Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
To receive this report via email, please click here.
January 25, 2018
- Israeli Attorney General Supports Legalization of Radical Havat Gilad Outpost
- Settler Population Growth Rate Continues to Shrink, But Still Outpaces Growth Rate Inside the Green Line
- In a First, U.S. Embassy Invites Settlers to VP Pence’s Knesset Speech
- Bonus Reads
Comments, questions, or suggestions? Email Kristin McCarthy at email@example.com.
Over the weekend, Israeli cabinet ministers declined to debate Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s proposed resolution to advance the retroactive legalization of the Havat Gilad outpost at the weekly cabinet meeting. The settler-run Arutz Sheva media outlet is reporting that even though the resolution was not debated, Ministers did discuss Havat Gilad and pressured Netanyahu to “regulate” it (i.e., make it legal) as part of the government’s response to a terror attack earlier this month which killed a resident of the outpost.
After the meeting, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked announced via a tweet that Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has given his support for a second resolution to retroactively legalize the Havat Gilad outpost, signaling that there is no legal impediment to moving forward with the plan. If true, this means the Attorney General has found a way to get around a growing body of historical documentation that should – under current Israeli law and precedent as it is understood – preclude the outpost from being retroactively legalized.
The history of the outpost, as documented and adjudicated by the Israeli government, should disqualify it from meeting the standards for retroactive legalization set out in the Regulation Law, a law passed in early 2017 that gives the Israeli government leeway to regulate settlement units and outposts that were built in good faith or with the consent of the state, and if Palestinian landowners are compensated. These condition do not appear to apply with respect to Havat Gilad, which was first established in early 2002, evacuated by the government of Israel (for being illegal) in October of that same year, only to be re-established nearby less than a year later. As detailed in a post by Dror Etkes, founder of the Israeli NGO Kerem Naboth, aerial photographs from 2001-2002 show that “the area over which the outpost currently spans was divided into dozens of plots that were well-cultivated,” clearly indicated privately-owned land.
Hence, the Regulation Law cannot be the legal underpinning on which Attorney General Mandelblit is relying on to support the retroactive legalization of the Havat Gilad outpost.. However, it is worth recalling that Mandelblit argued against the Regulation Law (which is expected to be struck down by the High Court of Justice) – not because he in principle opposed legalizing outposts, but because he believed there was a better, alternative legal mechanism to achieve the same goal that would pass High Court scrutiny. It is also worth recalling that shortly after submitting his argument against the Regulation Law, Mandleblit issued two key legal opinions: one in favor of the retroactive legalization of an access road to the Haresha outpost; and the second to support the retroactive legalization of the Ofra settlement sewage plant (which was “mistakenly” built on Palestinian land).
Though Mandelblit’s legal logic for supporting any of the cases remains unclear (and what that logic portends for the 70 other outposts that the government is seeking to legalize), it is clear that there are new avenues opening up to convert even the most far-flung, radical, and brazenly illegal outposts into permanent West Bank settlement facts-on-the-ground, at the expense of Palestinian landowners and the contiguity of a future Palestinian state.
Settler Population Growth Rate Continues to Shrink, But Still Outpaces Growth Rate Inside the Green Line
According to the Times of Israel, new Israeli government data (covering 150 West Bank settlements and outposts, but not East Jerusalem) shows that the settler growth rate has decreased for the sixth consecutive year, from 3.9% in 2016 to 3.4% in 2017 (the growth rate hit a high in 2008, at 5.8%). Even with this decline, the 3.4% settler population growth rate still outpaces Israel’s national average, which comes in at 2%. Moreover, the data show that settler population is far younger than the population inside the Green Line, with 47% of settlers being below the age of 18, compared to 27% of Israelis inside the Green Line.
A statement from the Yesha Council (the umbrella organization of municipal councils of Jewish settlements) blamed for the declining growth rate on what it called a “quiet freeze” on settlement construction in 2017, despite the fact that Peace Now chronicled an alarming acceleration of settlement activity in 2017.
The U.S. Embassy sent out personal invitations to several prominent settler leaders to attend Vice President Mike Pence’s speech in the Israeli Knesset. Invitees included senior officers of the Yesha Council (he umbrella organization of municipal councils of Jewish settlements, which acts as the de facto lobby for the settlers). The Speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein, invited additional settlers to attend the speech as well.
In his speech, VP Pence did not mention the occupation or settlements, but only called on Palestinian leaders to return to the negotiating table.
- “How David Friedman is Putting His Right Wing Stamp of U.S. Foreign Policy Towards Israel” ( The Forward)
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.