Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
To receive this report via email, please click here.
August 9, 2018
- Israel Plans to Use “Nation-State Law” to Defend Settlement “Regulation Law”
- Israel Moves to Approve a New Settlement…By Expanding An Existing One (An Old Trick)
- Israeli Govt is Funding a Settler School Squatting in a Palestinian Home
- Transferring Israeli Trash to the West Bank
- Settler Regional Council Funds Activities Aimed at Undermining Israeli Law
- Bonus Read
Comments, questions, or suggestions? Email Kristin McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Israel State’s private attorney tasked with defending the settlement “Regulation Law,” Harel Arnon, told reporters that the recent passage of the Nation-State law (declaring Israel the nation-state of the Jewish people alone) will strengthen his efforts to keeping the Regulation Law on the books (an effort which is widely expected to fail). The settlement “Regulation Law” was passed by the Knesset in February 2017, as a means to allow Israel to expropriate privately owned Palestinian land for the exclusive use/benefit of settlers. The High Court of Justice is currently weighing petitions against the settlement “Regulation Law,” which has been frozen since August 2017.
“The nation-state law certainly impacts the Regulation Law. There is no question. If until now, the argument in defense of the Regulation Law was that it seeks to balance the individual rights of Israeli residents (in the West Bank) with those of the Arab residents… what the nation-state law does is raise the status of Jewish settlement to one of constitutional value.”
The Nation-State law was passed by the Knesset on July 19th, and has since sparked condemnation and protest for the way it demotes the standing of minority communities in Israel. The law says “the state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation.” Nothing in the text suggests a distinction between “Jewish settlement” within Israel’s sovereign borders, and settlement in the occupied territories.
Yossi Alpher – former senior Mossad official and IDF intelligence officer) predicted as much in his weekly explainer for Americans for Peace Now. Deconstructing recent quotes by Prime Minister Netanyahu (“Without the Nation State law it would be impossible to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish state for the coming generations”) and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (“The hysterics of the political left prove that this is an excellent law. Once the composition of the [High Court] judges is changed, we can get what we wanted”), Alpher deduced:
“…the ultra-nationalist right, currently Israel’s political mainstream, intends to continue absorbing the land of the West Bank into Israel. Simultaneously it seeks, in one form or another, to disenfranchise more than three million Palestinians living there lest they become Israeli citizens and tilt the demographic balance away from ‘Jewish’ and (with a combined population including 45 percent Arabs but still excluding Gaza) toward ‘bi-national’. A Jewish nation state in which only Jews determine the country’s constitutional nature is the perfect ‘legal’ legislative vehicle for taking the necessary apartheid-like measures to make this happen.”
On August 8th, the Israeli Civil Administration announced that it is planning to retroactively legalize the Adei Ad outpost by massively expanding the borders of the (brand new) Amichai settlement to turn Adei Ad into a (non-contiguous) neighborhood of Amichai. In effect, this is a stealth operation by Israel to turn the Adei Ad outpost into an entirely new official, legal settlement.
The massive expansion of the Amichai settlement and the transformation of Adei Ad into a brand new settlement, if implemented, will be a significant step towards creating an uninterrupted corridor of settlements connecting sovereign Israel to the Ariel settlement, through the isolated Shiloh Valley settlements, all the way to the Jordan Valley. In so doing, It will completely bisect the northern part of the West Bank.
The plan takes into account a Civil Administration “Blue Line” survey in 2017, which found that the strip of land between the Amichai settlement and the Adei Ad outpost is privately owned Palestinian land. It seems that the Civil Administration is opting (for now) not to use its newly endowed tools for expropriating privately owned land for the use of settlements, and is instead moving forward with a plan that will effectively leave Adei Ad – ostensibly now a neighborhood of Amichai – physically disconnected from its new parent settlement. The strip of Palestinian land in between the two will almost certainly become inaccessible to its Palestinian owners, as is much of the Palestinian land near Adei Ad, a notoriously radical and violent outpost. It is highly likely that at a later date the land will be expropriated.
The Civil Administration unveiled the new plan in a letter addressed to Israeli NGO Yesh Din, in response to a 2014 petition against the Adei Ad outpost filed by the group on behalf of Palestinian landowners. The Civil Administration’s letter claimed the 2017 “Blue Line” land survey determined that Adei Ad is built on “state land” and is therefore eligible for retroactive legalization (despite having been built there entirely illegally). Yesh Din and its clients have formally appealed the findings of that survey, contending that Adei Ad is partially on private land.
After the Amichai borders are expanded to give cover for the legalization of Adei Ad, the Israeli Civil Administration is set to transfer administrative responsibilities over the expanded settlement (including the Adei Ad “neighborhood”) to the Binyamin Regional Council – the municipal body responsible for administering services and enforcing building laws in settlements within its jurisdiction (though it rarely moves to enforce laws against the illegal settler construction). As Haaretz notes:
“Except in the rarest cases, the council does not enforce the law against illegal construction in its jurisdiction…As a result of the transfer of administrative powers to municipal authorities at Amichai, the settlers will be able to build new structures illegally without effective enforcement.”
Yesh Din’s attorney, Shlomi Zecharia, told Haaretz:
“The inhabitants of the villages near the outpost have become hostages to the policy that abundantly rewards prizes and gifts to ideological criminals. Cutting off farmlands by means of a false [expansion of] jurisdiction is extreme, disproportionate and needless, and in fact is intended to perpetuate restrictions on and infringement of Palestinian property, this time under the official auspices of the government.”
Additionally worth noting, the Amichai expansion/Adei Ad legalization plan will represent yet another reward to settler law-breakers who evacuated from the unauthorized Amona outpost. Previously, the pay-off to settlers included the approval and construction of the Amichai settlement, which was the first new settlement to be built with government authorization in 25 years. It included, too, the approval of Shvut Rachel East, an outpost which – just like Adei Ad – became a non-contiguous “neighborhood” of an existing settlement (Shilo). The Amona pay-off package can now count a third settlement, Adei Ad. As FMEP documented at the time, the Trump Administration reportedly accepted the Amichai plan as an exception to its settlement policy which, at that time, was described in the media as President Trump asking Netanayahu “hold back on settlements for a little bit.”
Yesh Din comments on the Adei Ad scheme:
“Viewed in a broader context, this retroactive authorization is a major step towards fulfillment of Israel’s plan to annex Area C: retroactively authorizing unauthorized outposts at any price so as to ‘normalize’ them and render them permanent settlements; and creating continuous settler presence across the West Bank, from west to east, in order to facilitate the annexation, while dispossessing Palestinians of land that is their source of livelihood and in blatant disregard of international law and of the rights of Palestinian residents.”
The Times of Israel has a detailed report on a government-funded religious school that for years has been operating illegally in a privately owned Palestinian home near the Ofra settlement, in the center of the West Bank. The Mishpatei Eretz Institute, which is operating the school, receives around USD $55,000 annually from the Israeli Culture Ministry, and has received a total of USD $214,039 from government bodies over the past three years alone.
In the mid 1990s the home was physically cut off from the Palestinian village to which it belongs when Israel paved Route 60, the major north-south highway in the West Bank. In 2003, Israeli settlers broke into the home while its owners, the Shehadeh family, were on a day trip to Ramallah. After invading the home, settlers produced forged documents claiming that the Al-Watan settler organization purchased the building, and then spent years trying to prove that the purchase was legitimate in order to have the building registered with the Civil Administration. The Shehadeh family also spent years trying to force the IDF to evict the squatters, but nothing was ever done. In the meantime, Al-Watan donated the building – even without having legally established ownership of it – to the Mishpatei Eretz Institute, which then began operating a religious school in the building with government funding.
In 2013, the Jerusalem District Court ruled against Al-Watan’s claim to the building (slamming the organization and its officers for engaging in rampant fraudulent activity), deciding that the documents had been forged and recognizing the original Palestinian owners’ rights. Ten days after the ruling, the IDF Central Command issued a military order seizing the plot of land the home sits on, claiming “security purposes.” The IDF also built a fence around the area. The military order seizing the land will remain in force until 2019.
When contacted about the story, the IDF acknowledged the 2013 Court ruling but did not offer an explanation for any of its actions dating to either before or after the court ruling. A lawyer representing the Palestinian owners told The Times of Israel that the family will soon petition the High Court of Justice to have the settlers, and their school, evicted.
The anti-settlement watchdog Kerem Navot told reporters:
“We see here another example that reveals the corrupt system that Israel maintains in the West Bank. Rather than enforce the law, and evict and punish the settlers who invaded the property, the IDF issued a corrupt military order based on security needs that de facto enables them to stay there. On top of that, we now discover that the government is generously funding criminal bodies like the Mishpatei Eretz Institute.”
Haaretz reports that the Israeli government is close to finalizing a new plan to transfer waste from Jerusalem to the West Bank. Under the scheme, Israel will build a waste treatment facility east of the Ma’ale Adumim settlement to handle waste from Jerusalem. The facility will recycle or burn as much of the waste as possible, and then transfer the resulting ash and any remaining waste back into Israel.
Since the West Bank is under a military occupation, environmental regulation standards are considerably lower than in sovereign Israeli territory, making the West Bank an ideal spot for Israel to dump/treat its waste on the cheap, a practice extensively documented in a 2017 report by B’Tselem. The report asserts:
“Waste treatment in the West Bank is simply one more facet of the exploitative policy Israel has practiced consistently for fifty years now, using Palestinian space and people to further its own interests. As part of this policy, Israel treats the West Bank – and particularly Area C, where it retained full control under the Oslo Accords – as an area meant to serve its needs exclusively, as if it were its sovereign territory.”
Echoing the B’Tselem report, MK Mossi Raz (Meretz) notes that the plan, though sold as an environmentally friendly solution, is part of Israel’s de facto annexation of the West Bank, saying:
“Although at first glance it looks as though the ministry wants to protect the environment, the government plans clearly demonstrate that the goal is to prepare the ground for annexation. The building of infrastructure in the occupied territories by the state, without cooperation from the PA, deepends Israeli control in the territories, and thereby in effect is bringing us even closer to the day when the Israeli government will annex the territories.”
The Israeli Defense Ministry is slowing down the implementation of the plan, which has broad support across other government ministries, for technical reasons — mainly having to do with a dispute about how the facility will be staffed.
In 2017 the Gush Etzion Regional Council contributed hundreds of thousands of shekels to illegal settlement and outpost construction in its jurisdiction, and heavily invested in projects connected to defending the unauthorized Netiv Ha’avot outpost against demolition. Data obtained by the Movement for Freedom of Information and analyzed by Peace Now show that the Gush Etzion Regional Council, which is supposed to be enforcing Israeli laws in areas under its jurisdiction, instead invested hundreds of thousands of shekels trying to help the illegal Netiv Ha’avot outpost skirt the law. The Council’s 2017 projects connected to Netiv Ha’avot included:
- The construction of a new, unauthorized observation tower (a memorial site) in the outpost. Construction of the tower moved forward after the High Court of Justice ruled that 17 buildings in Netiv Ha’avot were built partially on Palestinian land and must be demolished.
- A public campaign to save buildings in the Netiv Ha’avot outpost from demolition, including a payment to the radical Regavim settler organization in connection to the campaign (which is working to selectively enforce building laws against Palestinians in the West Bank). By the end of 2017, the council spent NIS 164,688 on the campaign – which, as Peace Now notes, became an even more active effort in 2018.
- Building a new (at that point unauthorized) outpost for those settlers facing evacuation from buildings in the Netiv Ha’avot outpost. The Council was able to recoup some of those expenses when the government later approved an NIS 60 million package to provide compensation for the settlers who were evacuated as well as funds for the Council.
In addition to the Netiv Ha’avot outpost expenditures, and other unauthorized settlement projects, the Gush Etzion Regional Council spent NIS 1,755 on an ATV tour for MK Yehuda Glick to conduct a “survey on the application of sovereignty over (i.e., annexation of) Gush Etzion.”
Peace Now says:
“It is time for official authorities that are obligated to act according to the law to stop funding illegal activities, attacking the High Court and evading enforcement of the law, especially when using public funds. The Interior Ministry must put an end to this sinister exploitation of the public coffers, and must get our taxpayers’ money back.”
- “Fact and Fiction About the Amendment of the Israeli Supreme Court’s Jurisdiction Over West Bank Cases” (Lawfare Blog)