***Preeminent Israeli human rights lawyer Michael Sfard recently joined FMEP non-resident fellow Peter Beinart for a podcast, available here, to discuss how Israel’s occupation violates international laws governing belligerent occupation, and why he believes the occupation will end. Sfard’s highly recommended new book, “The Wall and the Gate: Israel, Palestine and the Legal Battle for Human Rights” is available for purchase here. Haaretz interviewed Sfard about the book, and the resulting, must-read article “For an Israeli Lawyer Fighting for Palestinian Rights, Winning Is a Double-edged Sword” is available here.***
Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
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February 8, 2018
- Another New Settlement: Havat Gilad Outpost Set to Be Relocated & Legalized
- Knesset Caucus Pushes to Extend Israeli Sovereignty Over Entire West Bank
- Update on the Unauthorized Expansion of the Halamish Settlement
- Palestinians Still Cannot Access Land Where the Amona Outpost Once Stood
- Trump’s “Ultimate Deal” to Give 10% of West Bank Land to Israel
- Israeli Settler Leader Does Not Know Specifics of U.S. Settlement Policy, Despite Close Relations with Trump Negotiators
- Bonus Reads
Comments, questions, or suggestions? Email Kristin McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On February 5th, the Israeli cabinet voted unanimously build a new settlement for future evacuees of the unauthorized outpost, Havat Gilad, where 50 families are living illegally. After much hand wringing about how to proceed on the retroactive legalization of Havat Gilad, the government decided to evacuate the the outpost because some of it was knowingly built on land that is privately owned by Palestinians, and therefore there is (at present) no basis on which Israel can pursue its retroactive legalization.
Details of the outpost’s planned relocation are not clear, but it might not entail any movement, save the relocation of any structures that stand on Palestinian land. Most of the outpost is built on land classified by Israel as “state land,” so the majority of the outpost might stay in place and only the structures built on land privately owned by Palestinians will be moved, likely to the areas of the outpost that is on “state land.”
After spending five weeks demonstrating their fervent support for the retroactive legalization of Havat Gilad (in the wake of the murder of one of the outpost’s residents), the Israeli Cabinet now appears to be downplaying the significance of the Havat Gilad decision, likely in anticipation of international criticism of their decision to establish another new settlement (the Amichai settlement, which was approved in February 2017, was the first new settlement established with government backing in the last 20 years). Israeli Cabinet Secretary Tzachi Braverman said:
the decision regarding Havat Gilad is only a technical decision that [is meant to] legalize an existing settlement and does not call for the establishment of a new settlement…There is no intention to expand and to annex privately-owned Palestinian lands but only to legalize the existing settlement after the murder [of Rabbi Shevach] and to connect it to water and electricity as well as make it accessible for humanitarian reasons.
Nonetheless, the Cabinet’s decision to establish a new settlement received considerable international media attention, including critical coverage by the Associated Press that appeared in the New York Times and the Washington Post. The AP report touched on Israel’s settlement activity as well as the recent demolition of Bedouin classrooms funded by the European Union in the E-1 settlement area, outside of Jerusalem.
The Israeli NGO Peace Now, which has tracked settlements for decades, released a statement saying:
Legalizing Havat Gilad is a new height of groveling before settlers. By legalizing Havat Gilad, an isolated outpost deep within the West Bank, the government is harming the chance for two states and rewarding land-stealing felons.
The “Land of Israel” caucus in the Israeli Knesset held a conference this week to draw support for legislation that seeks to extend Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank, i.e., to annex the entire area to Israel.
The conference hyped a future vote by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation (a committee of the governing coalition that meets to decide if the government will give its support to legislative proposals). The vote will consider a bill – which was adapted by MK Kisch (Likud) from a recent resolution passed by the Likud party, which notably received Prime Minister Netanyahu’s backing – to annex the settlements by applying Israeli domestic law there. Left-wing MKs say (correctly) that the bill is tantamount to annexation. At the same time, some far-right MKs object to it on the grounds that it falls short of full annexation and therefore relinquishes Israeli claims over the rest of the land. On his bill, MK Kisch told the Arutz Sheva settler-aligned outlet:
This bill will allow cabinet ministers to set up a timetable [for the application of sovereignty]. It is the legislative mechanism will enable the application of [Israeli] sovereignty onto land in Judea and Samaria considered vitally important to the State of Israel…The Prime Minister also backs this process [for applying sovereignty]. It’s only a question of the timing. I think that Pence’s visit has strengthened the feeling that this is the right time, that this is the time to apply sovereignty. We’re at a historic juncture.
Notably, the pro-settlement posture of the Trump Administration was a recurring talking point at the Land of Israel caucus conference, where members took turns underscoring the fact that the time is ripe to assert Israeli sovereignty over the occupied territories.
There are currently several pieces of legislation in the Knesset that propose different iterations of annexation. Those proposals include: a bill to annex Ma’ale Adumim; the “Greater Jerusalem Bill” that seeks to annex 19 settlements into the municipality of Jerusalem in order to gerrymander a Jewish majority (covered in detail in past editions of the Settlement Report here, here, and here); and another proposal, covered in last week’s Settlement Report, that seeks to extend Israeli sovereignty over settlement universities. And, earlier this year the Israeli Justice Ministry implemented a new rule requiring all Knesset legislation seeking government backing to include clauses regarding the law’s application to the settlements.
Last covered in the September 20, 2017 Settlement Report, the Halamish settlement’s residents (where a Palestinian brutally murdered four people in July 2017) have been successfully capitalizing on the attack in order to expand, massively, and entrench the settlement’s boundaries.
The settlement watchdog organization Kerem Navot reports that the settlers have fortified a new outpost close to Halamish meant to extend the settlement borders. The Israeli army now guards the road that leads to the settlement, passing by the new outpost, and the army is operating a checkpoint to conduct full vehicle searches of any Palestinian driver. The outpost and the army further restrict Palestinians’ freedom of movement by discouraging them from using roads in the area.
The settlers have also reportedly undertaken several unauthorized construction projects inside the settlement including, over the past six months, building dozens of new homes. Over the last week, bulldozers have been leveling a large area of land (500 dunams) in preparation for massive new infrastructure. Kerem Navot explains:
For about a week now, bulldozers have broken ground on a system of peripheral roads (completely illegally, of course) east of the settlement, in order to take control of the areas into which the settlement aspires to expand. As is usual in such cases, the takeover of territories begins by means of a peripheral road system that marks the area designated for takeover. The land at hand belongs to the Palestinian villages of Umm Safa and Jibya, which were declared “state land” by Israel during the 1980s and were transferred to the settlers of Halamish.
The case of Halamish is a classic case of how settlements expand with the permission – expressed or implicit – of the Israeli government, which does nothing to rein in settlers even as they break Israeli law.
The Israeli NGO Yesh Din reports that the Israeli army is still preventing Palestinian owners from regularly accessing their land, land on which the Amona outpost once stood, one year after the Israeli government ordered the land to be returned them. In 2014, the High Court of Justice ordered the Israeli government to evacuate the Amona outpost and return the land to its rightful Palestinian owners. After a long legal and political battle, Amona was finally evacuated in January 2017, but the Israeli army continues to obstruct the owners access to the area – ironically, based on a ruling written to prevent Israelis from accessing the land. At the same time, the IDF allows Israeli settlers to regularly visit the site.
New reporting has illuminated the contours of the “ultimate deal” that the Trump administration has spent the past year crafting in the hopes of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The deal reportedly proposes that 10% of the West Bank land will become sovereign Israeli territory, though Netanyahu has been pushing for 15%. The US figure does not include the Jordan Valley or East Jerusalem, over which the Trump Administration backs Israel’s demand to retain “overriding security control.” All together, the American plan would leave just 40% of the West Bank (Areas A & B) and the Gaza Strip to compose the future, semi-autonomous Palestinian “state.”
Geoffrey Aronson, who for many years authored FMEP’s “Settlement Report,” wrote:
When Israel’s permanent control of East Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley is included, Israel is effectively awarded upwards of 60 percent of the West Bank. These terms will enable Israel to annex every one of its existing settlements throughout the West Bank and enable every settler to remain in place under Israeli sovereignty. The leavings will comprise a rump Palestinian territory unable to exercise true sovereignty anywhere.
According to reports, on two of the most volatile permanent status issues, Jerusalem and refugees, Palestinians are denied any concessions. The US deal reprises the old gambit according to which Abu Dis (a neighborhood on the outskirts of Jerusalem) will be the capital of the Palestinian state, a notion the Palestinians were quick to reject (as they have done consistently in the past). And there will be no right of return for Palestinian refugees. Speaking to Al-Monitor off-the-record, one Palestinian source said
There is not and will not be a Palestinian who would accept such plans as basis for negotiations. These US positions result from pressure by American evangelist and Jewish communities in order to enhance Trump’s chances to be re-elected in the 2020 elections.
The Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry made several statements on the rumored Trump plan and recent statements by US Envoy Jason Greenblatt. The PA Ministry slammed the plan saying it “bypasses” Palestinians and that
this is a plan that was drafted by Israel and endorsed by the US administration. If Greenblatt wants to open channels between Israel and some Arab countries, while excluding the Palestinians, we emphasize that no one in the region would dare to accept such an American plan that drops the Palestinian dimension or gives up Jerusalem. For this reason, we believe that the plan of Greenblatt and his Zionist group is doomed to failure.
Top Fatah official Jibril Rajoub said:
They [Trump administration officials] will not find a [Palestinian] puppet to fulfill their goals. Our will is free and independent and no one can control it. We will work with the Arab countries to thwart the deal. Our effort should focus on foiling any attempt to create a Palestinian partner for the deal of the century.
In past rounds of negotiations, the most West Bank land that Palestinians had ever considered ceding to Israel – in the context of equitable land swaps – was reportedly around 2%, and Israel has reportedly never formally asked from more than 10%. In its own 2011 study, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy proposed three options for land swaps based on previous offers from the negotiating parties. The most generous of WINEP’s three proposals awarded Israel with 4.73% of the West Bank (the lowest proposed 3.72% to Israel), while Israel would give the Palestinians the exact same amount of land (4.73%) in return. Every WINEP proposal had 1:1 land swaps.
Israeli Settler Leader Does Not Know Specifics of U.S. Settlement Policy, Despite Close Relations with Trump Negotiators
The Jewish Journal reports that Oded Revi has close ties to the US peace envoys (US Ambassador David Friedman and US Special Representative for International Negotiations, Jason Greenblatt) formulating US policy and plans for Israel and peace negotiations. Revi, who is a high ranking member of the Yesha Council (the umbrella organization representing Israeli settlements) and Mayor of the Efrat settlement, was invited to attend the Trump inauguration in January 2017.
Revi recently told Jewish Journal:
In my understanding — and I’ve had quite a few meetings with the prime minister [Benjamin Netanyahu], and I try to understand what are American guidelines for building in Judea and Samaria — it seems to me President Trump said to the prime minister something along the lines of parents wanting a child to play nicely, when the parent says: ‘I know you know how to behave.’ The reaction of the child is to freeze in his place because he doesn’t know what his boundaries are.
While Revi is not clear on specifics, US envoy Jason Greenblatt continued to affirm the reported generalities of a US policy, telling a crowd of European Union Ambassadors that the U.S. believes Israel has been careful with settlement construction over the past year and that the U.S. does not believe that settlements are an obstacle to peace.
- “A Dangerous Course Israel Should Avoid” (New York Times)
- “Newly formed German coalition deal opposes Israeli settlements for the first time” (i24 News)
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.