Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
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December 7, 2018
- Looming Mass Eviction in Silwan, Part 1: High Court Rules that Settler Organization Can Pursue Eviction of 700 Palestinians in Batan Al-Hawa Section of Silwan
- Looming Mass Eviction in Silwan, Part 2: Elad Settler Org Wins Eviction Case Against Palestinians in Wadi Hilweh Section of Silwan
- Israel to Fast-Track Two Settlement Plans in Sheikh Jarrah
- Justice Ministry Finalizes Legal Opinion to Retroactively Legalize the Haresha Outpost
- Three Illegal Outposts (& Ariel) Are Now “National Priority Areas” Eligible for Government Subsidies
- High Court Rules the Jewish National Fund is the Legal Owner of Land South of Bethlehem
- Israel Seizes Jordan Valley Land Owned by the Catholic Church
- Israeli Civil Administration Report Criticizing Yitzhar Settler Violence Leads to Renewed Calls to Annex the West Bank
- After IDF Killed Two Palestinians, Civil Administration Grants Settlers Victory in Struggle Over Hilltop
- The New Mayor of Jerusalem, Moshe Lion, On Settlements
- Al-Shabaka Policy Paper: “The EU & Jerusalem”
- Breaking the Silence Report – “Occupying Hebron: 2011-2017”
- U.S. Chatter on Economic Coexistence Initiatives (Which Normalize Settlements/Occupation) Provokes Strong Palestinian Response
- Bonus Reads
Questions/comments? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Looming Mass Eviction in Silwan, Part 1: High Court Rules that Settler Organization Can Pursue Eviction of 700 Palestinians in Batan Al-Hawa Section of Silwan
On November 22nd, the Israeli High Court of Justice ruled that the settler organization Ateret Cohanim can continue to pursue the eviction of 700 Palestinians from their homes in the Batan al-Hawa section of the Silwan neighborhood in East Jerusalem. This would be the largest displacement of Palestinians from East Jerusalem since 1967.
The High Court’s ruling did not decide the central issues in the case, which call into question Ateret Cohanim’s ownership of the land through its control of an historic Yemenite land trust (the Benvenisti Trust). The High Court reserved those issues for the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court to decide as part of its consideration of individual eviction cases.
In its ruling, the High Court criticized of the government’s involvement in the case, specifically calling out the role the government played in transferring ownership of the land to Ateret Cohanim without properly informing the Palestinian residents. The High Court ruling said:
“We can’t continue without expressing surprise at the state’s assumption that a decision so significant to the lives of hundreds of people – ‘liberating’ the property on which they have lived for many years [and transferring it] to other hands – isn’t the kind of thing that ought to be publicized through reasonable means. Even the precise identity of the property’s residents wasn’t known, and that’s the interpretation kindest to the state…Evicting people who have lived on this land for decades – some of them without even knowing that the land belongs to others – creates a human problem. Especially when it’s done without compensation or any other solution. It seems the state would do better to consider providing a solution, in appropriate cases, for those evicted from their homes. Property rights are important, but it’s also important to defend people’s homes.”
“The judgment proves, yet again, that the Israeli High Court gives its seal of approval to almost any infringement of Palestinians’ rights by the Israeli authorities.”
Ateret Cohanim has waged a years-long eviction campaign against Palestinians living in Silwan, on property the settler NGO claims to own, based on its control of the historic Benvenisti Trust, which oversaw the assets of Yemenite Jews who lived in the neighborhood in the 19th century. Palestinians have challenged the legitimacy of the Benvinisti Trust’s claims to the currently existing buildings, saying that the trust only covered the old buildings (none of which remain standing) and not the land. Despite ongoing legal challenges, in October 2018 the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ruled in Ateret Cohanim’s favor in one of the cases connected to the Benvenisti Trust’s claim to the buildings there – resulting in the eviction of the last remaining Palestinian tenants (the Abu Sneina family) from a building in area of Silwan known as Batan al-Hawa.
The ruling this week does not give a final decision to the underlying questions of ownership, but it allows Ateret Cohanim to proceed – from a strengthened position – in its legal efforts to evict Palestinians from their homes.
Looming Mass Eviction in Silwan, Part 2: Elad Settler Org Wins Eviction Case Against Palestinians in Wadi Hilweh Section of Silwan
On December 5, 2018 the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court upheld the eviction of a Palestinian family – the Siyams – family their home in the Wadi Hilweh section of Silwan, in East Jerusalem, just 820 feet from the southern wall of Al-Aqsa Mosque. Like Ateret Cohanim (see above), the Elad settler organization has been waging a years-long legal battle to take control homes in Silwan, including a 20-year battle to take control of the Siyam family home, which Elad insists legally purchased it.
The Court ruling this week was the first ruling in the settlers’ favor. The Siyam family announced plans to petition the ruling to the Jerusalem District Court.
In response to the ruling, Peace Now said:
“This case is an example of how the settlers manage to take control of Palestinian property in East Jerusalem by combining manipulations, money, forgery and significant aid from the Israeli authorities. It is not a regular case between equal sides, but a story of David and Goliath, and the settlers are the Goliath. There is a settlers organization with almost unlimited financial resources and enormous political power against an ordinary Palestinian family that has been forced into court for more than 20 years, to invest tremendous resources in legal defense and to deal with various and varied purchase claims. This way the settlers are causing great damage to Israel when they harm the delicate fabric of life in Jerusalem and the possibility of compromise in Jerusalem and a two-state solution.”
Ir Amim reports that the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee will meet on December 23rd to fast-track the approval of two plans for a total of 13 new settlement units in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem. The plans put approximately 5 Palestinian families at imminent risk of eviction.
On December 23, the Committee will discuss public objections to plans for the two settler building (one for 10 units and one for 3 units), which if approved, will result in the eviction of 5 Palestinian families.
Ir Amim further explains:
“The two plans in Sheikh Jarrah are being pushed by city councilperson and settler leader Arieh King, a close ally of Jerusalem’s just inaugurated mayor, Moshe Leon. King has recently joined the new mayor at several public events and is said to be eyeing a deputy mayor position in the new administration.”
+972 Magazine has an excellent piece on the resumption of evictions and settlement takeovers in Sheikh Jarrah, which have been stalled since 2009, in part due to international pressure. A prominent figure in the Sheikh Jarrah resistance movement, Saleh Diab, said:
“Ever since Trump said last year that Jerusalem belongs to the Jews, we have been feeling the change. The settlers are working quickly to evict us before the American administration changes…How will we go back to the days of protests? The police today are like the police in [apartheid] South Africa. Israelis who stood alongside us were fired from their jobs because of their views…Like in Khan al-Ahmar, they are trying to expel an entire community and turn us into refugees for a second time.”
PLO Spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi released a statement saying:
“Since the beginning of the year, Israel has accelerated and intensified its efforts to entrench its colonial military occupation, especially in and around occupied Jerusalem…Israel’s extremist, racist government coalition headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is deliberately and systematically working to complete the total annexation and isolation of Jerusalem from its Palestinian environs and surrounding areas, as well as the distortion of the occupied city’s demographic, historical and cultural character…These measures pose a strategic threat to Palestinian human and national rights, especially through the imposition of new and ‘permanent’ realities on the ground that deliberately undermine the achievement of Palestinian statehood…At a time when the rights-based international system is under threat, the reality and future of Jerusalem is a litmus test for the world and the integrity of its legal and political system. It is our hope that the global community and people of conscience will rise to the challenge and defend the universality and indivisibility of human rights. The world must not fail Jerusalem.”
On December 6, 2018, Israel Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked announced a new legal opinion that permits the Israeli government to proceed with its plan to retroactively legalize the Haresha outpost by building an access road through privately owned Palestinian land. According to the new opinion, the Israeli government is permitted to “temporarily seize” the privately owned land to build a tunnel underneath it leading to the outpost, though it leaves open the possibility for the government to permanently expropriate the land in the future. The lack of an access road has until now prevented the Israeli government from retroactively legalizing the entire Haresha outpost; once the access road is deemed legal, the government is expected to act quickly to legalize it and pursue plans to build more settlement units there.
Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit – who signed off on the new Justice Ministry opinion – in November 2017 released a different legal argument in favor of permanently expropriating the land to legalize the access road, arguing that settlers are part of the “local population” of the West Bank and are therefore eligible to be the sole beneficiaries of land seized for “public use” (the access road is not open to Palestinian traffic). The opinion released this week, which cites Mandelblit’s previous opinion, finds yet another way to accomplish the same goal, by temporarily seizing the land to build a permanent tunnel for the settlers underneath it.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said:
“From the beginning of my current term I have set a goal of normalizing the lives of the residents of Judea and Samaria and normalizing as many communities as possible. We have gone from a discourse of eviction to a discourse of normalization. These actions are in addition to the strengthening of the communities by other means, such as the transfer of authority in matters of Judea and Samaria from the Supreme Court to the Administrative Affairs Court in Jerusalem, as well as the equalization of legislation for Judea and Samaria…I will continue to work for the normalization of additional communities in Judea and Samaria. I thank Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, Deputy Attorney General (Erez) Kaminitz and the Legal Advisor for the Judea and Samaria Area for their important activity on the issue.”
Peace Now told the Times of Israel:
“This move is a mockery of justice. Since the Regulation Law is tied up in court, the Ministry of Justice is yet again using every crooked justification it can concoct to expropriate private Palestinian land in order to dissect the West Bank with settlements until they have achieved their one-state apartheid agenda.”
Dror Etkes, founder of the anti-settlement watchdog group Kerem Navot, wrote:
“the outpost of Haresha, comprised of about 100 illegal structures, is of course not the story here. The story that the settlers are striving to resolve, with Mandelblit’s help, involves hundreds (yes hundreds!) of roads that have been illegally paved for decades around settlements and outposts, on land that even Israel recognizes as privately-owned. Now, with a little creativity and a lot of nerve, a legal mechanism has been invented to enable settlers to retroactively authorize the road system, without which the national land grab enterprise championed by Israel in the West Bank, can’t function.”
Three Illegal Outposts (& Ariel) Are Now “National Priority Areas” Eligible for Government Subsidies
On November 26th, Israeli Housing Minister Yoav Gallant announced that three illegal outposts – Kerem Reim, new Migron, and Shvut Rachel – will be considered “national priority” areas for development, marking the first time that illegal outposts are eligible for significant government subsidies to encourage growth.
In order to include the outposts, the Israeli Housing Ministry wrote and adopted a new criteria to make “neighborhoods located far from a ‘parent town’ that do not rely on the infrastructure of said town” eligible for priority status. For the purposes of the government subsidies plan, Kerem Reim is considered a “neighborhood” of the Talmon settlement, New Migron is considered a “neighborhood” of the Kochav Yochav settlement, and Shvut Rachel is considered a “neighborhood” of the Shilo settlement.
Though the Israeli government has rewritten its laws to consider these “children” outposts as “neighborhoods” of existing, government-approved settlements, they are, in fact, independent settlements. This fact is underscored by the Housing Ministry’s new criteria which admits that the outposts do not share the same infrastructure systems as the settlements of which they are considered a part (and, indeed, rewards that fact).
The Ariel settlement was also re-designated as a national priority area (having been previously selected and then later removed from the list), among a total of 583 communities from both sides of the Green Line. The selected communities, settlements, and outposts will benefit from massive government subsidies, including at least 50% of infrastructure costs for the construction of new housing. Israelis seeking to purchase a home in the selected communities will receive government loans and forms of assistance.
Haaretz reports Housing Minister Yoav Gallant remarked:
“it is a social and national duty to prevent negative migration from distant towns and to enable them to thrive and prosper.”
The Jerusalem Post quotes Gallant as saying that the decision to include the outposts:
“is a clear statement by the government that it will continue to develop and strengthen the settlements.”
On November 28, 2018 the Israeli High Court of Justice ruled that the Jewish National Fund is the legal owner of 130 acres of land south of Bethlehem, ending a 22-year legal battle over ownership claims. Palestinians from a nearby village challenged the validity of the sale of the land to the Jewish National Fund when the organization moved to register its ownership of the land with the Israeli Civil Administration in 1996.
This week, the Court held that the Jewish National Fund (via its subsidiary company, Himnuta) had legally purchased the land in 1944 from its original Palestinian owners. The ruling will allow the settlers to move forward with plans for building more settlement units on the land, which is already home to one settlement, Rosh Tzurim, and to the headquarters of the Gush Etzion Regional Council.
The head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, Shlomo Ne’eman, celebrated the ruling, saying:
“the task of expanding the lands of Gush Etzion is a national mission. The Supreme Court’s ruling gives us optimism that the court’s position will benefit the Jews and Jewish land in Judea and Samaria and will not automatically rule in favor of the thieving claims of the Arab intruders.”
On November 27, 2018, the Israeli Civil Administration announced that it is seizing 66 acres of land in the northern Jordan Valley that is owned by the Catholic Church. The Civil Administration said the land was needed for “military purposes.”
The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem responded to the seizure in a statement, saying:
“The Patriarchate is looking into the aspects of this decision in order to address it in the appropriate manner, have it contested and to stop further damage.”
Israeli Civil Administration Report Criticizing Yitzhar Settler Violence Leads to Renewed Calls to Annex the West Bank
An Israeli news outlet, Kan 11 news, revealed the existence of a new Civil Administration report that criticizes the Yitzhar settlement. According to Kan 11, the report states that Yitzhar is a source of violence that “undermines governance and the rule of law.”
In addition to documenting the violence perpetrated by Yitzhar residents against Palestinians living nearby, the report also documents incidents of Yitzhar settlers attacking Israeli forces. The report calls on the IDF Commander Maj. Nadav Padan to punish the Yitzhars settlers by scuttling plans to build a new kindergarten and by ceasing to guard dangerous roads around the settlement and its many outposts.
In response, Yossi Dagan (head of the Samaria Regional Council, a settlement municipal body) called for the author of the report to be fired, saying:
“Officials in the Civil Administration are torpedoing the approval of security elements which could have prevented terrorist attacks in threatened settlements such as Itamar, and in the Barkan industrial zone before the attack, as well as narratives of the Palestinian Authority and radical left-wing organizations.This is an example of the evil in the civil administration. I call on the head of the Civil Administration to remove the clerk … who acts like a politician and not as is required. This report is malicious and false. The Yitzhar leadership is leading the community in a good and positive direction, and this report has nothing but lies. This is the total loss of control of the Civil Administration. While murderers with the blood of Israelis on their hands, the Civil Administration refrains from punishing the sources of terror out of statements that this is collective punishment, and now they want to create collective punishment for the Jews. The head of the Civil Administration and the deputy defense minister should call this clerk for a hearing before his dismissal.”
In response to the report’s recommendations, MK Bezalel Smotrich (HaBayit HaYehudi) called for the entire Civil Administration to be disbanded. Smotrich announced that he will seek government backing for a bill to achieve that end during the next meeting of the Israeli Cabinet, scheduled for December 9th. Under the bill, Israeli settlers in the West Bank will come under the full sovereignty of domestic Israeli institutions, while Palestinians will be ruled by “Regional Liaison administrations.” The bill would effectively annex the entire West Bank to Israel.
“The Civil Administration must be shut down now. This document reflects a political agenda that is hostile to the settlement enterprise and to the local residents, [an agenda] which unfortunately is expanding in this unnecessary body…This is the same Civil Administration that for years has pushed for a policy of separation between Arabs involved in terrorism and the rest of the Arab population. Now it suddenly remembers to use collective punishment against Jewish residents…for years now, the residents of Judea and Samaria, who are equal citizens who serve in the army and in the reserve and who pay taxes, are not entitled to equal rights and receive inferior service from the Civil Administration instead of receiving optimal service from government ministries like all citizens of Israel. The time has come to fix that.”
After IDF Killed Two Palestinians, Civil Administration Grants Settlers Victory in Struggle Over Hilltop
On November 29th, Haaretz reported the tragic story of two Palestinians who were shot and killed by Israeli forces while protesting attempts by Israeli settlers to take over a hilltop belonging to the Palestinian village al-Mazra’ah al-Qibliyah, just north of Ramallah. Following a clash on October 26th, in which the IDF opened fire on Palestinian protesters – killing the two men – the IDF issued a military order closing the hilltop – known as Khirbet Na’alan – to Palestinians on Fridays. As Haaretz notes, the military order was a victory for the settlers, who have been aggressively trying to take over the hilltop since July 2018.
The residents of al-Mazra’ah al-Qibliyah have fought against the increasing encroachment of the Talmon settlement and its seven illegal satellite outposts, which collectively surround the village. Having seen several outposts take over their land illegally and under the protection of the IDF, Palestinians began actively trying to prevent the takeover of the Khirbet Na’alan hilltop. The settlers waged their own campaign to harass and intimidate the village, often entering the village at night to paint hateful messages and damage Palestinian property. Each Friday, the settlers would go pray at the site.
In response to petitions filed by Palestinians, the Israeli Civil Administration issued an order barring the settlers from accessing the hilltop. On the same day the villagers found out about the order, they watched 10 settlers from the Kerem Reim outpost (which was recently selected as a “national priority area” to encourage growth, see above) approach the hilltop with heavy IDF protection. It was on this day that the IDF opened fire on a group of Palestinians protesting the incursion, killing two and wounding many others.
Video of the bloody incidents shows the IDF opening fire at an incredibly close distance, and at least 10 Palestinians falling down amidst gunfire.
In a thorough analysis of the recent Jerusalem Municipal elections, Terrestrial Jerusalem’s Danny Seidemann shared key insights into what may be in store for settlement activity under Jerusalem’s new mayor, Moshe Lion. Seidemann writes:
“Lion emerged from the ranks of the less ideological elements in the Likud. However, support for East Jerusalem settlements and settlers is so deeply ingrained even in this segment of the party as to be second nature. Lion never mentioned the Palestinians of East Jerusalem in his campaign, and actively cooperated with Aryeh King, who represents the right-wing fringe of the East Jerusalem settlers. Consequently, it is highly likely that Lion will continue to do the bidding of the settlers in East Jerusalem, and to neglect the Palestinian sector. Nothing in his world view or the way he understands his political interests suggests otherwise.”
“The US embassy move has accelerated and legitimized a process of de-Palestinianization of Jerusalem that began over seven decades ago. In the absence of concrete pressure, Israel will continue to violate the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people in Jerusalem and the rest of historic Palestine, with the full support and encouragement of the Donald Trump administration as well as its far-right allies within Europe and in Latin America. Despite the inaction described above and the global political shift to the right, there remains potential for the EU to pressure Israel and pursue Palestinian human rights. This is due to strong European popular support for Palestinian rights and sovereignty that has allowed grassroots solidarity networks to grow, as well as the fact that the EU is premised on international law and human rights…”
Breaking the Silence released a new compilation of testimonies from Israeli soldiers who served in the Hebron area. Breaking the Silence writes:
“The Israeli settlement in the heart of the city of Hebron marked its 50th anniversary this year. Its story is a microcosm of the occupation: contempt and disregard for the rule of law, daily violence, deprivation of Palestinian residents’ basic rights, and a military system that preserves all of the above. This booklet of testimonies intends to offer the public a glimpse of the reality in Hebron from our perspective as soldiers deployed there. These testimonies were given by soldiers who served in the city from 2011-2017. They reveal the violence and discrimination that have become an inextricable part of life in Hebron, and their impact on the lives of Palestinian residents.”
The online portal for the report also has an interactive map, where users can see where each incident took place against the backdrop of Hebron’s closed streets, religious sites, and settlement enclaves.
U.S. Chatter on Economic Coexistence Initiatives (Which Normalize Settlements/Occupation) Provokes Strong Palestinian Response
Top U.S. negotiators have continued hinting about a major economic element to the yet-to-be-unveiled “deal of the century.” As FMEP has documented to this point, Ambassador David Friedman has met with Israeli and Palestinian businessmen in a bid to promote joint projects in the Occupied Territories in a way that normalizes Israeli settlements and annexation bids.
On November 28th, Ambassador Friedman was interviewed by the Christian Broadcast Network. Part of the transcript of the interview reads:
Question: “One of the aspects of the peace plan seems to be a relationship between Palestinian businessmen and Israeli businessmen. Some would say you crossed a red line when you crossed the green line into Ariel officially. What was the importance of that meeting?”
Friedman: “On a practical level, I met with, I don’t know, maybe 8 or 10 Palestinian business leaders and, to a person, they all said to me, ‘let’s do business, let’s get going. We want to work with Jews; we want to work with Israelis.’… I try to look at everything from a lens of what is best for the United States. That’s my job. I represent the United States. But look, we are a nation under God; we’re built on Judeo-Christian values. Much as I try I cannot help but see the majesty of God’s work and all the miracles that happen in this incredible country.”
U.S. Special Representative for International Negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, wrote an op-ed also emphasizing, among of myriad of accusations against the Palestinian Authority, that the U.S. is hoping to jump-start economic development, separate from its “plan” to resolve core issues. The article reads:
“While waiting for a possible political solution, it is high time to build the Palestinian economy and provide Palestinians with the opportunities they deserve…We know that the Palestinians are not interested in mere economic peace. The Trump Administration continues to strive for a peace agreement, but the Palestinians need economic help now – with or without a peace agreement. The technology sector in the West Bank and Gaza has great potential and can be developed without treading into the politically contentious core issues of the conflict…I continue to meet with ordinary Palestinians and what is striking is that, although they complain about the Trump Administration’s policies, they remain focused on their economy…Palestinians are a proud people and want to create and earn on their own. They believe, as I do, that Palestinians should be allowed to improve their economy without worrying about whether they will give up on their national cause…Let’s be real – 136,000 Palestinians commute to work with Israelis every day because the opportunity is there. Anti-normalisation is a failed policy that only hurts the Palestinians. Let’s allow Palestinians to thrive in the way they are educated, capable of and deserve. We won’t tire of trying to resolve the political conflict (and certainly Palestinians won’t either), but we must focus on helping the Palestinian economy where we can, before it is too late.”
Palestinians reacted strongly to Greenblatt’s screed. Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator, wrote in response:
“…economic desperation is seen by the Trump administration as an opportunity to force Palestinians to normalise Israel’s occupation, to legitimise its settlements and its whole system of oppression. The administration has been trying to divide Palestinians by claiming that the Palestinian leadership is preventing economic growth. However, there is a consensus among our people that the primary responsibility for our grave financial situation is the Israeli occupation.”
Hani Masri, a Palestinian political analyst, said:
“Trump thinks that what the Palestinian leadership has rejected can be passed through the people, but the majority of Palestinians will not positively absorb or accept what Greenblatt is promoting. There are economic interests between the Palestinians and Israelis, however the political issue is a different subject and can’t come at the expense of the legitimate rights of the Palestinians.”
Elsewhere, at an event hosted by the Brookings Institute, former peace negotiator Dennis Ross promoted draft legislation in the U.S. Congress that would invest heavily in joint economic projects in the West Bank which normalize the settlements. The Jewish Insider summarizes:
“[Dennis] Ross praised current draft legislation in Congress that would give upwards of $150 million to joint Israeli and Palestinian projects: [Ross:] ‘Cutting $10 million for projects that are joint projects between Israelis and Palestinians, the rationale for that is hard to grasp. If there is one thing that we should be doing [it is] demonstrating that when Israelis and Palestinians cooperate there’s a payoff for it. And that ought to be elementary. That ought to be just a given. Anything you’re doing should be to designed to elevate the payoffs of practical tangible cooperation.’”
Finally, the Friends of Beit El organization (previously headed by now-Ambassador David Friedman) hosted a star-studded fundraiser in New York to raise funds for and awareness of the Beit El settlement. It was attended by two Members of Congress and the speaker of the Israeli Knesset Yuli Edelstein, who told the crowd:
“Independence, sovereignty, will eventually come to Judea and Samaria and many more houses with be built in order to reach the number we all dream — a million Jews in Judea and Samaria.”
Notably, the mention of Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the newly elected Speaker of the House, elicited boos from the crowd.
- “Annexation – at what cost?” (Times of Israel)
- “Leftists on tour in Hebron confirmed in view that settlers ‘have already won’” (Times of Israel)
- “Shaked touts ‘confederation’ of Jordan WEst Bank, and Gaza” (Times of Israel)
- “Inside the Evangelical Money Flowing Into the West Bank” (Haaretz)