Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
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August 9, 2019
- Summary: Another Week, Another Round of Major Settlement Approvals
- Israeli Annexation via Settlement Construction Unleashed, Part 1: Three Outposts are “Legalized”
- Israeli Annexation via Settlement Construction Unleashed, Part 2: Final Approval for 648 New Settlement Units
- Israeli Annexation via Settlement Construction Unleashed, Part 3: Plans Advanced for 1,466 New Settlement Units (With More to Come)
- Israeli Annexation via Settlement Construction Unleashed, Part 4: Reactions
- Following Murder of Settler Youth, Netanyahu Doubles Down on Commitment to Settlements
- Latin Patriarchate Files Suit Claiming New Proof of Fraud Behind Settler Takeover of Old City Hotel Properties
- Education Minister Strips Key Committee Membership from Professor Who Objected to Authorization of Settlement Medical School
- Bimkom Report: Israel’s “No Construction Zone” Adjacent to the Separation Barrier Has Little To Do With Security
- Ir Amim: Israel’s Crackdown in Issawiya Advances Settlement Project in East Jerusalem
- Terrestrial Jerusalem In-Depth Report: The Silwan Tunnel Project
- Bonus Reads
Questions or comments? Contact Kristin McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
During its quarterly convening on August 5th and 6th, the Israeli Defense Ministry’s High Planning Council advanced plans for a total of 2,304 new settlement units. This includes:
- the approval of plans legalizing 190 units that have the effect of retroactively legalizing 3 unauthorized outposts;
- final approval for the construction of 648 settlement units; and
- interim approval (i.e., a step toward final approval) for the construction of 1,466 new settlement units
These approvals comes on the heels of the Israeli Security Cabinet’s decision to issue 6,000 building permits for settlement units last week (details of which are still unpublished). The past week of massive settlement advancements is a clearer-than-ever indication that Israel (with very public backing from top U.S. officials) is not holding back its illegal settlement activities and its ongoing annexation of the West Bank, particularly in Area C.
Details of this week’s approvals are broken down below.
Plans advanced August 5-6 by the Israeli Defense Ministry’s High Planning Council In its decisions taken August 5th and 6th include at least 190 units in three illegal outposts — which have the effect of retroactively legalizing those three outposts. The outposts that gained retroactive approval this week are:
- Haroah Haivri – The council approved a plan for an educational institute and accompanying housing for students and staff. Most extraordinarily, Haroah Haivri, located just east of Jerusalem, is within eyesight of the Khan al-Ahmar community, which Israel is planning to demolish (forcibly relocating the Palestinian bedouin community that has lived there since the 1950s) — ostensibly because the structures in Khan al Ahmar were built without necessary Israeli approvals. The Haroah Haivri outpost was also built without the necessary Israeli approvals, but instead of demolishing the construction, Israel has retroactively legalized it — demonstrating once again that, when it comes to administering the occupation, Israel prefers “rule by law” – where law is turned into a tool to elevate the rights/interests of one party over another, over the democratic rule of law.
- Ibei Hanachal – The Council approved 96 units in this outpost, located southeast of Bethlehem, turning it into a “neighborhood” of the Maale Amos settlement. In reality, the outpost is not contiguous with the built-up area of the Maale Amos settlement, meaning that the implementation of this plan will, in effect, create a distinct new settlement (for coverage of this plan, see here) .
- Givat Salit – The Council approved 94 units in this outpost, located in the northern Jordan Valley, as part of turning it into a “neighborhood” of the nearby Mechola settlement.
The legalization of these three outposts only adds to the success of Israel’s ongoing and increasingly successful effort to retroactively legalize all illegal settler construction in the West Bank (that is, construction undertaken illegally under Israel law; all settlement construction is illegal under international law). The lengths to which Israel has gone to in order to achieve that goal include inventing new legal grounds — some outlined by the government’s “Zandberg report” and another – the “market regulation principle” identified by the Isareli Attorney General — that in effect allow Israel to suspend the rule of law and erase private property rights of Palestinians. For the past 2.5 years, FMEP has documented this campaign in detail in its Annexation Policies Tables – regularly updated and available online.
Israeli Annexation via Settlement Construction Unleashed, Part 2: Final Approval for 648 New Settlement Units
The actions taken this week by the High Planning Council include issuing final approval for 648 settlement units – mostly new construction but also some approval of existing construction that had been undertaken without approval (all of this is in addition to the 190 units in outposts legalized retroactively). Details of these approvals for new settlement construction are as follows:
194 units in the Ganei Modlin settlement, located in the northern “seam line zone” in the West Bank but on the Israeli side of the security barrier (by design of the Israeli government). The plan for 194 new units will bring the settlement’s built-up area directly up to the separation barrier, a particularly notable plan given Israel’s recent demolition of 70 Palestinian homes in the West Bank, based on the argument that the construction within a 200-250 foot Israeli-imposed “no construction zone” on either side of the barrier poses an unacceptable security risk to Israel. Israel rejected an offer by Palestinians to privately finance the construction of new and higher wall near the buildings; developers behind the Ganei Modlin project also offered to finance the construction of high wall near the construction, an offer the courts saw fit to accept – resolving the matter in the eyes of the High Planning Council, which approved the plan.
- 96 units in the Kiryat Netafim settlement, located in the northern West Bank and part of a string of settlements and unauthorized outposts – most notably Ariel – extending from the Green Line into the very heart of the West Bank and on towards the Jordan Valley.
- 76 units in the Beit Hagai settlement, located just south of Hebron,
- 66 units in the Efrat settlement, located south of Bethlehem. Efrat had already received final permission for 1,000 new settlement units at the most recent High Planning Council meeting, in April 2019. As a reminder, Efrat is located inside a settlement enclave that cuts deep into the West Bank. Efrat’s location and the route of the barrier wall around it, have literally severed the route of Highway 60 south of Bethlehem, cutting off Bethlehem and Jerusalem from the southern West Bank. The economic, political, and social impacts of the closure of Highway 60 at the Efrat settlement (there is literally a wall built across the highway) have been severe for the Palestinian population.
- 61 units attached to an educational institute in the Gva’ot settlement, located south of Bethlehem. The Gva’ot (Gevaot) settlement was established as an outpost of mobile homes, and later benefited from Israel’s unilateral, mass expropriation of Palestinian land in 2014 (which Israeli officials explictly said was done in response to a Palestinian terror attack). At the time, Peace Now reported that the move constituted the largest single expropriation of Palestinian land by the Israeli state in over 30 years.
- 51 units in Shvut Rachel, which only recently became an authorized settlement area when Israel extended the jurisdiction of the Shiloh settlement to include it as a “neighborhood” (along with three other outposts). The plans approved this week will retroactive legalize existing units and permit the construction of a few news one.
- 29 units in the Otniel settlement, located in the South Hebron Hills area. The plans serve to retroactively legalize existing units.
- 27 units in the Maskiyot settlement, located in the northern Jordan Valley. These units are part of a plan allowing the construction of a “bed and breakfast” with 27 additional rooms (and calling to mind Amnesty International’s recent report on the role tourism plays in supporting the occupation).
- 19 units in the Peduel settlement, located in the northern West Bank and part of a string of settlements and unauthorized outposts – most notably Ariel – extending from the Green Line into the very heart of the West Bank and on towards the Jordan Valley.
- 18 units and a park in the Ma’ale Adumim settlement.
- 11 units in the Einav settlement, located northwest of Nablus.
In addition, the Council gave retroactive approval for a controversial archeological site in the Shiloh settlement, located in the center of the northern West Bank. The Israeli government has devoted a significant amount of money and political energy towards building the tourist site, which is now drawing upwards of 60,000 evangelical tourists each year. For background on the site, see this Emek Shaveh report from 2014 and this brief from 2017, when the government approved the commercialization of the site. For analysis on how the site fits into a bigger pattern of Israeli efforts to normalize the settlements through tourism, see this report by Amnesty International.
Israeli Annexation via Settlement Construction Unleashed, Part 3: Plans Advanced for 1,466 New Settlement Units (With More to Come)
Actions taken August 5-6 by the Israeli Defense Ministry’s High Planning Council include advancing plans that, when they eventually receive final approval, will allow for the construction of 1,466 settlement units (details of the various steps of the planning/approval process are laid out by Peace Now here). Specifically, the Higher Planning Council this week approved the following plans for deposit for public review:
- 382 units in the Beit El settlement, located north of Ramallah. The plans include the retroactive legalization of 36 units; the remaining 346 are new units. As a reminder, Beit El is the settlement closely associated with U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who among other things was the President of the “Friends of Beit El” organization, which raised money on its behalf.
- 354 in the Nili settlement, located in the northern West Bank;
- 200 units in the Asfar settlement, located northeast of Hebron. If approved, this plan will triple the size of the Asfar settlement.
- 168 units in the Talmon settlement, located north west of Ramallah. In December 2018, FMEP reported on a deadly encounter between neighboring Palestinians and settlers from Talmon and/or the many unauthorized outposts associated with it. The settlers had been attempting to takeover another hilltop on the outskirts of the Palestinian village of al-Mazra’ah al-Qibliyah. When Palestinians staged an attempt to stop the settlers from entering the area, a scuffle ensued and Israeli soldiers shot and killed two Palestinians.
- 132 units in the Kfar Adumim settlement, located east of Jerusalem and less than one mile from the Khan al-Ahmar bedouin community which the state of Israel is seeking to demolish.
- 84 units in the Shima settlement, located in the southern tip of the West Bank.
- 74 units in the Yakir settlement, located in the northern West Bank and part of a string of settlements and unauthorized outposts – most notably Ariel – extending from the Green Line deep into the West Bank.
- 48 units in the Bracha settlement, located south of Nablus.
- A recreational area in the Kochav Yaakov settlement, located just south of Ramallah.
In addition to the plans approved and advanced detailed above, the High Planning Council delayed consideration of two additional plans, which are:
- A plan that would effectively legalize another outpost, known as Brosh. Similar to the Haroah Haivri plan, discussed above, the plans relating to Brosh serve to retroactively legalize an existing educational institute. Approval of the plan was delayed because the Council had not resolved objections that were filed against the plan, including an objection filed by Peace Now.
A plan for 207 settlement units in the Bracha settlement, located near Nablus (these plans are in addition to the plans for 48 units approved to be deposited for public review, covered above). Though plan was on the Council’s schedule, it could not be approved because the Council first needs to approve the extension of Har Bracha’s existing settlement jurisdiction to include the area units are to be built. Since the plan calls for the construction of units outside of the existing area of jurisdiction, the plan could not be approved.
Following this week’s advancement of plans for 2,304 settlement units, settlement watchers and key members and bodies of the international community issued sharp criticism and sounded the annexation alarm bells. In contrast, there was glaring – and very, very, very predictable – silence came from the U.S. administration. A few notable reactions are included below.
Peace Now said in a statement:
“The approval of settlement plans is part of a disastrous government policy designed to prevent the possibility of peace and a two-state solution, and to annex part or all of the West Bank. The linkage of thousands of housing permits for settlers and a negligible number of housing units for Palestinians cannot hide the government’s discrimination policy. As a result, we see for example an approval of the illegal outpost (Haroeh Haivri) built for Israelis adjacent to the Palestinian bedouin village of Khan Al-Ahmar, for which the government refuses to approve any construction permits and instead seeks to transfer. Or we see, the approval of the construction of a new settlement neighborhood adjacent to the separation barrier after demolishing 72 housing units built adjacent to the separation barrier in Wadi Hummus, despite offering to fund security measures.”
The European Union issued a statement which reads:
“The EU expects the Israeli authorities to fully meet their obligations as an occupying power under International Humanitarian Law, and to cease the policy of settlement construction and expansion, of designating land for exclusive Israeli use, and of denying Palestinian development.”
United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov said in a statement:
“The expansion of settlements has no legal effect and constitutes a flagrant violation of international law. By advancing the effective annexation of the West Bank, it undermines the chances for establishing a Palestinian state based on relevant UN resolutions, as part of a negotiated two-state solution.”
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab urged Israel to stop what he called:
“the effective annexation of the West Bank.”
Leilani Farha, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for the right to housing, and Michael Lynk, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, said in a statement:
“These settlement housing units are clearly meant to solidify the Israeli claim of sovereignty over the West Bank. Building civilian settlements in occupied territory is illegal, as is the annexation of territory. The international community has spoken out against the Israeli settlements, but it has not imposed effective consequences for the country’s defiance of international law. Israel’s actions indicate it plans to remain permanently and advance a claim of sovereignty. The Israeli Prime Minister made this clear when he said recently that: ‘No settlement and no settlers will ever be uprooted.’ Should we not take him at his word that Israel has no intention of complying with international law? Criticism without consequences is hollow. The international community has a wide menu of commonly-used countermeasures to push recalcitrant states into compliance with their international duties. If the international community is serious about its support for Palestinian self-determination and its opposition to Israeli settlements then, surely, the time has come for meaningful action.”
Israeli settlers, on the other hand, we filled with glee. Gush Etzion Regional Council Head Shlomo Ne’eman said in a statement:
“Thank God today we received approval from the Higher Planning Council for new housing units in Gush Etzion. Congratulations to all of our residents on the 200 units in Metzad, which is historic in that it will triple the size of the community. Congratulations on the final approvals for the Sadna institution, which works towards integration and is located in Gevaot, and will enable permanent construction of tens of units. Another major breakthrough is the final approval for Ibei Hanachal, which essentially fully legalizes the community and includes the construction of 96 permanent homes. These are major accomplishments for southeastern Gush Etzion, for the Jewish communities in the Judean Desert, and of course for all of Judea and Samaria. This is an opportunity for me to thank Prime Minister Netanyahu on this impressive accomplishment. Let’s hope that the trend of development and construction in Judea and Samaria continues full speed ahead.”
Following the murder of a 19-year old Israeli settler, Prime Minister Netanyahu vowed once again that he will promote settlement construction in all areas of the West Bank. Speaking at a ceremony marking the establishment of a new neighborhood of 650 units in the settlement of Beit El (which just saw plans for 382 new units advance, see above) Bibi said:
“We promised to build hundreds of housing units. Today we are doing it, both because we promised and because our mission is to establish the nation of Israel in our country. We know that the Land of Israel is bought in agony. Today another one of our sons fell. He was from a family that has already made a heavy sacrifice for the Land of Israel. These vicious terrorists: They come to uproot, we come to plant. They come to destroy, we come to build. Our hands will reach out and we will deepen our roots in our homeland – in all parts of it.”
Bibi’s words — which suggest an intention to continue/expand settlement construction across the entirely of the West Bank — did not satisfy many of his challengers on the Israeli right (against whom he is squaring off against in the upcoming election). Ayelet Shaked – who is leading a union of right wing parties – called directly for annexation. She said:
“We have to apply sovereignty to Judea and Samaria. Gush Etzion is in consensus and there is no reason not to apply sovereignty there.”
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) said:
“our response to the murder has to be [to] apply sovereignty on the settlements, starting with Gush Etzion.”
And the Sovereignty Movement – is an offshoot of the Women in Green organization, and has been working to formalize its expanding influence over Israeli politicians and public discourse by pushing for the establishment of a Knesset committee devoted to the cause of Israeli annexation of the West Bank – issued a statement saying:
“It is either us or them! This is a 52-year-old struggle that must be resolved. Sovereignty will bring resolution and will erase the hope of pushing us out of here through terror attacks. The resolution must be clear and unambiguous – we have returned to the heritage of our fathers, we will bring another million Jews here, we will build dozens of communities. The Arabs are invited to live under our sovereignty as individuals and enjoy a prosperous life as residents.”
Latin Patriarchate Files Suit Claiming New Proof of Fraud Behind Settler Takeover of Old City Hotel Properties
On August 5th, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem filed a request to reopen the underlying case in Jerusalem District Court which awarded the radical settler group Ateret Cohanim the ownership rights to three historic church properties in the Old City of Jerusalem. The Patriarchate’s appeal is based on new evidence of fraud committed by the Jerusalem settler organization Ateret Cohanim – with the aid of church officials – during the sale of the properties. The original Jerusalem District Court ruling acknowledged that there were problems in the transaction, but found that the church failed to prove its allegations of bribery and corruption.
The allegations of fraud rely on the testimony of Ted Bloomfield, a man who managed the Petra Hotel in the 1990s. Bloomfield reportedly told the Greek Patriarchate that Ateret Cohanim paid him to help persuade the Palestinian protected tenants to sell their rights. The lawsuit says these actions are “extraordinary in their severity” and include fraud, forgery of legal documents, and bribery – including alleged attempted sexual bribery. The church’s complaint also alleges that the settler group obstructed justice in deliberately concealing documents during legal proceedings.
Haaaretz recently published a moving video testimony of one Palestinian man, Abu-Walid Dajani, whose family has run the New Imperial Hotel, one of the targeted properties, since 1949. Dajani is now facing eviction.
Education Minister Strips Key Committee Membership from Professor Who Objected to Authorization of Settlement Medical School
The Haaretz Editorial Board penned a sharp criticism of newly appointed (and interim) Israeli Education Minister Rafi Peretz, who recently removed Professor Yossi Shain from the Planning & Budgeting Committee of the Higher Education Council. Shain was one of the members of the key professional committee – which essentially serves as the gatekeeper for schools hoping to join the ranks of accredited Isareli education institutions – who objected to the rushed and politicized process by which, in contravention to the Council’s normal practice, a medical school located in the settlement of Ariel received approval from the Higher Education Council.
The Editorial Board writes:
“The ‘revenge’ taken by Peretz against someone acting according to his professional judgment is a worrisome sign. The message conveyed by the education minister’s bureau is crystal clear: In education and academia, loyalty to the occupation and annexation project has become a decisive criterion.”
Bimkom Report: Israel’s “No Construction Zone” Adjacent to the Separation Barrier Has Little To Do With Security
In a new report, the Israeli NGO Bimkom sheds light on the very problematic regulation that was the legal pretext behind Israel’s recent demolition of 70 Palestinian homes in Wadi Hummos – i.e., the argument that the construction was located too close to Israel’s separation barrier.
Bimkom explains that in 2011, the Israeli military issued a “no construction order” to prevent construction close to the separation barrier, ostensibly on the basis of security considerations. The zone defined by the order ranges from ranges from 30 meters to 700 meters in different areas (on both sides of the barrier). Given that much of the barrier passes through the West Bank (meaning the land on both sides is Palestinian land), the cumulative impact on the Palestinians is significant. According to Bimkon, the total area affected by the no-construction order is approximately 195,000 dunams [48,185 acres/195km2] of land, belonging to 115 Palestinian villages.
While the order also (theoretically) impacts 15,000 dunams of land in areas where there are settlements located close to the barrier, the perimeter of the zone and enforcement against construction within it follows a predictable logic in favor of the settlements.
“Similar to the barrier route, the no-construction order is determined such that its impact on settlement construction is minimal, but its impact on Palestinian villages is enormous. The negative impact of the physical barrier on hundreds of thousands of Palestinians is intensified expanded to hundreds of meters in which Palestinian construction is prevented. The potential for Palestinian development in Area C is already very limited, and the no-construction zone only serves to exacerbate the situation. In summary, it can be seen that the security considerations which are supposedly behind the construction ban are often questionable, and this also applies to Wadi al-Hummus. The obvious conclusion is that the security considerations according to which buildings in Areas A and B were demolished are a smoke-screen for political considerations whose purpose is to reduce the Palestinian population in the seam zone, especially in the Jerusalem region, or even to punish them for unrest in the area, according to army reports. The threat of demolition still hangs over Wadi al-Hummus, as there are a large number of other buildings that have received demolition orders and the court is scheduled to discuss their case in the coming months.”
Also, as detailed above, the inconsistency of Israeli policy when it comes to enforcing the “no-construction zone” was on display this week, as Israel approved the construction of 194 units in the Ganei Modlin settlement, right up to the barrier (discussed above). Whereas Israel rejected an offer by Palestinians in Wadi Hummos to privately finance the construction of new and higher wall near their buildings (and went ahead and demolished them), Israel authorities accepted an offer by developers behind the Ganei Modlin project to finance the construction of high wall near the construction, allowing expansion of a settlement to move ahead.
In +972 Mag, Ir Amim researcher Aviv Tartarsky published a superb analysis of the ongoing campaign of daily harassment and intimidation Israeli authorities have unleashed against Palestinians living in the Issawiya neighborhood of East Jerusalem. Tatarsky writes:
“The campaign against Issawiya signals a new stage in Israel’s oppressive policies in East Jerusalem, and is part of the overall change in Israeli policy toward the Palestinians with the backing of the Trump administration. In the past, Israel primarily focused on settlement construction in the eastern part of the city. By building so-called ‘facts on the ground,’ the government intended to make it as difficult as possible to draw a border along the Green Line and create two capitals in Jerusalem. Today that focus has dangerously shifted to breaking apart Palestinian Jerusalem. Israel is pouring hundreds of millions of shekels into projects that will take over large parts of the the Old City and its surrounding neighborhoods, while fragmenting Palestinian territory and jeopardizing the Palestinian population. Neighborhoods such as Silwan, A-Tur and Sheikh Jarrah have seen an intensification of home demolitions and evictions on the one hand, while on the other the municipality has built promenades, heritage centers, and other tourist attractions for the Jewish settlers living inside Palestinian neighborhoods. Meanwhile, Israel is aiming to redraw the city’s municipal borders so as to push 120,000 Palestinians — more than a third of the city’s Palestinian population — out of the city. According to legislation advanced last year by Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin, neighborhoods such as Kufr Aqab, Ras Hamis and the Shuafat refugee camp — already separated from the rest of the city by the separation wall — will be drawn out of the municipal boundaries. Issawiya, then, portends what Israel has in store for the remaining Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem: continual violence that has no aim other than oppressing and making life miserable for all who live there.”
Terrestrial Jerusalem produced an essential in-depth report on Israeli and U.S. policy towards Silwan, offering important context and shedding new light on the significance of Ambassador Friedman and Jason Greenblatt’s political stunt alongside Elad in the tunnels underneath the neighborhood.
Danny Seidemann writes in the report’s introduction:
“The event was not merely dramatic. The choreography illuminated at one critical moment and in one critical space two apparently disparate dimensions of the Israel-Palestine conflict, and their current dynamics: the territorial skirmishing and the battle over narrative in Jerusalem. More than anywhere else, the settlement in Silwan embodies the significant changes taking place in the Old City of Jerusalem and its immediate environs. The opening tunnel was, superficially, a minor routine event that disclosed developments that are anything but routine. As such, it requires an in-depth analysis that takes a hard look at the event, its background and its consequences. In our three sectioned report, we will begin by examining the background and significance of the settlement in Silwan. In Part II, we will examine the tunnel, its archeological, historical and ideological significance and the context in which it was excavated. Part III will deal with the nature of the shift in US policy regarding Silwan, its sources and its ramifications.”
- “Goodbye withdrawal, hello sovereignty: The triumph of the settlers” (Times of Israel)
- “Peace Cast: Housing Rather than Ideology” (Americans for Peace Now)
- “How Ayelet Shaked, a secular woman, came to dominate the right-wing religious camp in Israel” (JTA)
- “India’s Settler-Colonial Project in Kashmir Takes a Disturbing Turn” (Washington Post)