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, 2019
- Israel Evicts Palestinians from Silwan Apartment, Turns Property Over to Settlers
- Mayor Reveals Israel’s New Settlement Policy in Jerusalem: Build Everything (Except Givat Hamatos)
- Bibi’s “Principles” for Future Deal Seek International Approval for Apartheid-Like Status Quo
- Stunt by Radical Settler Group Hoped to Scare Government Into Annexing Area C
- United Nations Human Rights Expert Lays Down the Law on Israeli Annexation, Urges International Community to Consider Imposing Consequences
- John Bolton Joins U.S. Chorus Defending & Normalizing Isareli Settlements, Calls them “Housing Projects” at Evangelical Confab
- Adva Center: Israel Has Chosen Settlements/Annexation at the Expense of Development
- Bonus Reads
Questions or comments? Contact Kristin McCarthy at email@example.com.
On June 10th, Israeli police forcibly evicted five members of the Palestinian Siam (also spelled ”Siyyam”) family from their apartment in the Wadi Hilweh section of Silwan, in East Jerusalem. The action took place following a 30-year legal battle of the course of which settlers attempted six separate times (and failed the first five) to convince a court to evict the Siams. On the sixth try, the Jerusalem District Court ruled that the radical settler group Elad is the legal owner of the apartment.
Not only has Elad won the apartment (which increases its ownership share of the entire apartment building, where a few Palestinians owners continue to live), the settler organization (which is funded and abetted by the state of Israel) put a lien on donations crowdfunded to support the Siam family, claiming the money is belongs to Elad pursuant to the court order requiring the Siams to pay Elad 10,000 shekels ($2,798) for legal fees.
As a reminder, U.S. officials Ambassador David Friedman and special envoy Jason Greenblatt recently endorsed Elad’s operations in Silwan by participating in a political stunt promoting one of Elad’s excavation projects in Silwan – an unprofessional and destructive excavation located within a few hundred meters of the apartment from which the Siams were evicted.
Ir Amim explains why this eviction is particularly noteworthy in Elad’s campaign to evict Palestinians and deepen control in East Jerusalem:
“Elad has targeted the Siam family’s property since the early 1990’s, bringing a total of six lawsuits against the family and embroiling them in a lengthy and costly legal battle. Over the course of nearly three decades, it has managed to take over the majority of the family’s property through various mechanisms, most recently through the application of the Absentee Property Law of 1950. The settler takeover of 6/8 of the Siam family’s property is also a symbolic blow to the Palestinian community in Silwan since Jawad Siam, a social worker and longtime community leader, who established community centers for local children and youth, serves as a leading figure in the struggle to protect the Palestinian residents of Silwan.”
On June 2nd, Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon told the right-wing outlet Makor Rishon that, with the singular exception of the plans for the Givat Hamatos settlement, there is no longer any political pressure holding back unrestrained settlement building across East Jerusalem. Leon said (as translated by Terrestrial Jerusalem):
“I do not know of any problem today in building beyond the Green Line, except for Givat Hamatos, all the construction plans have a green light for implementation. We start and actually build everywhere – in Gilo, in Armon Hanatsiv, in Homat Shmuel [Har Homa] and in the whole city.”
The one exception, the planned but yet to be built Givat Hamatos settlement located in the southern part of East Jerusalem, has long been called a doomsday settlement by parties interested in preserving the possibility of a two-state solution. This is because if Givat Hamatos is built, the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa in East Jerusalem will be completely surrounded by Israeli construction.
However, Terrestrial Jerusalem predicts notwithstanding Leon’s comments, Givat Hamatos and E-1 are very much still a threat:
“…if, in the run-up to elections, Netanyahu fears that he is losing his base to the parties to the right of the Likud, he may feel compelled to consolidate his support by giving the green light to one or more bold settlement moves. In such an eventuality, Netanyahu may move on Khan al Ahmar prior to the elections. That said, Netanyahu does not currently seem prone to take action on Khan al Ahmar, Givat Hamatos and E-1, and as we will now see, he may indeed have very compelling reasons to act on these schemes – but only after the elections. If, after the approaching election results come in, Netanyahu will be asked by the President to form a government, he will use all the cards in his deck to achieve one overriding objective: securing his immunity from prosecution. We believe it likely that in the coalition negotiations, Netanyahu will attempt to “trade” the implementation of Givat Hamatos, E-1 and/or Khan al Ahmar in exchange for legislation granting him immunity from criminal prosecution. It is less likely he will “waste” these moves on anything less – including the possibility of approving these during the election campaign.”
Speaking at an event in the Revava settlement, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Samaria Regional Council (a settlement municipal body in the northern West Bank), lame-duck Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu laid out his “principles” and promises with respect to the future of the West Bank in any “political agreement”. He said:
“…I am guided by several principles when it comes to the West Bank. The first – this is our homeland. The second – we will continue to build and develop it. Third – not one resident [settler] or community [settlement] will be uprooted in a political agreement. Fourth – the Israeli military and security forces will continue to rule the entire territory, up to the Jordan Valley. Fifth – I am working to get international ratification of these principles. Look at what we did in the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. To be continued.”
Bibi also said:
“I also make no distinction between the settlement blocs and isolated settlement sites. Every such spot is Israeli from my point of view.”
Though bleak, the “principles” laid out by Netanyahu are not merely forward-looking. Rather, they paint an accurate picture of what is already happening on the ground: Israel’s construction of new settlements, expansion of existing settlements and corresponding infrastructure, retroactive legalization of unauthorized outposts, expropriation of privately owned Palestinian land, tightening grip over the Jordan Valley including effort that appears designed to drive Palestinians away, and pushing Palestinians out of of Area C, alongside policies designed to prevent the natural growth of Palestinian villages.
In addition to these principles, Netanyahu tossed in a commitment to no forced evictions of either Jews or Palestinians (whom Netanyahu refers to only as “Arabs,” a pointed denial of the existence of the Paelstinian identity and national aspirations). This surprising – and seemingly conciliatory – comment is clearly disingenuous. As demonstrated by the case of the Siam family (discussed above), which just this week was forcibly evicted from its home in Silwan, Netanyahu’s words are emptied of meaning by the large body of Israeli laws and regulations literally designed to dispossess Palestinians of their land and homes. Under the guise of legality, these laws are regularly wielded by the state, often in cooperation and coordination with the settlers, to eviction Palestinians and turn land over to the settlers, as powerfully demonstrated in a recent B’Tselem report on this topic.
In a gratuitous stunt, the radical settler group Regavim placed Palestinian flags along several of the main West Bank highways used by settlers. It should be emphasized that it is not illegal to fly the Palestinian flag in Area C of the West Bank (yet). However, Regavim clearly understands that most Israeli settlers, who take for granted Israeli complete control over the area, would be shocked by the flags and likely perceived them as a Palestinian challenge and provocation.
The intent behind the stunt, according to Regavim Director Meir Deutsch, was to:
“shock, alert, and illustrate what will happen if illegal Arab construction is allowed to continue unhindered and a de facto Palestinian state is established as per the Fayyad Plan of 2009…The [Israeli] population of Judea and Samaria [the West Bank} has been lulled into a dangerous slumber. The flags that we put up this morning won’t change the future of Judea and Samaria but the tens of thousands of structures that were built over the past decade and the thousands of dunams that the PA has taken over with the assistance of European countries will determine the future of Area C.”
MK Bezalel Smotrich – who helped establish the Regavim organization – called the stunt “important and even critical,” saying:
“The time has come for all of us to wake up and thwart the Arab takeover of our homeland. These flags are not dangerous, but the thousands of houses, roads, and trees that the Arabs are building, and paving, and planting under our noses are! The responsibility falls on the shoulders of one man — Netanyahu.”
United Nations Human Rights Expert Lays Down the Law on Israeli Annexation, Urges International Community to Consider Imposing Consequences
UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory, Michael Lynk, responded to the growing U.S.-Israeli consensus on Israel’s annexation of areas in the West Bank. Lynk said:
“International law is very clear: annexation and territorial conquest are forbidden by the Charter of the United Nations. The Security Council, beginning with Resolution 242 in November 1967, has expressly affirmed the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war or force on eight occasions, most recently in 2016. While annexation has not disappeared from the modern world, this strict prohibition in international law has had a considerable dampening effect. The power of the prohibition is that annexations in the modern world, when they do happen, are rarely recognized by other nations. International law, when married to international resolve, works. International criticism, absent any consequences, can no longer be justified in the current circumstances,” said Lynk “If annexation proceeds, the chances for a genuine and just peace in the foreseeable future will have gone from implausible to unimaginable.”
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Lynk elaborated on what those consequences might be:
“The international community has to look at the available menu of countermeasures that is commonly used to a wide range of countries involving gross human rights violations and has to decide what are the appropriate ones to consider to use with respect to Israel. The international community actually holds a lot of cards with Israel, and it has to say to Israel: ‘Your membership or privileges through bilateral or multilateral agreements with respect to your economy, political and cultural relationships are all going to be called into question and reviewed unless you show genuine attempts to unwind and undo the occupation’.”
Lynk also outlined immediate steps that he believes the international community can call for, including the publication of a long-awaited database of Israeli and international companies that profit from operations in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and for the International Criminal Court to complete its preliminary investigation of allegations of rights abuses by Israel. Lynk states:
“Unless there is international pressure on Israel to do the right thing, Israel will continue to deepen and further entrench the occupation,” Lynk told Al Jazeera. I don’t know what the international community needs to come to the realisation that Israel is not going to unwind the occupation and permit Palestinian self-determination all on its own.”
John Bolton Joins U.S. Chorus Defending & Normalizing Isareli Settlements, Calls them “Housing Projects” at Evangelical Confab
Speaking at the Christians United for Israel (CUFI) conference on July 10th, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton told the audience:
“At the behest of the so-called State of Palestine, the ICC has threatened to investigate Israeli housing projects in addition to targeting Israeli counter-terrorism efforts in the West Bank – and we’ll not allow the ICC bureaucrats in the Hague to dictate our foreign policy.”
In addition to John Bolton, the CUFI conference drew participation from U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman and U.S. Envoy Jason Greenblatt. Asked to respond to the chorus of critics who lambasted him and Friedman for participating in an excavation controlled by the radical Elad settler group, Greenblatt said:
“We were accused of Judaizing the city. We will not tolerate that kind of language. I know that’s been tolerated before, but under President Trump, we will push back every single [time]. You cannot possibly build peace without a foundation of truth. And for somebody to suggest that this tunnel is not the truth, they need to be corrected.”
To note, spokesman for Elad Yigal Kaufman has said, on the record, that the mission of Elad is to “Judaize” East Jerusalem.
In a new report, entitled “Annexation Trumps Start-Up Nation,” the Adva Center compares Israel’s investment in so-called “development towns” (cities established on the Israeli periphery with the aim of creating cultural and economic hubs) to its investment in settlements established at the same time.
The results are clear: development has disappeared from the Israeli agenda, in part replaced by a more narrow concept of economic growth, but, more broadly speaking, completely overshadowed by the government’s ideological focus and support for expanding the settlements. The Adva Center writes:
“the settlements project promises that annexation will continue to trump development. Had the sums spent on the settlements over the years been channeled to the Israeli periphery, it is reasonable to assume that it would by now be far less peripheral. As long as the conflict continues, the Israeli economy will labor under the threat of instability, threatening its international status; As long as the conflict continues, Israel will not be up to the task of reducing the socio-economic gaps between its center and periphery; As long as the conflict continues, Israel will be hard pressed to reduce the poverty rate, which is among the highest among developed countries; As long as the conflict continues, Israel will not find the wherewithal to reduce inequality within; today, Israel is among the developed countries with the highest degree of inequality. As long as the conflict continues, Israel will have a hard time extracting itself from the delirium of annexation in order to adopt an agenda of development.”
In addition to the economic advantages showered on the settlements, the Adva Center notes that the settlements have also succeeded in gaining an influential foothold on political power, writing:
“the political power of the settler right goes beyond its electoral achievements. This is because the settlements are now the very heart of the continuing conflict. Thus, the settler right constitutes a key factor in the determination of the entire national agenda: the constant pressure to jettison the Oslo Accords, to oppose negotiations with the Palestinians, to increase construction in the recognized settlements, to achieve recognition for the illegal outposts, to take over Palestinian buildings, to tormentPalestinian farmers, to demand more and more military protection – to define who and what is patrioticand who and what is not. Development towns – and the entire Israeli periphery – never succeeded in attaining such a position, one that would enable it to put development back on the Israeli agenda. Annexation trumps development.”