***The Settlement Report is taking a two-week break for the Holidays, and will return again after the New Year.***
Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
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December 14, 2017
- Israel Announces 6,000 Settlement Units in East Jerusalem
- A Special Israeli Committee Fast-Tracks the Controversial Jerusalem Cable Car Project
- Hebron Squatters Issue Set Conditions for Complying with the Law
- Knesset Expedites Funding for Armored Vehicles for Settlers
- Government Supports Bill to de facto Annex Settlement Universities
- Knesset Suspends Benefits to Non-Profit Operating in Illegal Outpost
- Bonus Reads
Comments, questions, or suggestions? Email Kristin McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shortly after President Trump’s proclamation recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and directing the U.S. Department of State to begin the process of relocating the U.S. Embassy there, Israel was rumored to be planning 6,000 new settlement units in occupied East Jerusalem.
Israel’s Minister of Housing and Construction, Yoav Galant, was quoted saying, “Following President Trump’s historic declaration, I intend to advance and strengthen building in Jerusalem.”
According to reports the plans include:
- Introduction of a new plan for 5,000 settlement units at the site of the disused Atarot airport at the northern tip of East Jerusalem. Construction at the site has not yet begun, but Israel has made significant moves since Trump took office – in April leaking news of the of the plans and suggesting they were working to come to an understanding with Trump on settlements including Atarot, and in October allocating funds for building the Atarot settlement. If implemented, Atarot will be the first new government-backed settlement in East Jerusalem since the 1995 construction of Har Homa. Settlement construction at Atarot will cut off Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem from the West Bank. [image]
- A new plan for 1,000 units in the Pisgat Ze’ev settlement in East Jerusalem.
Exactly one week after President Trump’s proclamation recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and directing the U.S. Department of State to begin relocating the U.S. Embassy there, a special committee held a hearing to consider plans for a cable car project. The controversial project is deeply connected to a settler-run tourist organization, Elad, which is responsible for building a huge new tourist center in the heart of the Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan.
As Ir Amim explains:
The [Israeli] State will invest 200 million shekels in a system designed to seamlessly connect the western part of the city with a constellation of Elad settler group managed tourism enterprises in Silwan. If, as intended, the cable car becomes a primary means of transportation to the Old City, it will route masses of visitors to the compound Elad intends to establish as the headquarters of its decades long campaign to settle the neighborhood of Silwan…
The cable car project is another compelling example of state sponsored private settlement under the guise of tourism. Officials have circumvented the local and district planning committees to fast track the plan, transferring authority to the National Infrastructure Committee (NIC), The NIC was established to expedite approval of significant infrastructure projects and limit the role of the public to block problematic schemes. Until recently, tourism related projects were not discussed under its purview. About a year ago, the Planning and Building Law was amended to enable its new function.
The 100 Israeli settlers who since July have been illegally squatting in a contested Hebron house, which they have dubbed the Machpelah house, are attempting to dictate the terms under which they will comply with a court ruling compelling them to leave. After delaying their evacuation for months through a series of Court petitions, the settlers said this week that they will voluntarily vacate the property if the High Court orders the demolition of a storage shed near the house, which they claim Palestinians recently built. They also demanded the right to station their own private security guards to “supervise” the house while the Court decides on its legal ownership, which has been in dispute since 2012.
In response, Peace Now called the settlers’ demands “another dubious exercise,” noting that the “guards” settlers want to station at the house are themselves settlers. In this way, the conditions the settlers are setting demonstrate that the squatters have no intention of leaving, despite the Court’s ruling.
Under unrelenting pressure from settler leaders, the Knesset Finance Committee voted to expedite the first transfer of money to finance projects that are a part of the much-promised “Settler Security Package,” slated to total USD $228 million in 2018. This initial allocation, made this week, totals USD $12.8 million to finance the purchase of bullet-proof buses to transport settlers throughout the West Bank.
The Israeli government threw its support behind a Knesset bill that would bring universities and colleges located in Israeli settlements under domestic Israeli law. The bill has already cleared the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, and is now set to be voted on three times, after which it will become law.
Settlement universities and colleges have been governed and accredited through the Council of Higher Education in the West Bank, but the bill would disband this council and the settlement schools would fall under the authority of the Council of Higher Education in Israel – further blurring the legal distinction between Israel and the occupied territories.
According to Arutz Sheva (a settler-aligned news outlet), the Knesset Finance Committee has removed an organization called “Hebrew Shepherd” from a list of Israeli organizations eligible to receive tax breaks, saying that Hebrew Shepherd requires additional study by the Israeli Tax Authority.
In November, Haaretz published a report revealing that the Israeli Education Ministry established and continues to fund the operations of Hebrew Shepherd, which operates in an illegal settlement outpost. Hebrew Shepherd has launched a petition to have the outpost retroactively legalized in order to void the demolition orders that have been issued against all of the outpost’s structures and its access road.
Ironically, the organization’s mission is to rehabilitate radical Israeli youth, known as the “Hilltop Youth,” who violently establish and defend unauthorized outposts.
- “Israel’s Settlement Regularization Law: The Attorney General’s Extraordinary Brief and What it Means for Israel’s Legal Stance on Illegal Settlements” (Lawfare)
- “At East Jerusalem enclave, some Jews happier with Trump than with Netanyahu” (Times of Israel)
- [Opinion] “Should Israelis also Boycot the Haredim and Settlers? Or Just Get Over Their Fear of Arabs?” (Haaretz+)
FMEP has long been a trusted resource on settlement-related issues, reflecting both the excellent work of our grantees on the ground and our own in-house expertise. FMEP’s focus on settlements derives from our commitment to achieving lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace, and our recognition of the fact that Israeli settlements – established for the explicit purpose of dispossessing Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem of land and resources, and depriving them of the very possibility of self-determination in their own state with borders based on the 1967 lines – are antithetical to that goal.