Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
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January 12, 2018
- Israel Advances Plans for 1,122 New Settlement Units
- Following Terror Attack, Moves to Legalize Radical Outpost & Push for More Settlement Construction
- Attorney General Ordered to Clarify Procedures for Demarcating Settlement Jurisdictions
- Shiloh Valley Outpost Evacuated, Again
- Push for Annexation of “Settlement Blocs” Grows
- Bonus Reads
Comments, questions, or suggestions? Email Kristin McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week, in its first meeting of the year, the High Planning Council advanced plans for nearly 1,122 new settlement units, of which 352 received final approval for construction. The plans benefit 20 settlements dispersed across the West Bank, two-thirds of which are deep inside of the occupied territory.
Among advancements that moved forward, the Council approved building permits for 7 of the 15 structures in the Netiv Ha’avot outpost that are slated for demolition in March. The Council took up the 7 structures at the pleading of Netiv Ha’avot settlers, whose proposal to save the buildings – built without permits and sitting partly on state land and partly on privately owned Palestinian land – was rejected by the Israeli High Court of Justice in October 2017. The Council’s decision effectively contradicts the High Court’s ruling and accepts the settlers “compromise” that they be allowed to only demolish part of the homes and keep the rest.
Peace Now recently published a lengthy dossier of evidence – “The Netiv Ha’avot File” – chronicling the illegality and legal procedures regarding the outpost. The whole outpost has for years had standing demolition orders against it, which have never been enforced. In October 2017, the High Planning Council advanced plans to build 30 new “temporary” structures in an alternative site near Netiv Ha’avot (between the Alon Shvut and Elazar settlements), for the purpose of re-housing residents of Netiv Ha’avot – a solution that effectively rewards settler law-breaking with an official new settlement. Not satisfied with this pay-off, the Netiv Ha’avot residents are rallying to save their original outpost, this week hosting over 100 youths in an effort to recruit support ahead of the court-ordered March 2018 demolition date.
When asked about this week’s settlement news, U.S. Department of State spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the policy of the U.S. has not changed and asserted that the Israeli government has demonstrated “its intent is to adopt a policy regarding settlement activity that takes the President’s concerns into consideration” – a statement that itself is of concern, given the scope and pace of settlement developments since Trump took office. It should be recalled that back in October 2017, there were reports of that Israel and the United States had agreed to a 4-part “policy regarding settlement activity,” according to which Israel can build anywhere and everywhere as long as the U.S. is told ahead of time and the plans are “adjacent to” existing plans.
In response to the latest High Planning Council actions, Peace Now released a statement saying:
The government continues to act irresponsibly by promoting settlement construction, including in areas that Israel will have to evacuate under a final status agreement. Since U.S. President Donald Trump took office, the Israeli government has abandoned all restraint and is doing everything in its power to destroy the chances for a two-state solution.
Commenting on the approvals, the United Nations envoy for the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov, stated,
“settlement-related activities undermine the chances for the establishment of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state as part of a negotiated two-state solution…[settlement-related activities] entrench a one-state reality that is incompatible with realizing the national aspirations of both peoples.”
Following the the slaying of a settler this week in a drive-by shooting, some Israeli officials have urged the government to expand settlement activity, specifically calling for the retroactive legalization the illegal outpost where the victim lived.
The day after the murder, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman directed his ministry to examine the possibility of retroactively legalizing the outpost, Havat Gilad. The Havat Gilad outpost, established in 2002, is one of the most radical outposts, a source of serious and frequent violence against Palestinians. In 2014, two Havat Gilad settlers were sentenced to prison for setting Palestinian vehicles on fire in a price-tag attack; its residents have also been documented harassing Palestinian farmers and denying them access to their own lands.
The Israeli NGO Yesh Din – which has documented violence emanating from Havat Gilad, including against Yesh Din employees – has filed several petitions against the outpost, including a 2010 case that resulted in the demolition of some of the outpost’s structures that were built on privately owned Palestinian land. Yesh Din’s investigation shows that Havat Gilad was built on lands that the Israeli Civil Administration has declared to be have been cultivated and privately owned by Palestinians; most of the outpost’s structures have standing (but unenforced) demolition orders issued against them. The case presented by Yesh Din in 2010 quotes Israeli government reports [the Sasson and Spiegel reports] which commented specifically on Havat Gilad, saying:
the information regarding the lawlessness of the outpost and everything constructed in it is known to [the minister of defense] and decision makers for many years, but apparently they preferred to do absolutely nothing about these offenses.
Despite the illegality of Havat Gilad and the longstanding acknowledgement of that fact by the Israeli government, immediately after this week’s killing the outpost established a cemetary to lay the victim to rest. As Al-Monitor explains, the presence of a cemetery in the outpost makes its future evacuation nearly impossible. At the funeral – at which Education Minister Naftali Bennett gave a eulogy – attendees denounced the Israeli government and called for revenge. A settler leader, underscoring the Greater Israel views of the crowd (an ideology that sees the West Bank as now and always part of Israel), argued that the victim “died because he was a Jew living in Israel.” The victim’s brother said God should “kick the Gentiles out of our land. Don’t put up checkpoints; kick them out.” Some of the attendees of the funeral were later caught on video marching to nearby Palestinian neighborhoods and throwing stones.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett released a statement encouraging more settlement growth and calling for Havat Gilad to be authorized, saying
If the State of Israel wants to eliminate the Palestinian murder industry and deter the next potential terrorist, it is not enough to lay our hands on the murderers…We should be clear: From now on, every murder will be immediately answered with construction and settlement, which they are trying to uproot. Legalizing and building up Havat Gilad is the most painful and the most deterrent toll we can exact from the accursed terrorists to prevent the next murder
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked similarly said
Our answer will be to legalize the community of Havat Gilad. Simultaneously, it is important to approve construction throughout Judea and Samaria. They wish to uproot, we will build. The Palestinian Authority encourages and funds terrorists; we will make life bloom. The Palestinians will understand that murder of Israelis also hurts them.
Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador David Friedman responded to the murder of a Havat Gilad resident with a condolence tweet in which he stated (on behalf of the United States, no less), “Hamas praises the killers and PA laws will provide them financial rewards. Look no further to why there is no peace.”
Americans for Peace Now released a statement condemning the murder as well as the call by Israeli officials for increased settlement activity, but also saying:
In a tweet, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman pointed to Shevach’s killing and the Palestinian Authority’s payments to Palestinian prisoners (including those convicted of murdering Israelis) as the reason for “why there is no peace.” As we often have in the past, APN disagrees with Ambassador Friedman. Violence and terrorism are symptoms of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They also serve to perpetuate the conflict. However, the main reason for the lack of peace remains the occupation and settlements. The only way to end the conflict and significantly scale down the violence is through a negotiated peace agreement resulting in two sovereign states living side by side in peace and security.
J Street put out a lengthy statement slamming the Ambassador and calling on Congress to intervene. They say in part
With his actions, Friedman has broken his promises to Senators to behave diplomatically and prudently in his new post. While during his confirmation hearings he testified that he would not support or advocate for Israeli annexation in the West Bank, he has since consistently acted to provide cover and support for Israeli leaders moving towards that goal. Instead of helping to pursue peace, he has exacerbated regional tensions and confusion over US policy.
Palestinians also slammed the U.S. Ambassador, saying a his comments reflected his “prejudiced and selective attitude toward the occupation, settlement construction, and the Palestinian just and legitimate national rights.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Ambassador Friedman, saying “I want to congratulate Ambassador Friedman, the American ambassador to Israel, who tweeted the truth, unvarnished, straight forward”
On January 7th, the State of Israel informed the High Court of Justice that the Attorney General will “refresh instructions for the procedures for demarcating Israeli jurisdictional boundaries” in the West Bank, offering at least the promise of greater transparency to the process of establishing and expanding settlement jurisdictions at the expense of Palestinian land owners. The state said that the new procedures must include contacting parties likely to be harmed by the decisions.
The state was responding to a petition filed in June 2017 by Yesh Din, representing the head of the Palestinian council of the city of Jalud. The petition challenges the plans for a new, nearby settlement called Amichai (currently under construction, Amichai will be the first new authorized settlement established by the Israeli government in 20 years). The petition argued that the demarcation of Amichai’s borders was done in secret, and that the borders include enclaves of privately owned Jalud land that will be inaccessible to their owners once the settlement is complete. Yesh Din writes:
In response to the petition, in January 2018 the State announced its intention to change the way in which jurisdictional boundaries are demarcated in the West Bank, so that Palestinians with “personal interests” who may be harmed by the demarcation can make their position known before the decision is made, or request retroactive changes to the boundaries. However, regarding the present petition, the State Attorney’s Office argued that it should be dismissed as the jurisdictional area of the new settlement of Amichai includes only state land, and as the chosen location will enable establishment of the settlement “at a low cost”. Although the State Attorney’s Office admitted that the demarcation of the settlement’s jurisdiction has created enclaves of privately-owned Palestinian land, it argued that the owners will be able to access their land with prior coordination, based on the security situation at the given time, and therefore their rights will not be harmed.
The Israeli army has once again removed settlers from a hilltop outpost adjacent to the construction site for Amichai, the first new settlement with government authorization to be built in 20 years. Earlier this year, the outposts’ residents prevented construction trucks from driving to the Amichai site by blocking a road for several days, saying that the road to Amichai was built through their [illegal] outpost without their permission.
As reported in last week’s Settlement Report, right-wing Israeli Knesset members and Netanyahu’s Likud party started the New Year with new pressure to annex settlements — the Likud party adopted resolution calling for annexation, and right-wing Knesset members got the ball rolling on legislation that would apply Israeli law in settlements (which would amount to de facto annexation).
This week, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon joined the chorus, telling members of the Israeli cabinet that the time has come for Israel to unilaterally annex the “settlement blocs.” The term “settlement bloc” generally refers to loose groupings of settlements, usually but not always along the Green Line or separation barrier. However, since the term has no legal or formal definition, its meaning is elastic and constantly expanding. Today, even a minimalist definition of the “blocs” cuts deep into the West Bank, isolates East Jerusalem completely from the West Bank, severs key transportation corridors, and destroys Palestinian territorial contiguity.
Kahlon’s political party, Kulanu, is the furthest “Left” party in the current governing coalition. Kahlon is viewed as a centrist in Israeli political terms (and) and has in the past been a proponent of a negotiated two-state solution in which Israel would annex the settlement blocs, but evacuate elsewhere. His comments reportedly surprised his fellow cabinet members. Ynet reports:
The finance minister apparently views the move as a way to push for the resumption of peace talks by presenting a moderate position compared to a resolution recently adopted by the Likud Central Committee’s resolution urging the government to fully annex the West Bank and the Jordan Valley. While the resolution is symbolic and non-binding, it still indicates the general mood in the movement. While Kahlon seeks to apply Israeli law to settlement blocs, he stressed he is not entirely against conceding land as part of a peace agreement.
He believes annexing the settlement blocs will send out a message to the Palestinians that Israel is willing to negotiate for the rest of the West Bank—meaning, the possibility of evacuating isolated settlements.
- “Hague Criminal Court may open Israel war crimes probe, MKs reportedly told”(Times of Israel)
- “A former settler bent on dismantling outposts he once toiled to establish” (Times of Israel)
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.