Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
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February 6, 2020
- Netanyahu Wavers on Timing of West Bank Annexation [Reminder: Israel is Annexing Land Every Day, & Has Been for Decades]
- Israeli Court Grants Ateret Cohanim Third Victory in its Silwan Mass Displacement Campaign
- Peace Now on Annexation, Jerusalem, & Populated Land Swaps Under the Trump Plan
- Emek Shaveh on Jerusalem Antiquities & The Trump Plan’s Embrace of the Settlers’ Agenda
- Kerem Navot on the Trump Administration’s “Settlement Enclaves”
- Kushner’s Media Blitz Further Clarifies U.S. Support for Israeli Settlement Enterprise, Contempt for Palestinians
- UN Security Council Drafts Resolution on Trump Plan & Prepares for Meetings with Kushner, Abbas
- European Union Chief Says Israeli Annexation Will “Not Pass Unchallenged” (And Other European Moves)
- Bonus Reads
Questions/comments? Contact Kristin McCarthy (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Netanyahu Wavers on Timing of West Bank Annexation [Reminder: Israel is Annexing Land Every Day, & Has Been for Decades]
Following the very poorly coordinated annexation announcements from Israel and the U.S. last week, Prime Minister Netanyahu is sending contradicting public messages on his timeline for annexing 30% of the West Bank, as prescribed by the American “Vision.”
After clearly stating his intention to move ahead immediately with annexation just a week earlier, on February 5th Netanyahu hinted that he will fall in line with Jared Kushner’s demand to wait until after the next round of Israeli elections. Speaking at a campaign event in Beit Shemesh, Netanyahu said:
“If we win, when we win, we’ll continue to make history. As soon as we win, we’ll apply Israeli law to all of the Jewish communities in the Jordan Valley and in Judea and Samaria. We, the Likud, won’t let this great opportunity slip from our grasp. But in order to guarantee it, in order to guarantee Israel’s borders, in order to guarantee the future of Israel, I need every Likud member this time around to go out and vote and get others out to vote. This time we’re getting everyone out of the house, we’re not leaving anyone behind.” [emphasis added by author]
Netanyahu’s suggestion that annexation will wait until after elections should not ease any sense of alarm. As Israeli political analyst Gayil Talshir tells the New York Times, the scuffle over immediate annexation has left Netanyahu bruised and vulnerable heading into the next round of elections. In order to win back his angered base of settlers and right-wing fans, Talshir says, Netanyahu might be considering promoting a more limited annexation bill ahead of the March voting date – a means of feeding his base red meat without flagrantly crossing swords with the Trump administration.
Further, on February 6th the pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom paper (owned by Trump backer Sheldon Adelson) printed a front-page story reporting that Netanyahu is in deliberations with the Trump Administration about implementing annexation ahead of elections.
If you need a reminder about Israel’s ongoing annexation of West Bank land, check out FMEP’s Annexation Policy Tables.
On February 6th, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ruled in favor of another petition filed by the radical settler organization Ateret Cohanim, to evict Palestinians from their homes in a building in the Batan al-Hawa section of Silwan. The ruling was based on the Court’s acceptance of the setter group’s claim to own the land on which the building stands. The court ordered two Palestinian families living in the building to vacate the property by August 17th.
This is the third time in as many weeks that the Magistrate’s Court has ruled in favor of Ateret Cohanim’s petitions seeking the eviction of Palestinians in Silwan. Ateret Cohanim has nearly a dozen additional petitions still in process, threatening the mass displacement of around 700 Palestinians from the tiny section of Silwan known as Batan al-Hawa, located just outside the southern wall of the Old City.
Previously, on January 19th the Court ruled in favor of the Ateret Cohanim’s petition to evict the Palestinian Rajabi family from their home home of 45 years in Batan al-Hawa. In so doing, the court accepted Ateret Cohanim’s claim to own the tract of land in Silwan upon which the Rajabi home was built. The court ordered that the family must vacate their 3-story apartment building by July 1st; however, the eviction might be delayed as the Rajabi family announced that the family intends to file an appeal against the decision with the Jerusalem District Court.
Subsequently, on January 26th the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ruled to evict the Palestinian Dweik family from their home (also located in the Batan al-Hawa section of Silwan) based on a petition filed by Ateret Cohanim on the same basis as the Rajabi petition. The Dwieks were ordered to vacate the building by August 2nd.
Peace Now analyzed the details of the proposed annexation and populated land swaps found in the Trump Administration’s “Vision”.
On annexation and Jerusalem, Peace Now found that the Vision green lights:
- Israel’s annexation of 30% of land in the West Bank, bringing a total of 647,072 Israeli settlers into the state’s borders.
- 412,798 of the total number of settlers will remain living in West Bank settlements that will become territorially contiguous with the state of Israel.
- 220,000 of the total number of settlers are currently living in East Jerusalem and will remain there. All East Jerusalem neighborhoods on the Israeli side of the separation barrier (i.e. all Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the surrounding areas) will become part of the State of Israel.
- 14,274 settlers will find themselves in “settlement enclaves,” surrounded by what would nominally be called the state of Palestine (assuming Palestinians met all preconditions and ongoing conditions) but connected to the State of Israel by Israeli-secured roads/tunnels/bridges.
On the annexation plan, Peace Now writes:
“Annexation of settlements would require Israel to secure a line of defense around the West Bank five times greater than the Green Line. Further added to this immense security burden would be the costs building a security barrier around it, as well as to secure Israeli enclaves inside Palestinian territory for less than a mere 15,000 Israelis. Annexation is a unilateral move that critically undermines the goodwill needed for fruitful negotiations… The issue of Jerusalem and its holy sites is among the focal points of the conflict. The US proposal not only denies Palestinians of their symbolic national and religious capital, but it also permanently leaves hundreds of thousands of Palestinians severed from a Palestinian state, under Israeli sovereignty. Previous negotiations have proven that the conflict cannot be resolved without finding a solution for Jerusalem. Israel’s previous attempt to do so at Camp David in 2000, in proposing that the Palestinian capital be located in Abu Dis, led to the derailing of talks and contributed in part to the national-religious tensions over the ownership of parts of Jerusalem that precipitated the outbreak of the Second Intifada.”
Specifically on the annexation of land in the Jordan Valley, Peace Now found that the map accompanying the “Vision” does not match the map Prime Minister Netanyahu published in September 2019 when he unveiled his own plan to annex the Jordan Valley. The main differences is that the Trump map provides for Israel’s annexation of less land and fewer Palestinians than Netanyahu’s map.
On the “Vision”’s proposal for populated land swaps, Peace Now finds:
- In exchange for the annexation of 30% of the West Bank land, Israel would “give” the future State of Palestine land that equal in size to 13.5% of the West Bank (including land that can by no measure be viewed as comparable on quality).
- Observing a discrepancy, Peace Now notes that:
- According to the Trump map, 132,028 Palestinian citizens of Israel will be transferred into the borders of the future State of Palestine.
- According to the “Vision”’s explanatory paragraph (which lists specific communities to be transferred), 257,050 Palestinian citizens of Israel will be transferred into the borders of the future State of Palestine.
- In addition, 120,000 East Jerusalem Palestinian non-citizen permanent residents are designated to become a part of the future State of Palestine.
On populated land swaps, Peace Now writes:
“Depriving Arab citizens of citizenship and a place in Israel is shameful, legally questionable, and reeks of ethnic cleansing.”
A new Emek Shaveh publication provides specific details on exactly how the Trump “Vision” lends support to settler initiatives to use Jerusalem’s history and antiquities to promote Israeli-Jewish hegemony and control over the city. Though there are hundreds of recognized holy sites in Jerusalem, the “Vision” lists just 31 sites (17 Christian, 13 Jewish, just 1 Muslim, in addition to the Temple Mount/Haram Al-Sharif – which is identified as of joint Jewish-Muslim significance. The list notably omits Al Aqsa Mosque). Sprinkled among the holy sites, the “Vision” lists sites which are neither holy nor widely known, including several sites either owned or managed by the radical Elad settler group.
On this point, Emek Shaveh writes:
“It appears that beyond indicating the city’s sanctity, the list of sites is indicative of how dangerous it is for Jerusalem to remain under the sovereignty of one party which has an interest in underscoring and enhancing its own religious and historical connection to the city. Emek Shaveh’s publication Selectively Sacred: Holy Sites in Jerusalem and its Environs (2016), details how Israel has recognized Jewish sites as holy, without formally recognizing Christian or Muslim sites. In our opinion, the assumption articulated in President Trump’s plan, according to which Israel optimally or equitably protects historical and holy sites, is mistaken. Over the past 20 years we have witnessed the opposite phenomenon, in which the Jewish narrative at heritage sites has been highlighted while non-Jewish connections to sites have been played down or ignored. Settler organizations and the Israeli government have initiated several plans, most notably the Shalem Plan, which aims to reinforce the Jewish connection to Jerusalem through archaeological excavations and tourism. To our knowledge, no projects exist that aim to strengthen Christian or Muslim connections to the city.”
Emek Shaveh goes on to list and explain the antiquity sites listed in the “Vision,” drawing critical distinctions that the ”Vision” obscures in a manner that benefits the settlers’ agenda and erodes Jerusalem’s multi-faith character. Emek Shaveh highlights the following antiquities cites listed in the “Vision” which are connected to settler initiatives:
- “Mount Scopus,” which the state of Israel has never defined as a sacred site.
- The ‘Path of the Pilgrims,’ which is an archaeological excavation site in Silwan funded by the radical Elad organization. The excavation of this road has caused severe damage to the Palestinian homes above ground. Emek Shaveh notes “The excavations are still ongoing and no scientific reports have been published. Identification of the site remains unclear, therefore its branding as the ‘Path of the Pilgrims’ has not been backed by any publicized research.” Moreover, Israel does not recognize this as a holy site.
- The “Gihon Spring/Ein Umm Al-Daraj/the Pool of Siloam”, which is a way to refer to the Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy site located in the neighborhood of Silwan, where the Elad settler organization has financed archeological excavations for 25 years. Further, the state of Israel, which officially recognizes this site as holy to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, has entrusted Elad to manage the City of David national park, which covers this area and the antiquities there.
- ‘The Tombs of the Prophets Haggai, Zecharia, and Malachi’ (on the Mt. of Olives), which has not been scientifically identified and located. Israeli settlers have adopted this site into their agenda by citing rare Christian traditions which associate the site with the tombs, but that claim has not been corroborated by scholars and is not supported by many clerics.
- Other sites which are not holy and/or not well known:
- The Sambuski Cemetery (not recognized as holy by Israel)
- The Hurva Synagogue (not recognized as holy by Israel)
- In addition, settler organizations are applying pressure to shift the status quo on some of the Christian holy sites, such as the “Room of the Last Supper” among others. To date, authorities in control of those sites have managed overall to preserve their properties and status.
All of these facts are the basis for Emek Shaveh’s conclusion that the authors of the Trump Plan lack the essential knowledge regarding “the city’s diverse traditions, and a familiarity with archaeological research and the sociopolitical changes that have occurred over the past several decade.” [Another equally likely conclusions: they have the knowledge and don’t care, preferring to weaponize the notion of “holy sites” for political purposes.]
In an extended Twitter thread, Kerem Navot founder Dror Etkes uses the Ma’ale Shomron settlement and a neighboring outpost to explain how the Trump Administration’s “Vision” for Israeli-Palestinian “peace” is nothing short of rewarding war crimes. Etkes writes:
“Last week the Trump admin published its plan predicated on the idea that none of the 130 or so Israeli settlements in the West Bank will be dismantled. Israeli settlements are illegal. They are war crimes. Trump’s one-sided proposal fails to recognize this.
One of these settlements is Ma’ale Shomron – located between the Palestinian cities of Qalqilya and Nablus. Notably, it is home to the Honorable [Dani Dayan], Israel’s Consul in New York. Next to Ma’ale Shomron there is a small Palestinian village (often referred to in Arabic as a ‘khirbeh’) that Dayan doesn’t want anyone to know about. Dayan especially doesn’t want people outside of Israel, to whom he loves to tell his story that ‘settlements are actually good for the Arabs!’ to know about this Khirbeh. So we’ll tell you about it ourselves!
Long before Dayan started to represent the State of (Greater) Israel overseas, he moved to Ma’ale Shomron – located about 10 kms east of the Green Line, just south of the Qalqiliya-Nablus Road (Road 55). Ma’ale Shomron was established in 1980, on land belonging to the Palestinian village of Kafr Thulth. How was it established? Israel declared more than 5,000 acres in this area as ‘state land,’ of which about 500 acres were given to the settlers of Ma’ale Shomron. The settlement was in fact built in the heart of a British-era pine tree forest, in which half of the trees were cut down for its construction. Here you can see two images, 1 from 1979 & the other from 1983. [map] The rest of the newly-declared ‘state land’ was given to other settlements — Karnei Shomron, Nofim and Yakir — located along Wadi Qana, a tributary of the Yarkon River that runs through the northern West Bank.
The land Israel took wasn’t uninhabited. In the mid-1940s, 2 Palestinian families moved from Al-Shaykh Munis (on which Tel Aviv Univ is built) to what became a Palestinian Khirbeh called Ayoun Kafr Kara, located southeast of where Ma’ale Shomron would be established.
With time & enormous investment by the Israeli government and taxpayers, residents of Ma’ale Shomron built permanent homes. Dani and Einat Dayan, like their neighbors, built a generously sized home in the heart of what became a gentrified settlement.
What about Khirbet Ayoun Kafr Kara? Did Israeli authorities, as they invested heavily in Ma’ale Shomron, also provide for basic necessities – water, electricity, roads – for its Palestinian neighbors, whose residence there pre-dated the arrival of the Dayans by decades? Stop wasting time with silly, provocative questions.
Instead, let’s fast-forward to the end of the 1990s, when illegal outposts – that is, new proto-settlements established by settlers in violation of Israeli law – started popping up all over the West Bank. Residents of Ma’ale Shomron wanted an outpost of their own. They decided to locate that new outpost to their south, on land that the military had allocated to settlements but for which no construction planning or permissions was granted. Forging ahead on their own, in 1999 Ma’ale Shomron settlers began (illegally) paving a road, with the intention to establish a new outpost on the southernmost part of the land. Their plan came to fruition in 2002, with the establishment of an outpost they called ‘El-Matan.’ As with most outposts, El-Matan was populated by a group of people who, even as compared to the general settler population, are political and ideological extremists. What subsequently happened to El-Matan is linked to the fate of all the outposts.
Over the years, the Israeli High Court wrestled with the challenge illegal actions by settlers posed to Israel’s rule of law. The Court, rather than hold settlers accountable, encouraged the govt to find creative ways to retroactively legalize the illegal acts of settlers. One of the ways the government developed was to categorize outposts, post-facto, as “neighborhoods” of existing, ‘legal’ settlements. This is what happened to El-Matan, which in 2015 was defined as a “neighborhood” of the settlement of Ma’ale Shomron, located a km away.
In Dec 2014 Ayala Shapira, an Israeli child residing in the outpost, was badly injured by a Molotov cocktail thrown by a Palestinian. As a result, Israel’s government allocated tens of millions of shekels to pave a ‘security road’ for the 15 families in El-Matan.The construction of the ‘security road,’ completed in 2017, severely damaged the historic road connecting the nearby Palestinian Khirbeh, home to around 100 people, to the larger village of Kafr Thulth, where they went for shopping, schools, medical care, etc.
Shortly after the opening of the new road to El-Matan, the Palestinian Authority began, in coordination with the Israeli military, to fix and upgrade that critical route. But guess who didn’t like this road project? The settlers, who are experienced with these kinds of things, managed with just a little pressure and a couple of protests to get the Israeli military to shut down access for all Palestinian vehicles on the road. But even that wasn’t enough for the Ma’ale Shomron settlers!
Over the past few months the settlers have been demanding that the military block the historic access road even further away from El-Matan in order to prevent Palestinians from coming in with tractors and cars to their own olive groves, located east of Kafr Thulth. While writing this thread, we remembered that a few years back, Dani Dayan said: ‘The prime minister & defense minister have to act as if they are facing a virtual sign that reads, What have we done to facilitate a dignified life for the Palestinians today?’ Clearly, Dayan’s ideas for benevolent Israeli control don’t apply to those Palestinians unlucky enough to be his neighbors. Likewise, this same worldview – under which Palestinian rights are non-existent – is the foundation of Trump’s Vision for Peace.”
Kushner’s Media Blitz Further Clarifies U.S. Support for Israeli Settlement Enterprise, Contempt for Palestinians
In a series of interviews, White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner spoke without hesitation about his support for Israel’s annexation of West Bank land and settlements, and about his contempt for the Palestinians.
Kushner highlights include:
To Al Jazeera: “With regards to the boundaries, we took the time and we tried to draw a map, this is something – between the settlements and the growth of Israel – that has been going on for many years, and we tried to carve out a way with land swaps and with bridges and tunnels to create a Palestinian state that can be contiguous. Where you can drive from the top, with tunnels and bridges and land and highways, all the way to the bottom….that was something that was very, very hard to do. Quite frankly, if we don’t do this today, at the rate at which Israel is growing, I think that it will never be able to be done. So we see this as the last chance for the Palestinians to have a state…What’s more important than what happened in 1967 is what the ground looks like today in 2020…the map that we have drawn is in the spirit of UN Resolution 242…We also recognized the reality that we do not want to uproot any Jews or Palestinians to make sure that all people have the ability to live in as good of an areas as possible…Under this plan, what we’ve done is we’ve capped the growth of the Israeli settlements for four years. So, there’s never been a four-year freeze before, Israel has agreed to do that in exchange for us recognizing those settlements. But the reality is that those settlements are never being uprooted and if we don’t do this then the settlements will continue growing. [Asked about the specific conditions of the settlement growth freeze] Look, we have outlined a map… and what we are prepared to do is recognize the reality of the map. If there is ever going to be a two state solution, I believe this is the only map that can work. Now, is there flexibility? Yeah, there are different areas you can move a line here, you can move a line there but that can only happen through negotiations, but the Palestinian Authority would rather complain which quite frankly shows they are not ready to have a state. If you are ready to have a state you don’t go and call for ‘days of rage.’… what we’ve done is try to unscramble the eggs to the best degree possible and put this in a position where you can have Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in a construct that can work.” And later with regard to Jerusalem, “The Palestinians have been lied to for so many years. They’ve been promised things and there has been no counter to the promises that have been made to them.So, if they have certain expectations that are not realistic, I feel bad for them. They’ve been lied to by their leadership, they’ve been lied to by a lot of people, and they’ve been used as pawns in the Muslim, in the Middle East, ok?…If people want to have better futures, if they want to have better opportunities for them and their children, if they want to get jobs, it’s time to let go of past fairy tales that quite frankly will never happen.”
To El-Hakaya, an Egyptian news show: “What’s been happening for many years is that Israel has been expanding as they’ve been negotiating and negotiating and there has not been a resolution to the conflict. This is land that they [the Israelis] are never going to leave anyway because they have their people there.” Kushner said, clarifying that the US recognition would be “in exchange for them [Israelis] stopping growing.”
To Fareed Zakaria on CNN: “What they did is they rejected this before it came out. They called for a day of rage, and they’re saying, we want a state. But people who are ready to get a state aren’t calling for days of rage and then marching in the street…What we’ve tried to do is take a pragmatic approach to it. We’ve tried to do it differently, and I think that for the first time there’s a real offer on the table to break the logjam. And it’s really up to the Palestinians to see if they have the opportunity to pursue it.”
To Christiane Amanpour on CNN: “It was very, very difficult to draw these lines… This is something we inherited.” And later, “This is something that we inherited, the situation where Israel continues to grow and grow…“You have 5 million Palestinians who are really trapped because of bad leadership. So what we have done is we’ve created an opportunity for their leadership to either seize or not. If they screw up this opportunity, which again, they have a perfect track record of missing opportunities. If they screw this up, I think that they will have a very hard time looking the international community in the face, saying they’re victims, saying they have rights. This is a great deal for them…They’re calling for a Day of Rage. Who do you know that runs a state that when they don’t get what they want, they call for a Day of Rage?…Again, the Palestinian leadership have to ask themselves a question: do they want to have a state? Do they want to have a better life? If they do, we have created a framework for them to have it and we are going to treat them in a very respectful manner. If they don’t, they’re going to screw up another opportunity like they’ve screwed up every other opportunity that they’ve ever had in their existence.”
The United Nations will host White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner for a closed meeting of the Security Council on February 6th, and then Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Feb 11th. Both will speak to the Security Council specifically about the recently published U.S. “Vision.”
According to reports, Tunisia and Indonesia have drafted and are currently circulating a Security Council resolution critical of the Trump Administration’s plan, emphasizing that annexation is illegal, and reaffirming international commitments to the parameters of a two-state solution.
Tunisia is the only Arab state currently with a seat on the Security Council.
The United States, which is a permanent member of the Security Council, will undoubtedly veto such a resolution, at which point the Palestinians (in their capacity as a non-member observer state) can take the draft text to a vote in the 193-member U.N. General Assembly.
European Union Chief Says Israeli Annexation Will “Not Pass Unchallenged” (And Other European Moves)
Failing to broker unanimous support among European Union member states for a statement against the Trump Vision, on February 4th EU Vice President Josep Borrell issued the following statement:
“The EU recalls its commitment to a negotiated two-State solution, based on 1967 lines, with equivalent land swaps, as may be agreed between the parties, with the State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous, sovereign and viable State of Palestine, living side by side in peace, security and mutual recognition – as set out in the Council Conclusions of July 2014. The US initiative, as presented on 28 January, departs from these internationally agreed parameters. To build a just and lasting peace, the unresolved final status issues must be decided through direct negotiations between both parties. This includes notably the issues related to borders, the status of Jerusalem, security and the refugee question. The European Union calls on both sides to re-engage and to refrain from any unilateral actions contrary to international law that could exacerbate tensions. We are especially concerned by statements on the prospect of annexation of the Jordan Valley and other parts of the West Bank. In line with international law and relevant UN Security Council resolutions, the EU does not recognise Israel’s sovereignty over the territories occupied since 1967. Steps towards annexation, if implemented, could not pass unchallenged. The European Union will continue to support all efforts aimed at reviving a political process in line with international law, which ensures equal rights and which is acceptable to both parties. The EU will engage with both parties, with actors in the region and all international partners. In this context, the European Union reiterates its fundamental commitment to the security of Israel, including with regard to current and emerging threats in the region.”
Israeli press reported that six countries – Italy, Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic, and at least two other unnamed member states – did not agree to a draft of a joint statement. However, later reports suggested that Hungary was the only member blocking the resolution, and doing so on the basis of “timing.” A short time later, Hungary’s Foreign Minister met with White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner.
Also making news this week, Estonia’s representative in the European Parliament tabled a motion to support the Trump Administration’s “Vision,” and claimed to have support from 27 Members of the European Parliament. This rep, Jaak Madison, has an alarming, anti-immigrant and virulently homophobic recent history. The European Parliament has scheduled a debate on the Trump Plan – entitled “US Middle East plan: EU response in line with international law” – on Feb. 11th.
One positive/helpful European reaction (there are not many) came from Ireland, where the two largest political parties have both promised to pass a piece of legislation which will ban the import of goods produced in Israeli settlements. Ireland’s general elections will be held this Sunday, Feb. 9th.
- “Can the Netanyahu Government Annex Parts of the West Bank?” (Lawfare Blog)
- “Trump aide ties Israeli settlements to rising anti-Semitism” (AP)
- “Trump peace plan offers land without people to people who don’t want the land“ (The Times of Israel)
- “Trump’s ‘peace plan’ rewards settler violence” (Al-Monitor)
- “Kushner Does Not See the Brutal Occupation I Helped Carry Out” (+972 Magazine)
- “For Settlers Like Me, Trump’s Plan is a Losing Proposition” (The Times of Israel Blog)
- “Netanyahu sought deal with US, Morocco to allow normalization of ties” (The Times of Israel)
- “Netanyahu’s Land of the Settlers” (Al-Monitor)