Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
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July 12, 2018
- Continuing New Legal Strategy, Israel Argues “Market Regulation” Principle In Bid to Legalize Outpost
- Cabinet to Consider New Bill to Legalize 70 Outposts
- Cabinet to Consider Three Bills that Advance Annexation of Area C Settlements
- New Proof that the Israeli Government is Driving Unauthorized Settlement Activity
- High Court Freezes Plan for Settlement Committee in Hebron; IDF Seizes Private Land Near Kiryat Arba
- High Court Allows the Israel Land Authority to Remain Under the Influence of the Jewish National Fund
- New Bill Would Allow Settlers to Build on National Park Grounds in East Jerusalem
- Civil Administration Strike Will Delay Settlement Construction
- Amichai Settlement’s Makeshift Sewage Pit is Contaminating Nearby Palestinian Fields
- Israeli President Cautions Against Shaked’s Bill to Politicize Key Legal Appointments
- United Nations Envoy: Israel is Moving Towards Formal Annexation
- Bonus Reads
Comments, questions, or suggestions? Email Kristin McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Continuing New Legal Strategy, Israel Argues “Market Regulation” Principle In Bid to Legalize Outpost
On July 3rd the Israeli State Prosecutor’s Office told the Jerusalem District Court that it has the right to retroactively legalize the Mitzpe Kramim outpost based on the “market regulation” principle. This is the recently-invented legal principle according to which the government can seize privately owned Palestinian land to give to settlers if settlers can demonstrate (to the satisfaction of an Israeli government that is doing everything possible to help them) that they built on the land “in good faith,” based on government assurances, and if the rightful landowners are offered compensation. This is just the second time the government has used the “market regulation” principle to defend the seizure of privately owned Palestinian land in court, the first being in November 2017 when the State informed the High Court of Justice that it intended to expropriate private land near the Ofra settlement. Neither court ruled on either case.
The government’s deployment of the “market regulation” principle in the Mitzpe Kramim case completely reverses the position the government has taken for the last 7 years on this specific outpost case. Since 2011, the Israeli government admitted that the land was privately owned, that it had been mistakenly given to the World Zionist Organization in the 1980s (the Mitzpe Kramim outpost was built without Israeli authorization in 1999), and that the situation should be corrected. In its argument on July 3, 2018, the government is expressing its newfound power to seize the land, asserting that the settlers built there “in good faith” and should not be punished for the government’s mistake, under the powers of the “market regulation.”
Peace Now said:
“The state’s announcement to the District Court is a new low in the moral and political deterioration led by the Netanyahu government. As the body that has assumed responsibility for the Occupied Territories for the last 51 years, the state should have protected the property rights of Palestinians, who have no civil rights nor the ability to defend their own land. The fact that the state failed to protect their land cannot be an excuse to steal the land and grant it to the settlers.”
As Peace Now also notes, in order to satisfy the 1967 Government Property Order (which is the law underlying the “market regulation” principle) all of the land owners must be invited to participate in the court case. However, the settlers who filed the petition regarding Mitzpe Kramim failed to include all of the registered land owners, meaning there is a long course of legal action ahead before the case. Should the Court decide the case in the settlers’ favor, it would set a potentially far-reaching precedent for implementing and upholding the “market regulation” principle.
Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit originally argued for the “market regulation” principle in late 2016 as an alternative legal basis to the Regulation Law, which he believes to be “a sweeping and injurious arrangement that does not meet the test of proportionality.” That law, passed by the Knesset in February 2017, is now in serious legal jeopardy. While the Israeli government continues to staunchly defend the broader legal basis for expropriating privately owned Palestinian land established under the “Regulation law,” its increased use of the “market regulation” principle makes clear that come what may, the Israeli government has the intention to do whatever it takes to “legally” seize Palestinian private land in order to legalize outposts (offering a stark illustration of the difference between “rule of law” and “rule by law.”)
For extensive reporting on and analysis of the “market regulation” principle and the “Regulation Law,” see FMEP’s tables documenting Israeli annexation policies.
MKs Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) and Yoav Kisch (Likud) have submitted a bill for consideration by the Israeli Cabinet that seeks to retroactively legalize 70 unauthorized outposts across the West Bank. The Ministerial Committee for Legislation (a group of Cabinet members that decides whether or not to lend government backing to Knesset legislation before it is introduced) could vote on the July 15th, during its last weekly meeting before the Knesset recesses for its summer break. According to a Defense Ministry spokesperson, 50 of the 70 outposts can become part of existing official settlements — meaning that if passed into law, the bill would (a) significantly expand the borders/footprint of some 50 existing settlements (to include the outposts and land separately the outposts from the new parent settlement), and (b) create as many as 20 new settlements.
In addition, the bill would direct the government to treat the 70 unauthorized outposts as if they were legal settlements, which would include providing municipal services like water and electricity infrastructure at the expense of the relevant regional council (funded by Israeli tax-payers). The bill would also stop the potential of enforcement of the government’s own laws against the specified 70 outposts (reminder: the Israeli government rarely enforces building laws against Israeli settlers, actively funds outposts despite their illegality, and continues to invent new ways to legalize them). According to the bill, enforcement of building laws against the unauthorized outposts could only happen at the direction of the Defense Minister or the Prime Minister, with the backing of the Cabinet.
FMEP has repeatedly covered news regarding the government’s efforts to legalize outposts built on privately owned Palestinian land. The passage of the settlement “Regulation Law” gave the government new, sweeping authority to legalize outposts which it had been unable to address under existing Israeli law (because of the fact that they were built on privately owned Palestinian land, in effect turning these into cases of incontestable theft of private property. The 2005 Sasson Report admitted that there was no possible way to legalize outposts built on privately owned Palestinian land, and concluded that all such outposts should be evacuated). With the new law in place permitting Israel to launder this land theft, the Cabinet created a Defense Ministry task force – and appointed veteran settler leader Pinchas Wallerstein as its head – empowered to examine the individual legal situation of each outpost and devise plans to retroactively legalize as many outposts as possible. In January 2018, a leaked recording revealed that the task force had been working for six months to prescribe courses of action for the outposts. Despite this, settlers and Knesset members have complained that the task force has done nothing and has not been funded, using these as talking points in their push for the new Smotrich bill.
Developments related to these efforts are tracked in FMEP’s annexation policy tables.
In addition to the outpost legalization bill (covered above), the Israeli Ministerial Committee on Legislation is slated at its next weekly meeting on July 15th to discuss three bills that seek to advance Israeli de facto annexation of Area C, after refraining from discussing them last week. Those bills are:
- A bill to recognize settlements in the South Hebron Hills as well as the Kiryat Arba settlement (which is, in effect, part of Hebron) as part of the Negev regional economy. Economically, the change would enable these settlements to benefit from government grants and programs for the Negev; politically, and far more importantly, the change would erase the Green Line, legally treating these settlements as part of sovereign Israeli territory (the Negev is an area located inside sovereign Israel).
- A bill to change a 1953 Jordanian law in order to allow Israelis to directly purchase property in the West Bank. Under the current law, private, non-Arab individuals cannot purchase land in the West Bank. In 1971, the law was amended to add a loophole allowing companies registered to operate in the West Bank (like the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish National Fund) to purchase property, and often do so only to give it to Israeli settlers. This additional change would open the door for private purchases across the West Bank by settlers and their backers, including in the heart of Palestinian cities. Notably, Israeli security officials have in the past objected to changing this law, based on their recognition of the fact that settlers implanting themselves wherever they want in the West Bank – including in acts intended to be deliberately provocative – will be a security nightmare for the IDF and will enable settlers and their financial patrons to further hijack the national security agenda of the state of Israel.
- A bill to rescind the 2005 Disengagement Law in order to allow four settlements in the northern West Bank to be rebuilt. The settlements – Sa-Nur, Homesh, Kadim and Ganim – were evacuated following the passage of the Disengagement Law. Notably, the head of the Samaria Regional Council, Yossi Dagan, is one of the settlers that was evacuated from Sa-Nur in 2005 and has championed the bill, which was submitted for Cabinet consideration by Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi).
The Israeli State Comptroller published a report that exposes how Israel government bodies have colluded with the Binyamin Regional Council (one of the main governing bodies over West Bank settlements) to bankroll the construction and ongoing support of unauthorized outposts, even as the Israeli Civil Administration acts to try to stop the illegal construction the government is funding.
The report reads:
“The [Binyamin Regional] council has been the driving force in the construction of unauthorized communities [outposts] and has financed them…In so doing, the council has dictated a negative standard of behavior, that has allowed for illegal construction in the Judea and Samaria and has even advanced such activity…Government offices were involved in financing the planning and construction of the unauthorized outposts.”
In one of several examples of how the collusion has worked, the Comptroller explained that the Esh Kodesh outpost – which is actually located outside of the Binyamin Regional Council’s jurisdiction – was built in 2000 without government permission. In 2014, the Interior Ministry financed the renovation of roads in the outpost. Meanwhile, the Civil Administration issued demolition orders against structures in the outpost in 2003, 2012, and 2013.
Sensing opportunity to promote their new bill to retroactively authorize outposts (see above), MKs Yoav Kisch (Likud) and MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) argued that the Comptroller’s report, by proving the the state has participated in building outposts, underlines the necessity of authorizing those outposts for the sake of the settlers who moved to the outposts at the encouragement of the state.
Adding to the Comptroller’s report (and echoing several of its key points), a freedom of information act filed by Peace Now revealed that the Binyamin Regional Council has been concealing massive and illegal annual contributions to the Amana organization, which leads wide scale illegal settlement construction. Amana received NIS 37 million over three years from the Council, which is 57% of the funds doled out to non-governmental groups over that period. The Comptroller’s report criticized the Council’s support for private organizations, which violates Israeli law restricting regional councils to supporting apolitical, public groups. The report said “the council serves as a conduit for transferring funds from the state to a private association.”
Peace Now writes:
“this data now reveals the depth of this robbing of public funds to finance political campaigns and illegal activity. It is time for the Interior Ministry to put an end to this abuse of Israelis’ taxpayer money and to demand that the authorities in the West Bank cease this illegal funding and give the money back.”
High Court Freezes Plan for Settlement Committee in Hebron; IDF Seizes Private Land Near Kiryat Arba
The Israel High Court has ordered a temporary freeze on a military order creating a new, autonomous settler committee to represent and service a cluster of Israeli settlement enclaves in Hebron’s city center, a plan announced by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman in August 2017. The military order, if allowed to be implemented, would transfer responsibility for the settlers’ municipal services (roads, sewage, electricity, etc.) from the Hebron Municipality to the new settler committee, a plan which contradicts the 1997 Hebron Protocol.
The High Court gave the Israeli government 120 days to explain the legality of the plan, which was challenged on multiple fronts by the Hebron Municipality. The petition argued that the military order was intentionally vague in defining the legal and geographical jurisdiction of the proposed settler body, and pointed out that the new committee would be able to override decisions by the Hebron Municipality thereby stripping Palestinians of autonomy and representation in matters that directly affect them.
While the Court considers the matter, events on the ground continue to underscore the volatility of the situation in Hebron. Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier who was caught on camera executing an incapacitated Palestinian on the streets of Hebron, victoriously returned to the city on July 3rd after serving only 9 months in jail. The festivities welcoming Azaria were planned by a group that included the extremist settler and politician, Baruch Marzel. Only two days after the Azaria lovefest, Marzel pitched a two-person tent on the sidewalk next to a Palestinian home in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood in the Old City of Hebron. According to the Palestinian news outlet Ma’an, Marzel was involved in attacks on Palestinians in Tel Rumeida the same day, in an incident that resulted in the arrest of one Palestinian. Israeli police removed Marzel’s encampment from the street.
Also in Hebron, Palestinian media reports that Israeli forces have confiscated a plot of privately owned Palestinian land near the Kiryat Arba settlement and the Ibrahimi Mosque/Cave of the Patriarchs. A Hebron activist reports that the Israeli Army set up a new camp across the street from the seized land about one month ago, and is now moving the camp to the new site with the intention of declaring it a “closed military zone” to prevent Palestinians from entering the area.
High Court Allows the Israel Land Authority to Remain Under the Influence of the Jewish National Fund
The High Court of Justice dismissed a petition filed by Adalah which alleged that the Jewish National Fund’s representation on the Israel Land Authority council infringes on the rights of Palestinian to equality and dignity. Under Israeli law, 6 of the 14 members on the Land Authority council are to be appointed by the Jewish National Fund, an organization the petitioners say (with good cause) “openly discriminates against non-Jews and sees itself as an entity that serves only one population.” The Israel Land Authority is responsible for deciding how (and to whom) to allocate or sell land in Israel, including the land owned by the Jewish National Fund (13% of all land in Israel).
Following the High Court’s dismissal of the petition, the Haaretz Editorial Board wrote:
“In a properly run country, people who declare that they’re committed to acting in a discriminatory way are immediately disqualified from a public role. One can only imagine what Israelis’ response would be if in a country where Jews were a minority, half of a group’s members stated their intention to discriminate against Jews.”
The radical settler group Elad is lobbying for a bill that will allow the group to build settlement units on the grounds of one specific national park located in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, where Elad is engaged in a variety of activities to displace Palestinians and replace them with Israeli settlers (as FMEP has reported on extensively). On July 10th, the bill was approved by the Knesset’s Interior and Environment Committee, despite objections submitted to the committee by the Justice Ministry and the Attorney General. The bill was sent to the Knesset plenum for its first of three votes.
The bill will allow Elad to build more homes for Israeli settlers on the grounds of the City of David national park, which is located immediately south of the Temple Mount, adjacent to the southern wall of the Old City of Jerusalem. Since 2001, Elad has managed the park grounds on behalf of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, a scheme which gives the settler group authority over (but no legal responsibility towards) thousands of Palestinian homes and hundreds of settler homes – a demographic balance Elad is working hard to flip.
Ir Amim’s researcher Aviv Tatarsky told Haaretz:
“This isn’t the first time a monkey is being made of the law and common sense to advance the agenda of the Elad settlers. But even this law can’t change the fact that Silwan, like East Jerusalem, is entirely a Palestinian city. Israeli attempts to deny that simple truth impair the basic rights of 350,000 people in East Jerusalem. The residents of the Israeli city also pay a price for it.”
For more information on the role on national parks around Jerusalem in advancing the Israeli settlement agenda in Palestinian neighborhoods, see Ir Amim’s reporting here, and a key survey and analysis of national parks in Jerusalem/East Jerusalem by Bimkom here.
A recently released list of Civil Administration functions that will be brought to a halt during the impending union strike includes the High Planning Council’s work to advance settlement construction plans, though a Civil Administration spokesperson said that construction can be expected to climb next quarter.
Hananel Dorani, Chairman of the Yesha Council, the umbrella group representing settlements,wrote a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Lieberman, and Finance Minister Kahlon. Dorani, highlighting the green light from the political echelon to promote settlements, criticized the Civil Administration while pushing for a resolution:
“Especially now, at a time when political approval was given to promote construction, it’s not only commonplace that the Civil Administration doesn’t meet the task properly, but the workers’ strike will exacerbate the situation and create a bottleneck that’ll be difficult to free from for years. Civil Administration employees’ demand to add additional positions and their requests to improve salary conditions so they can fill existing positions hasn’t been answered for a long time, leading to renewed sanctions. As is well known, this is not the first time Civil Administration employees have initiated sanctions, but this hasn’t yet been dealt with…this organization is routinely substandard, and for a long time important headquarters work wasn’t promoted, plans approved by the political echelon are halted and piled up on the table in the Civil Administration, budgets earmarked for infrastructure projects (transportation, cellular, etc.) aren’t realized, no work permits are issued, and more…We ask that you get involved with all relevant parties and act immediately and personally to restore the Civil Administration to full functioning.”
Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan complained:
“As if it is not enough that every house in Judea and Samaria (West Bank) needs four different permits from the political echelon, now the residents have also become hostages in a conflict between Civil Administration employees and the Finance Ministry.”
The Civil Administration will also suspend the following operations: the flow of commercial goods between the West Bank (both settlements and Palestinian areas) and sovereign Israel; changes to the land and population registries, issuance of import licenses and business permits; and, significantly, all actions – including demolitions – against illegal construction, which might delay the demolition of the Khan al-Ahmar bedouin community.
Raw sewage from the Amichai settlement (the first new government-backed settlement in 20 years, established in the Shiloh Valley as pay-off to the evacuees of the illegal Amona outpost) has been flowing into the agricultural lands of the nearby Palestinian village Turmus Ayya.
The settlers dug a temporary sewage site (a pit in the ground that is now overflowing) only a few meters from Palestinian farm lands. Settlers have been living in mobile homes on the site of the settlement (which has not been built yet) for less than four months, and Palestinians say the the sewage began overflowing two months ago. A permanent sewage site for the settlement has not yet been built, in part because the settlement plans were approved at a “dizzying speed,” as Haaretz explains it.
At a swearing in ceremony for new judges, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin took the opportunity to pointedly criticize a bill promoted by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked which would, by design, politicize the appointment of ministerial legal advisors (a bill FMEP reported on here).
“we need independent legal advisors whose commitment to the law and being gatekeepers flows in their veins and constitutes the essence of their professional ethic. I understand elected officials. I too served in one or two roles before I reached this house, and I didn’t always agree with the legal advisor’s position. However, I believe we must be careful not to weaken one of the important pillars of the executive branch in Israeli democracy. We all want a legal advisor who’ll serve all elected officials from anywhere in the political spectrum in exactly the same way. Faithfully, devotedly, professionally, committed to government policy and primarily responsibility to uphold the law.”
Ahead of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, legal expert Michael Lynk told press that:
“After years of creeping Israeli de facto annexation of the large swathes of the West Bank through settlement expansion, the creation of closed military zones and other measures, Israel appears to be getting closer to enacting legislation that will formally annex parts of the West Bank. This would amount to a profound violation of international law, and the impact of ongoing settlement expansion on human rights must not be ignored.”
The statement was later posted on the Human Rights Council’s website.
- “US administration silent on Israel’s occupation policy” (Al Monitor)
- “A Tango of Violence: Building Outposts on Palestinian Land” (Haaretz)
- “The Maps of Israeli Settlements that Shocked Barack Obama” (The New Yorker)
- “Israel slams ‘immoral’ Irish bill banning trade with settlements” (Times of Israel)
- “The demolition of Khan al-Ahmar is more than just a war crime” (+972 Mag)