, reportedly include the following settlements:
- Elon Moreh, located east of Nablus in the central West Bank;
- Karnei Shomron, in the northern West Bank;
- Elkana and Oranit, which along with Etz Efraim, are slated to become a part of a “super settlement” area;
- Ariel in the central West Bank;
- Beit Aryeh northwest of Ramallah;
- Shiloh in the central West Bank;
- Talmon north of Ramallah.
- Peduel, in the northern West Bank but on the Israeli side of the separation barrier; and,
- Mitzpeh Yericho, just west of Jericho.
Glassman/Or Sameach Yeshiva Project at Entrance of Sheikh Jarrah Neighborhood Approved for Public Deposit
On April 2nd, the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee approved the Glassman/Or Sameach yeshiva project for public deposit. The plan, as FMEP has repeatedly covered, seeks to build a Jewish religious school (a yeshiva) at the entrance of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem. The yeshiva is one of several settlement projects set to flank the road leading into the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, designed to strengthen Israeli settlers’ hold on the neighborhood and seamlessly connect the growing settler enclave in Sheikh Jarrah with West Jerusalem.
Ir Amim warns and explains:
“[The Glassman/Or Sameach yeshiva] plan should be seen as an alarm bell in the context of Israel’s ramped up efforts to deepen its circle of control around the Old City Basin. The plan (Plan No. 68858) calls for construction of an eleven-story building with eight levels above ground and three below, including a dormitory for hundreds of students and housing for faculty, to be located at the mouth of Sheikh Jarrah. It was submitted by the Ohr Somayach Institutions, to which the Israel Land Authority has already allotted land without a transparent tender process, and approved for deposit by the District Planning and Building Committee in July 2017.”
In a detailed report on the Glassman yeshiva project, Terrestrial Jerusalem described it as:
“a clear effort to exploit Torah study to expand and normalize occupation in East Jerusalem (including by making the site politically untouchable, as it will now be linked with religious activities).”
On March 31st, the Palestinians Sabbagh family was handed another eviction notice, weeks after Israeli authorities rejected the family’s latest petition to reconsider the legal authority by which settlers are seeking to evict them from their home of 60+ years. Peace Now reports that the Sabbagh family is still attempting to delay their eviction, but is unlikely to succeed.
In a comprehensive briefing on the Sabbagh family’s protracted legal struggle, Ir Amim and Peace Now write:
“Increasingly, settler initiated, state-backed evictions of Palestinian families are being used as a strategy to help cement Israeli control over the area. Given their strategic location as gateways to the Old City, Sheikh Jarrah to the north of the Old City and Silwan to the south are the two neighborhoods under greatest pressure from Israeli settler groups. Some 150 families in these two areas alone are under threat of eviction…The Sabbagh family is only the latest family threatened with eviction in the Kerem Alja’oni section of Sheikh Jarrah. If evicted, their home will be the tenth to be seized by settlers. Roughly 30 Palestinian families are under threat of eviction and at least eleven have open court cases. Those cases were suspended pending the Supreme Court decision on the Sabbagh case; the recent removal of that stopgap could usher in a wave of new evictions. On the other side of Nablus road, in the Um Haroun section of Sheik Jarrah, an additional 40 or so families face the threat of eviction.”
The Israeli Defense Ministry announced that it approved the construction of a new bypass road to divert settler traffic around the Palestinian village of Huwwara. The new road will allow settlers to avoid the Huwwara interchange, a perpetually congested section of the main West Bank highway, Route 60, and an area that has been a site of Palestinian violence against the settlers, including a recent incident where a settler shot and killed a Palestinian teenager allegedly attacking the settler. Dubbed the “Huwwara Bypass,” the new road will be built on land historically a part of the Palestinian villages of Huwwara and Beita, which Israel seized for security reasons.
This road is one of five new bypass roads that Prime Minister Netanyahu promised to build under immense pressure from the settler lobby, known as the Yesha Council. It was one part of a massive security package that the Netanyahu government funded to the tune of $228 million in 2017. Peace Now detailed each of the five bypass roads slated for construction, and wrote:
“The planned roads…are meant to serve settlements located deep in the West Bank, which will not be a part of Israeli in the framework of an agreement according to the Geneva Initiative’s proposed border.Historically, the paving of bypass roads has led to an acceleration of the development of the adjacent settlements…Additionally, paving new roads in the West Bank entails the confiscation of private Palestinian lands. All of the roads are built due to needs of settlers rather than the needs of the Palestinians. In certain cases the roads can also be useful for Palestinians, but the majority of these roads are hardly used by Palestinians at all. This fact puts into question the Israeli legal argument behind the confiscation, as according to international law, the confiscation of lands must serve the local population, meaning the Palestinians.”
An official from the Israeli Transportation Ministry voiced reservations regarding the Elad settlement organization’s request to re-zone the “Peace Forest” as a “public use space” in order to allow for the construction of its zipline project there. At a meeting on April 1st (a previous meeting was covered by FMEP last week) to consider the request, a transportation official expressed concern that the project is a private commercial endeavor, not a public use project – meaning that the project might not be legal even if the forest were to be re-zoned for public use. The official said:
“[A zipline] constitutes commercial use: It’s not going to be operated by the municipality or a youth group. This alone is a reason not to approve the plan.”
The Haaretz report on the April 1st meeting also provides historical context on Elad’s illegal activities in the “Peace Forest” (which was established by the Jewish National Fund on privately owned land in East Jerusalem following the 1967 war) over the past 14 years. Haaretz writes:
“At first the NGO simply trespassed and built illegal structures there. But things changed and gradually various local and national bodies – including the Jerusalem Municipality, the Israel Land Authority, the Tourism Ministry and the JNF – began to grant Elad assistance. This assistance has included granting building permits retroactively, allocating land to the group without a proper bidding process, and generous funding to the tune of tens of millions of shekels…Most of Elad’s current focus is on managing and developing the City of David National Park in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, and purchasing homes for Jews from the Arabs living there. But the NGO isn’t neglecting its other projects: It has been sponsoring activities in the Peace Forest since 2005, despite the fact that it has no ownership rights there or permits from the ILA (the legal owner of the land, which was expropriated from private Palestinian owners). These activities are essentially expanding Elad’s reach from Silwan into the entire historic basin of Jerusalem’s Old City, from the Mount of Olives to the Armon Hanatziv promenade (which actually consists of several different walkways, projects of the Jerusalem Foundation).”
For the past six years, Israeli farmers have been farming Palestinian land that was left on the Israeli side of the separation barrier, an area Palestinian landowners are largely barred from entering.
When the separation wall was constructed in the early 2000s, it confiscated 35,000 acres (140,000 dunams) of Palestinian land as a result of its circuitous route that snakes deep inside of the West Bank. The land between the wall and the 1967 Green Line is commonly referred to as the “seam zone.”
Kerem Navot founder Dror Etkes – who obtained aerial photography documenting settler activity in the area – explained:
“One of the same plots to which landowners are barred from entering is located west of the Palestinian village of Nuba, about 15 kilometers northwest of Hebron. Nearly half of the village’s land was lost in 1948 because it remained west of the Green Line, and with the construction of the separation barrier in the area from 2005-2006, residents lost another 1,000 dunams that remained on the other side of the barrier. Although there’s an agricultural gate on site that was supposed to be used by landowners to reach their territory to the west, their entry has not been possible since the barrier was constructed. This ‘vacuum’ was identified by the ‘Mateh Yehuda Agricultural Association,’ which cultivates vast swaths of land that were transferred to Israeli moshavim in the area, including those west of the Green Line. After a few years in which the villagers didn’t access their land, the Agricultural Association decided that it was time to take over of one of the wadis in the area.”
Etkes separately told Haaretz:
“This story allows a peek into the jungle Israel created in areas left between the barrier and the Green Line. This area, called ‘the seam’ by Israel, is gradually becoming a looting ground for anyone who can grab a plot while exploiting a reality in which tens of thousands of West Bank residents are unable to reach their lands. All this proves that the route along which the barrier was built passes mostly through the West Bank, serving political interests, as anyone with eyes in his head saw and understood as the barrier was being built.”
Yesh Din Issues Authoritative Report on Israel’s “Racist Endeavor” to Retroactively Authorize Outposts
In a new report, the Israeli NGO Yesh Din analyzes the legal pretexts Israel has created to systematically legalize outposts across the West Bank that were built in contravention of Israeli law and on privately owned Palestinian land.
The report reviews and rebutts the findings of the “Zandberg Report” – which (approvingly) outlined various legal tactics and tools the state can use to save those outposts.
Yesh Din found that the Zandberg Report’s recommendations allow for 99% of all unauthorized outposts to be retroactively approved within 2-3 years, anticipating that the government will declare 20 new settlements in the process.
Yesh Din’s report also examines how Israel has already undertaken the first step in this effort, by introducing the “market regulation” principle into the courts. If validated by the courts, the “market regulation” principle will provids legal cover to ‘regularize’ 2,700-3,000 illegal structures built on privately owned Palestinian land.
Yesh Din writes:
“The Zandberg Committee aids a racist endeavor whose essence is the dispossession of Palestinians from their land on the basis of ethnicity. The euphemisms used in the report and the legal terminology it employs do nothing to hide the fact that the ‘Regularization Committee’ report is, in fact, an expropriation report which provides the government more methods for normalizing and deepening the iniquity of Israel’s settlement policy: one area, the West Bank, with two populations – privileged Israeli citizens and Palestinians living under military rule, dispossessed and oppressed.”
Analyzing the Zandberg Report as an alternative to the settlement “Regulation Law,” Yesh Din states:
“The Zandberg Committee seemingly offers a more restrained framework for ‘regularization’ or retroactive authorization that purports to be less injurious than the ‘Regularization Law’ and relies on legal doctrines. In truth, however, the report cloaks landgrab, dispossession and expropriation on an extremely large scale – approaching that of the Regularization Law – in a shroud of legality.”
Al-Haq Report: Israel Appropriated ‘Ein Fara Spring; TripAdvisor Now Promotes It as an Israeli Tourist Destination
Al-Haq, the preeminent Palestinian human rights group, published a report documenting Israel’s appropriation of the ‘Ein Fara spring, located on the lands of the Palestinian village of Anata northeast of Jerusalem. The spring historically served as the primary source of drinking water and agricultural water for Anata and several surrounding villages.
Since 1967, Israel has appropriated the spring and its waters, and built five settlement on the surrounding land.
Israel renamed the spring the “En Prat Nature Reserve” and promotes religious tourism at the site, as does TripAdvisor.
“The appropriation of village lands, confiscation of water resources and continued denied access to Palestinians violates the right to self-determination, further breaches the prohibition of discrimination, the right to life including the duty to ensure access to water, the right to water, the rights of freedom of movement, the right to a livelihood, and cultural rights related to the integral use of the ‘Ein Fara spring to communal village life. Al-Haq reminds that Trip Advisor is advertising ‘En Prat Nature Reserve’ a settler tourism service, on its internet platform. Al-Haq stresses that Trip Advisor is providing an economic service for the benefit of Israeli settlements, which may amount to an involvement in settlement related activities.”
Writing in the Jewish News Syndicate, Yochai Dimri (chairman of Har Hevron Regional Council) makes a pitch for the Israeli public and elected officials to drop hopes of a “peace deal” in favor of socio-economic “co-existence” initiatives that normalize the settlements.
As FMEP has documented, this message lines up exactly with the activities and priorities of the Trump Administration, particularly with Amb. David Friedman who has been in partnership with the Har Hevron Regional Council to promote the Judea and Samaria Chamber of Commerce as an Israeli-Palestinian business cooperative.
In a piece entitled – “Settlements are a Bridge to SocioEconomic Peace” – Dimri writes:
“The Barkan Industrial Park near Ariel is an outstanding model for collaboration between Jews and Arabs, and is the wellspring of local employment for both populations. A similar industrial area in Har Hevron is currently in the planning stages, and flourishing businesses and factories are expected to be established there to benefit the residents of Har Hevron and the Negev…The need of the hour is to expand collaborations to include health, education and other necessary areas as well—not through international initiatives, but through Israeli ones. Once Israel learns to view the settlement communities in Judea and Samaria as an asset and not a liability, as an impetus for change and not a roadblock, it will discover that they are not an obstacle to peace, but rather a bridge to achieving economic and social peace.”
FMEP’s Lara Friedman reacted to this notion in a recent op-ed:
“Last October, Friedman participated in a public event convened in the settlement of Ariel. The event, which featured Israeli settlers and a handful of Palestinians, promoted the view that the key to peace is not political agreements or negotiations. Rather, peace would come from economic and business cooperation between Palestinians (living under Israeli occupation, governed by Israeli military and military law designed to promote the interests and needs of Israel, entirely disenfranchised from the powers that control their lives) and settlers (living in settlements built on land taken from Palestinians, enjoying all the entitlements and protections of Israeli citizenship and law, and with representatives and allies at every level of Israeli government). This approach, not coincidentally, exemplifies a vision of ‘peace’ based on promises of improved quality of life for individual Palestinians, de-coupled from any pretense of helping Palestinians end an occupation that the United States no longer believes to exist, or achieve national self-determination that the United States no longer supports. Tweeting about that event, Friedman suggested that this kind of cooperation was precisely the kind of opportunity that the Palestinian people truly want and could have, if only their leadership would listen.”