Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
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January 31, 2020
1. Trump Lays Out Vision for Sweeping Israeli Annexation
> Annexation of Settlements & Land
> In A Single Line, U.S. Vision Obliterates Palestine Property Rights
> U.S. Vision Endorses Population Transfer
> The Vision Supports Settlement Endeavors in Silwan
> U.S. Calls for a 4-Year “Pause” of *SOME* Israeli Settlement Expansion
> The Terms of Palestinian Surrender of Jerusalem
2. Netanyahu Promises, Then Delays, Rapid Approval of Bill to Annex All Settlements & the Jordan Valley
3. U.S. & Israel to Form Technical Teams to Plan Israeli Annexation
4. Invited to Washington, Prominent Settler Welcome Plan But Utterly Reject Vision for (a Non-Sovereign, Non-Autonomous) Future State of Palestine
5. In Two Rulings, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Sets Precedent for Massive Displacement of Palestinians in Silwan
6. Israel Issues Eviction Orders to 30 Palestinian Families Living in the Old City of Jerusalem
7. Bonus Reads
Comments/questions? Contact Kristin McCarthy (firstname.lastname@example.org).
On January 28th, after three years of deliberations with its Israeli partners, the Trump Administration released its so-called “Deal of the Century” (hereafter called the “Vision”), along with a “conceptual map.” The Vision and map delineates Israeli sovereignty over all of West Bank settlements/outposts and all of the Jordan Valley, while stiplulating conditions for a non-autonoumous/non-sovereign Palestinian state in the remaining disconnected enclaves of land (for which the only appropriate word is “bantustan”). Under the plan, no Israeli settlers or Palestinians are slated to be moved, meaning that the Vision is a proposal to make the current reality of occupation permanent – in effect, formalizing an apartheid reality but calling it a two-state solution.
This report will only address the points of the Vision that are directly relevant for settlement and annexation watchers, and which directly relate to FMEP’s ongoing coverage of Israeli annexation policies. The Vision in its entirety is available here.
The Vision provides for Israeli sovereignty over all West Bank settlements. Most of the settlements/settlers are in large areas of the West Bank that the U.S. will recognize as part of Israel – in effect whittling away large swathes of West Bank land to the north, south, and West, as well as the entire Jordan Valley.
In addition, the Vision’s conceptual map lists the names of 15 specific settlements – all of them located within the areas that are designated for a hypothetical Palestinian state – that will become “Israeli enclaves.” Notably, the map key includes an asterisk next to the words “Israeli enclaves” noting that the list is “not all-inclusive.” The map offers no further explanation, leaving the meaning unclear, perhaps by design. To those who understand the way settlements have been placed and expanded in the areas in question, the qualification suggests that unauthorized outposts in these areas will be consolidated into the listed “enclaves.” It also suggests a readiness to adapt the plan to accommodate any additional Israeli demand on this score.
Looking at the map, it is difficult to fully grasp the implications of what is being proposed – mainly because the Trump Administration omitted the 1967 lines (so it is not possible to compare what is being proposed to what the map looked like before). Likewise, the Trump Administration elected to place on the map disproportionately large markers for hypothetical roads/bridges/tunnels that will hypothetically turn the isolated islands of Palestinian territory into a coherent state. These markers serve both to obfuscate the fact that the Palestinian areas are completely disjointed, and to visually inflate the size of the proposed Palestinian areas. Israeli mapping expert and analyst Dan Rothem, after superimposing the 1967 borders and removing the markers, was able to analyze the underlying map. He estimates that the disjointed islands of territory left to the Palestinians by the Vision amount to just 70% of the West Bank.
With respect to the 15 (*number not all-inclusive*) settlements that will become enclaves within the Palestinian bantustans, these settlements are home to roughly 3% of the total Israeli settler population Of them (the following data taken from American for Peace Now’s “Facts on the Ground” mobile app):
- 8 are located in the southern half of the West Bank, mostly clustered around Hebron:
- Ma’ale Amos – located north east of Hebron, established in 1981 with approximately 421 settlers currently living there. There is one unauthorized outpost associated with Ma’ale Amos, Ibei Hanachal, which the Israeli government has advanced plans to retroactively legalize as a neighborhood of Ma’ale Amos.
- Asfar – located north east of Hebron, established in 1983, with approximately 729 settlers currently living there. There is one unauthorize outpost associated with Asfar (Pnei Kedem).
- Karmei Tzur – located north of Hebron, established in 1984, with approximately 1,037 settlers currently living there. There is one unauthorized outpost associated with Karmei Tzur (Tzur Shalem).
- Telem – located west of Hebron, established in 1982, with approximately 391 settlers currently living there.
- Adora – located west of Hebron (just south of the Telem settlement), established in 1984, with approximately 440 settlers currently living there.
- Negohot – located south west of Hebron, established in 1999, with approximately 332 settlers currently living there. Negohot has two unauthorized outposts associated with it.
- Beit Haggai – located immediately south of Hebron, established in 1984, with approximately 596 settlers currently living there.
- Otniel – located south of Hebron, established in 1983, with 1003 settlers currently living there. This is the settlement where Israeli MK Yehuda Glick lives.
- 2 are located in the northern West Bank:
- Hermesh – located west of Jenin, established in 1982 with approximately 215 settlers currently living there.
- Mevo Dotan – located west of Jenin, established in 1978, with approximately 393 settlers currently living there. The is one unauthorized outpost associated with Mevo Dotan (Maoz Zvi).
- 4 are clustered around Nablus in the central West Bank:
- Elon Moreh – located east of Nablus, established in 1979, with 1,912 settlers currently living there. This settlement is widely known for its relation to a landmark Israeli court ruling – the 1979 Elon Moreh ruling – in which the court said that Israel is explicitly prohibited from building settlements on land expropriated for military purposes.
- Itamar – located south east of Nablus, established in 1984 with 1,199 settlers currently living there. Itamar has 5 large unauthorized outposts associated with it, stretching the string of settlements towards the Jordan Valley. This cluster of settlers are known to be violent. Following the unveiling of the Vision, Netanyahu singled out Itamar in celebration, saying “Tel Aviv will be treated like Itamar.”
- Yitzhar – the most notoriously violent of Israel’s settlements, and the home base of the “Hilltop Youth” (dubbed “The Jewish ISIS”). Yitzhar is located south of Nablus, established in 1983, with 1,553 settlers currently living there. The Yitzhar settlement has at least 7 unauthorized outposts associated with it.
- Har Bracha (Berakha) – located south of Nablus (just north of Yitzhar settlement), established in 1983, with 2,4689 settlers currently living there. Har Bracha has 2 unauthorized outposts associated with it.
- 8 are located in the southern half of the West Bank, mostly clustered around Hebron:
According to the Vision, Israel will take whatever land it deems necessary to build and secure roads to those enclaves. Dan Rothem points out that, in order to keep the enclaves, Israel is creating a mess:
“Lengthy ‘fingers’ of Israeli annexation expand deep into the West Bank from all sides, practically dividing the Palestinian state to 6 large cantons (2 WB, 1 Gaza, 2 Negev). These ‘fingers’ create an impossibly-long border for Israel: about 1370 km! Tactically this is anti-security. Patrols will inevitably travel along inferior routes and subject themselves to many threats. All in the sake of retaining isolated, small settlements.”
It is worth observing – as Haaretz laid out – that the lack of territorial continuity the Vision offers the Palestinians will be further degraded by Israeli checkpoints associated with the “Israeli enclaves.” This means that Palestinians will conceivably by subjected to Israeli checkpoints not only along their “state’s” borders, but within the “state’s” own territory. The checkpoints issue is just one example of the further concessions that will be forced upon Palestinians, if the Vision is implemented.
In a single – albeit tortured – sentence, the U.S. Vision essentially endorsed Israeli judicial sovereignty over any/all Palestinian property claims on land designated to Israel by the Vision. The Vision reads (page 13):
“The drawing of borders pursuant to the Conceptual Map shall be without prejudice to individual claims of title or rights of possession traditionally litigated within the Israeli judicial system.”
This line gives Israeli domestic courts sole and final authority to decide whether Palestinian landowners retain any legal claim to land stolen by settlements, or to land annexted by Israel in the implementation of the Trump Vision.
It’s also worth noting that the Vision does not mention Israel’s unauthorized outposts scattered across the West Bank, suggesting that the authors do not distinguish between official settlements (legal under Israeli law) and outposts (built in violation of Israeli law). Bolster this interpretation is the fact that, in addition to the language set forth in the Vision, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s settlement doctrine also supported the jurisdiction of Israeli courts to decide whether outposts are legal or illegal. It’s also worth remembering that Israel is currently undertaking a concerted procedural/legislative/bureaucratic effort to grant retroactive legalization to unauthorized outposts (most of which or built partially or fully on privately owned Palestinian land). FMEP tracks these efforts in its Annexation Policy Tables.
As set out on page 13, the Vision reads, “Land swaps provided by the State of Israel could include both populated and unpopulated areas.” The document goes on to endorse the possibility of transferring 300,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel (living in the Wadi Ara region, an area known as “the triangle,” near Haifa) to the future Palestine state. In effect this is a call for gerrymandering Israel’s borders for the purpose of expelling non-Jewish citizens – an open version of ethnic cleansing long championed by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and his allies, many of whom have been insisting that, at its base, the conflict between Israeli and Palestinians is a demographic battle, not a struggle over land. As Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator and analyst, puts it: “The plan endorses the ethnocracy-over-democracy logic of Israel’s recently passed Nation State Law.”
The Jerusalem Post published many responses to this concept from the people who would be affected.
The U.S. Vision proposes a four-year period during which Israel and the Palestinians would negotiate the details of a final agreement, on the basis of the “Vision” and its accompanying map. For the duration of that period, the Vision calls for Israel to refrain from building new settlements in the parts of the West Bank designated for a possible future Palestinian state, as well as to hold off on expanding the footprint of “Israeli enclaves,” and demolishing existing Palestinian structures in those same areas — unless they pose a safety risk to Israel or the demolition is undertaken as a punitive response to Palestinian violence (a massive loophole that will allow Israel to continue, in effect, to demolish at will).
Netanyahu subsequently asserted that this temporary “pause” does not restrict any Israeli settlement construction because it only applies to areas where there are no settlements, and it allows for building in the Israeli enclaves as long as it does not expand the footprint of those enclaves (a massive, and familiar loophole that essentially greenlights construction). Settler leaders, including some living in the future “Israeli enclaves, also rejected any notion of a freeze.
The Vision places a laundry lists of conditions which Palestinians must meet in order to be granted “statehood” (notwithstanding the fact that the future Palestinian state outlined in the Vision has no resemblance to an actual state).
Several of these conditions relate to abandoning the longtime Palestinian demand to have Jerusalem as the state capital. The Vision explicitly states that Jerusalem will be the unified capital of Israel while giving Palestinians the option of using areas east of the separation wall (Kufr Aqab, Shuafat refugee camp and Abu Dis) as a future capital, which it generously allows them to call “Al Quds” if they desire. It should be recalled that these areas are isolated and impoverished suburbs of Jerusalem (they are in fact outlying areas that Israel added to the Jerusalem municipality after it captured the city in 1967), and that under this Vision, the Palestinains not only don’t get a capital in the area that is what is truly East Jerusalem (i.e., Jerusalem pre-1967), but they are cut off from it entirely. This point affirms what has long been obvious to many: planning and building the separation wall in Jerusalem was an act of de facto annexation of all the land on the Israeli side of the wall.
On this point, Ir Amim writes:
“According to the plan, a theoretical Palestinian capital would be established in the areas beyond the barrier, which would include Kufr Aqab, the Shuafat refugee camp area, as well as Abu Dis (see linked map). Abu Dis has repeatedly appeared in various Israeli proposals as a substitute outside of Jerusalem for a Palestinian capital and consistently rejected by the Palestinians. It is likewise important to note there is no territorial contiguity between the two areas beyond the barrier and Abu Dis, rendering it an even more artificial construct.” Ir Amim goes on to predict, “The US plan significantly reflects Israeli efforts in recent years to officially uproot the neighborhoods beyond the barrier from Jerusalem. This is liable to cause a wave of Palestinian residents back into the core of East Jerusalem, increasing the already existing burden on the massive housing shortage and failing infrastructure and leading to even greater chaos within the Palestinian neighborhoods on both sides of the barrier. Likewise, it is possible there will be an increase in requests for Israeli citizenship particularly among Palestinian residents living beyond the barrier in order to secure their status in the city.”
FMEP will provide more in-depth coverage of the Jerusalem aspects of the plan – including the U.S. green light (which has subsequently been changed, at least in public statements, to yellow, but will be understood by the Israelis, correctly, as remaining green) as major change to the status quo on the Temple Mount – as more analysis is published (which FMEP knows is coming!).
In one of the sections addressing Jerusalem, the Vision lists specific holy sites in Jerusalem which Israel currently controls. That list includes many, many Jewish sites, many Christian holy sites (though notably omitting the Garden Tomb), but just two Muslim sites (Haram al-Sharif and an ambiguous “Muslim Holy Shrines”). Most incredibly, the list of holy sites includes several archeological sites run by the Elad settler organization in the Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. Elevating these sites – which have been cultivated as part of the settlers’ mission to increase the Jewish presence in and hegemony over the historic basin of the Old City, most notably Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah – to the status of “holy sites” is a full endorsement of that agenda. This should come as no surprise to anyone, given Amb. Friedman’s now infamous hammer-wielding appearance in the tunnel of an Elad archeological site in July 2019.
Ir Amim explains the significance:
“The plan calls to safeguard Jerusalem’s religious and holy sites and ensure freedom of access for worshippers of all faiths. It subsequently lists various holy sites in Jerusalem. Save for the Haram al-Sharif and a general reference to Muslim holy shrines, there is no other inclusion of sacred Muslim sites on the list, while at the same time it includes a significant number of Jewish and Christian sites. Among the Jewish sites listed, there are various archeological sites which Israel has never before officially regarded or recognized as holy. It should be noted that these sites are located in and around Silwan and constitute the locus of the Elad settler organization’s touristic settlement operations in the area.” Ir Amim later concludes that because of the Vision, “State-sponsored settlement campaigns in the Old City Basin, including settler-initiated evictions of Palestinians, takeovers of their homes, and touristic initiatives are expected to accelerate.”
Netanyahu Promises, Then Delays, Rapid Approval of Bill to Annex All Settlements & the Jordan Valley
Following his side-by-side press conference with President Trump, the Israeli PM told reporters that he will ask his Security Cabinet to vote on bill to annex the Jordan Valley and all settlements (approximately 30% of the West Bank) this Sunday, February 3rd – but also said that his government will “need to do some work to define exactly [what we will annex].” Following his initial promise, several rounds of new reports suggested, and then un-suggested, and then re-suggested that Netanyahu would delay/soften/reframe this promise to bring annexation to a vote At the time of publication, the latest press reports suggest that Netanyahu decided to cancel the weekly Security Cabinet meeting on Sunday, with no new date set.
Netanyahu’s changing position, at least in part, reflects the conflicting messages coming from Washington, DC. Immediately following the unveiling of the Vision, U.S. Ambassador David Friedman offered the Trump Administration’s full support for Israel’s immediate annexation of lands that the Vision transfers to Israel. A short time later, Jared Kushner – breaking with Friedman – publicly cautioned against such a move before the next Israeli election. The Israeli government then went to the media to insist on the message that there is/was no disagreement between the Israeli and American governments (who wrote the Vision together), and that the seemingly uncoordinated annexation plans were simply a “technical” disagreement, with Israel’s wishing to annex in three chunks, and the Americans preferring for Israel to annex everything at one time.
Netanyahu’s promise to hold an annexation vote so quickly should also (perhaps primarily?) be viewed in the context of the premiership-or-prison election scenario he has been facing for the past year. The pressure to annex, and annex immediately, has reached a fever pitch amongst both Netanyahu’s rivals and his most strategic allies.
When a government source hinted to the press that Bibi might delay his promise to call up an annexation bill on Feb. 3rd in order to allow the Attorney General to issue an opinion on the matter, Bibi’s rivals and allies pounced, offering pointed criticism of Bibi’s leadership and stressing the urgency of annexing the land immediately. In the past, Attorney General Avichai Mandleblit has expressed concern that a transitional government cannot take such dramatic steps (notably, the AG is only worried about the timing of annexation, not the validity of it). Recently, however, he softened – nearly reversed – his opposition to the plan. Bibi’s critics were not assuaged even when the Ynet news outlet cited an unnamed government source saying that Mandleblit is prepared to approve an annexation bill.
Even before reports of a delay in order to allow the Attorney General to weigh in, Benny Gantz, took part in a testy Twitter exchange, responding to Netanyahu by saying:
“You can apply Israeli law in the Jordan Valley in a cabinet decision within two hours, without any Knesset discussion. Let’s see you.”
Gantz has also promised to bring the Vision itself up for a vote in the Israeli Knesset next week.
MK Avigdor Liberman (who played the role of kingmaker/bloc-breaker in the past two election rounds, and might do so again) wrote on Facebook:
“You don’t care one whit about the Jordan Valley. The only thing you care about is immunity.”
On January 22nd, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett (a member of Netanyahu’s very fragile political alliance) publicly called on Netanyahu to stop delaying annexation of the Jordan Valley, and “do it now.”
“Yisrael Beytenu and Blue and White think that important and fundamental decisions can be made during a transitional government. I am in favor of this. But not for politics, but for essential matters. Applying sovereignty over the Jordan Valley is one of the important Zionist measures that are on the agenda and if Blue and White wink at the right, it will be given the chance to prove it. The political timing is ripe to back such a move. With a true friend of Israel, President Donald Trump, combined with the ‘urgent’ plenary conference on Tuesday, this is a historic opportunity. We have no excuse for missing it. There are those who demand a plenary convening for populist needs of immunity, we must take advantage of this to implement an historic historic step in the Jordan Valley.”
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (the leader of the Shas Party, also part of Netanyahu’s political alliance) tried to defend the Prime Minister’s delay, saying that the government is already advancing annexation as an administrative fact. Speaking at a Jordan Valley settlement, Deri said:
“As interior minister, I’m telling you that on the municipal side, we’re already starting to prepare the administrative work. There are many challenges that must be dealt with.”
The picture that emerges from the Israeli political scene is one of nearly consensus support for annexation of the Jordan VAlley and all the settlements, with only the Joint List and Meretz Party challenging the overwhelming support for annexation and the Trump Admin Vision within Israeli politics.
Israel and the U.S. are not wasting any time in implementing the annexation portion of the Vision.
Following the unveiling of the Vision, U.S. Ambassador Friedman told the press that there is no “waiting period” preventing Israel from annexing West Bank land and that, anticipating such a move, he intends to set up a committee (presumably in the State Department and/or Embassy) “as soon as possible” to examine any Israeli annexation plan to make sure it is in line with the Vision. Speaking on annexation, Friedman said:
“It’s a process that requires effort, accuracy and calibration and you have to make sure that the annexation matches the map in our plan. We will look at the Israeli proposal and examine it and make sure it is in line with our plan. We will set up the committee as soon as possible and work on it immediately and try to end quickly but I do not know how long it will take.”
Acting Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett also announced that he Israel will establish a new governmental body to lead the annexation effort. Bennet said:
“I will be clear: Whatever is postponed until after the elections will never happen. We all understand this. Therefore, I am announcing this morning that I ordered the formation of a special team to apply and carry out the implementation of Israeli law and sovereignty over all Jewish settlements in Judea and Samara, over the Jordan Valley, and the hotels around the Dead Sea.”
This is the third annexation body the Bennet has announced the creation of during his short time as the Israeli Defense Minister during the current transition government. Though it is not clear if any/all of these government bodies overlap, Bennet announced the creation of:
- The “special team” detailed in the Bennet quote above [Announced January 29, 2020]
- An inter-ministerial taskforce to develop settlement and annexation plans for the future of Area C in the West Bank. [Announced January 9, 2020]
- A research team to survey and then present several legal options for how Israel can bring the settlement planning processes under the Justice Ministry (integrating the settlements into the domestic Israeli planning process, and act of annexation). [Announced December 12, 2019]
Invited to Washington, Prominent Settler Welcome Plan But Utterly Reject Vision for (a Non-Sovereign, Non-Autonomous) Future State of Palestine
Several of the most prominent settler leaders accepted an invitation from Prime Minister Netanyahu to accompany him on a mission to Washington, DC for the unveiling of the Trump Administration’s “Deal of the Century.” The leaders were invited to attend in order to receive briefings about the contents of the plan, or, as they put in a statement:
“We came to strengthen the prime minister and to clearly present to the White House the voice of all the settlements. It was important for us to hear the information in person rather than relying on rumors.”
Ahead of the public release, David Elhayani (Chairman of the Yesha Council, an umbrella group, and chairman of the Jordan Valley Regional Council) told the press that he wasn’t getting much sleep due to worry about the plans’ contents, specifically that it would be “horrible for settlements.” Having reportedly heard from Netanayhu that the plan will outline the possiblitiy of a Palestinian state on 70% of the West Bank, Elhayani said:
“We cannot accept a plan that would include the establishment of a Palestinian state, which would pose a threat to the State of Israel. We will also not allow for the establishment of a Palestinian state, even if that means giving up on enacting sovereignty in Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley [for now]. We call on the prime minister and members of Knesset not to accept a comprehensive agreement within which a Palestinian state can be established in any form.”
Upon seeing the plan – which awarded the settlers nearly everything on their wish list short of the ethnic cleansing of the West Bank – the settler leaders’ opposition calcified with two major objections: 1) the hint of a settlement construction freeze in the “Israeli enclaves,” (which, as described above, is not a meaningful freeze) and 2) the possibility of a future state of Palestine (which, as described above, is not a future state but a few islands of Palestinian land completely encircled and controlled by Israel). The rejection leads one to ask, what do the settlers want to do with the Palestinians?
In Two Rulings, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Sets Precedent for Massive Displacement of Palestinians in Silwan
The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court handed down two rulings in the past 10 days that order the eviction of Palestinian families from their homes in the Batan al-Hawa section of the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem. Both petitions were initiated by the Ateret Cohanim settler group, which claims to own the land upon which the homes are built. By accepting Ateret Cohanim’s ownership claim in these two cases – which the settler group asserts based on its management of a 19th century trust – the court has set a significant precedent for nearly a dozen additional petitions initiated by Ateret Cohanim to evict some 700 more Palestinians from their East Jerusalem homes. [map]
First, on January 19th the Jerusalem Magistrate Court ruled in favor of the radical settler group Ateret Cohanim to evict the Palestinian Rajabi family from their home home of 45 years in the Batan al-Hawa section of Silwan, located just south of the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. 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. Nasser Rajabi, head of the family, told Haaretz:
“My father bought this house and I was born in this house. We didn’t take it from anyone. We’d never even heard about the Yemenites until they sued us. I’m not leaving the house, where would I go? We will die before they get us out.”
Second, 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 said in a statement:
“This is an attempt to displace a Palestinian community and to replace it with an Israeli one, in the heart of a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem. The settlers could not have succeeded without the Israeli authorities’ close support and assistance. In addition to the hard blow to the prospects for a two-state solution by preventing a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, this is an injustice and an act of cruelty to throw out families who have lived lawfully in their homes for decades.”
Ir Amim said:
“The Ateret Cohanim settler organization is waging one of the most comprehensive settler takeover campaigns in East Jerusalem through initiating mass eviction proceedings against Palestinian families in Batan al-Hawa. Seventeen families have already been evicted with over 80 other households facing eviction demands, placing some 600-700 individuals of one community at risk of displacement. See Ir Amim’s and Peace Now’s joint report, “Broken Trust” for further details and analysis.”
As FMEP has detailed, Ateret Cohanim is a settler organization which works to establish Jewish enclaves inside densely populated Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. In Silwan, it is working largely based on its contention that land in Silwan was once owned by Jews and can now, under Israeli law, be reclaimed. Specifically, Ateret Cohanim contends that land belonging to a Jewish trust (named the Benvenisti Trust) in the 19th century is now the property of Ateret Cohanim, which took control of the trust in 2001. In 2002, the Israeli Custodian General agreed to transfer land in Batan al-Hawa to the Trust/Ateret Cohanim. Since then, Ateret Cohanim has accelerated its multifaceted campaign to remove Palestinians from their homes, claiming that the Palestinians are illegally squatting on sacred religious land owned by the Trust.
Haaretz columnist Nir Hasson tells the story:
“The neighborhood of Batan al-Hawa is an extreme example stressing the difference between how Arab property was dealt with as opposed to Jewish property. A Jewish neighborhood that had been built for immigrants from Yemen with funds raised by the philanthropic organization Ezrat Nidahim lay in the Batan al-Hawa area until 1938. The homes in the neighborhood were owned by an Ottoman-era land trust that was registered in the name of Rabbi Moshe Benvenisti. In 2001, more than a century after the land trust had been established, the Jerusalem District Court approved the request by three members of Ateret Cohanim to become trustees of the land. With this brief decision that takes up half a page, and a subsequent decision by the Custodian General, the state placed 700 Palestinians, along with their property, under the control of Ateret Cohanim, which seeks to increase Jewish presence in Jerusalem’s Old City.”
On January 20th, Israeli authorities delivered eviction orders to 30 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, including 22 houses in the Old City neighborhood of Bab al-Silsila – or Chain Gate. If implemented, the eviction orders will render almost 200 Palestinians homeless. Reports mention that all of the homes have sustained structural damage because of Israeli excavations under the Old City, but no further details are reported concerning the predicate for eviction.
- “Expansion of jurisdiction brings change for settlers” (Ynet)
- “Ottoman archives help Palestinians reclaim their land” (Al-Monitor)
- “Israel Rejects 98% of of Palestinian Building Permit Requests in West Bank’s Area C” (Haaretz)
- “Bennett looks to demolish illegal Palestinian businesses at Ariel Junction“ (Jerusalem Post)
- “Go ahead, annex the West Bank” (+972 Magazine)
- “Prejudices and ignorance among Israeli settlers in the West Bank” (Jerusalem Post)
- “Here’s What Happens if Israel Annexes the West Bank and Lets Palestinians Vote” (Haaretz)
- “A Designer Villa With a Sprawling View of the Occupation” (Haaretz)
- “Illegal Settlement Growth, Widespread Hopelessness among Youth Eroding Middle East Peace Prospects, Under-Secretary-General Tells Security Council” (United Nations)