Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
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July 21, 2017
- In Jerusalem’s North: The “Adam-Neve Ya’akov” Plan Resurfaces
- In Jerusalem’s South: The “Gilo Southeast” Plan Expected to Advance
- In the Shadow of Jerusalem’s Old City: Settler-Run Visitor Center is Approved
- In the Heart of East Jerusalem: Alarming Plans Advance As Expected
- U.S. Department of State: Settlements & Settlers Provoke Violence
- Settlement Outpost Near Bethlehem is Angling to Avoid Demolition
- Court Wants Settlers/Palestinians to “Negotiate” Land Theft Ex-Post Facto
- Bonus Reads
Comments, questions, or suggestions? Email Kristin McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Israeli Construction & Housing Ministry announced impending plans for a 1,100 unit housing project to Jerusalem’s immediate northeast.
The plan aims to connect large settlements in East Jerusalem (Neveh Ya’akov and Pisgat Zeev) with an isolated settlement in the West Bank (Adam, aka Geva Binyamin). The land identified for the project is within the municipal boundaries of Adam, but on the Israeli side of the separation barrier (the route of the separation barrier in this area cuts deep into the West Bank). If implemented, the Adam settlement would have built up areas on both sides of the barrier.
Israeli Housing Minister Yoav Galant’s office issued a statement explaining, “We will be everywhere that it is possible to build and to provide solutions to the housing shortage, particularly, as in the case of Adam, in the vicinity of Jerusalem. In Greater Jerusalem, there is also particular security importance in Israeli [territorial] contiguity from the Gush Etzion Bloc in the south to Atarot in the north, and from Ma’aleh Adumim in the east to Givat Ze’ev in the west.”
Ir Amim writes that the plan would, “further fracture a future Palestinian state by… breaking contiguity from north to south… while isolating the southern perimeter of Ramallah from East Jerusalem, the future capital of the Palestinian state. Advancing a project of this size, given its extreme geo-political ramifications, would have a fatal impact on the two-state solution.”
The same plan was developed in the early 2000s and explored in 2007 and again in 2008, but shelved because of its political sensitivity and international concern for the future of Jerusalem and the prospects for a two-state solution. Jerusalem expert Daniel Seidemann of Terrestrial Jerusalem writes, “What is different now than in the past is talk of the plan comes in the context of an opening of the settlement floodgates in East Jerusalem, including green lights and expediting of plans the implementation of which, for any number of reasons, in the past was far-fetched or even inconceivable. Consequently, it is important to flag this scheme as early as possible, and to monitor in vigilantly.”
The Israeli government is set to advance a plan to expand the borders of the Gilo settlement (between Jerusalem and Bethlehem) in order to build 3,000 new units. This plan, called “Gilo Southeast,” is expected to be considered at a meeting on July 26th.
If implemented, Gilo Southeast would further surround the Palestinian city of Beit Safafa, severing the town from the West Bank. An area of intense Israeli settlement infrastructure growth (a settler-only freeway divides the community, and the area has been the focus of demolitions of Palestinian homes), Beit Safafa’s Palestinian residents describe a life under siege.
Gilo Southeast is just one of several alarming plans threatening to sever Palestinian contiguity between East Jerusalem and the southern West Bank:
- Gilo Southeast would abut the border of the Givat Hamatos doomsday plan, which is only waiting for the publication of tenders to begin construction. The Givat Hamatos plan has remained blocked under the previous political calculations, but can be tendered at any moment.
- The plan would also connect Gilo to Har Homa, a fast growing settlement that was built with the Netanyahu’s approval in 1997 – the last official settlement to be built until the recent approval of the Amichai settlement.
Ir Amim writes that Gilo Southeast would create “one more link in a chain of developments designed to seal off the southern perimeter of Jerusalem from the West Bank, nullifying prospects for a two state solution.”
Last week the controversial Visitor’s Center in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan (known to Israelis as the “City of David” and located just outside the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City in the shadow of the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif) took another important step forward in the final stages of the planning process. According to the Israeli NGO Emek Shaveh, the plan “awaits final approval by the Israel Antiquities Authority, which will only be granted once the archaeological excavations at the site are completed. In our assessment this should happen soon.”
Known as the “Kedem Center,” the building is being financed and promoted by the settler-run Elad Foundation, whose goal is to establish Jewish hegemony over all of Jerusalem (i.e. erase all Palestinian presence, history, and any visibility in the city). The Center will be the largest, state-of-the-art tourism center in Jerusalem and will also serve as a station for the new cable car line approved this year, a cable car line that is designed to facilitate tourists visits to Jewish sites in East Jerusalem while preventing tourists from encountering Palestinians.
Emek Shaveh issued a statement saying, “this project will change the landscape in the area between the Old City and the village of Silwan, and will have a considerable impact on the identity of the Historic Basin. The purpose of the Kedem Center is first and foremost political – to Judaize Silwan and prevent a political solution for Jerusalem.”
The Jerusalem Post reports the Kedem Center plan was approved by Prime Minister Netanyahu as a defiant gesture following UNESCO’s decision to designate sites in Hebron as World Heritage Sites, which Netanyahu incorrectly says deny Jewish history.
In addition to the north, south, and center settlements plans detailed above, previously reported settlement plans targeting East Jerusalem were all approved for deposit for public review at a government meeting last week. We reported extensively on these in our last edition, here. The plans approved for deposit for public review include the incendiary plans in the Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, and more.
Though the plans were all approved for deposit for public review, as of this writing none have been deposited (yet). Like almost every step in the Israeli settlement planning process, actually depositing the plans for public comment is itself a political decision.
In the recently released 2016 Country Reports on Terrorism, Secretary Tillerson’s State Department writes, “Continued drivers of violence included a lack of hope in achieving Palestinian statehood, Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank, settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, the perception that the Israeli government was changing the status quo on the Haram Al Sharif/Temple Mount, and IDF tactics that the Palestinians considered overly aggressive.” [emphasis added]
Notably, the 2015 Country Reports on Terrorism (an Obama Administration document) did not focus on the role of settlements or identify settlements/settlers as a “driver of violence.” The 2015 document simply noted a handful of terrorist incidents, including the trend of “price-tag attacks,” committed by settlers and committed by Palestinians near settlements.
A settlement outpost near Bethlehem – built illegally even under Israeli law – is fighting a decision by the Israeli Supreme Court to demolish 17 buildings that were found to have been built on land owned by Palestinians. A 2016 decision ruled that buildings in the center of the outpost sit partially on Palestinian land and must be demolished by March 2018. The NGO Yesh Din has an additional, broader petition before the High Court that seeks to prove that the whole outpost is on Palestinian land.
The Netiv Ha’avot outpost was built in 2001 as an additional “neighborhood” of the Elazar settlement southwest of Bethlehem, but was in fact built on a hilltop near the outskirts of the settlement, on land located beyond the settlement’s borders. Forty Israeli settler families currently live there, 15 of which will be affected by the demolition orders.
The outposts’ residents are aggressively pressuring Prime Minister Netanyahu to intervene in their favor (Netanyahu has already caved to vociferous settler protests several times this year). At a demonstration in support of the outpost, signs read “This destruction too is on your watch” (referring to the Amona evacuation) and “Bibi wake up and intervene.”
The Israeli Supreme Court made an unusual move to try to avoid having to return private land to Palestinians. The ruling pertains to a case in the Jordan Valley, where the Israeli military seized Palestinian private land for military uses, and subsequently (and improperly, according to Israeli law) gave the land to settlers. Rather than compel the settlers to return the stolen land to its owners, the court wants the Palestinians to negotiate with the settlers for compensation. The court’s move – which is in response to a 2013 petition – is an attempt to resolve the issue without having to rule on the validity of the land seizure, and without having to compel Israel to forfeit the land and evict the settlers (even if doing so requires suspending even the pretense of the rule of law).
Haaretz explains how we got here, “After the Israeli occupation of the West Bank began in 1967, the army issued an order prohibiting Palestinians from entering the area between the border fence and the Jordan River. At the beginning of the ‘80s, the government decided to encourage farmers to work the fields to create a buffer zone with Jordan. The World Zionist Organization was given the land and leased it to settlers.”
- “In Israel’s ‘eternal capital’ anti-Palestinian discrimination is built-in” (July 16, 2017; +972 Mag)
- “Black is the New Orange: 30% of Settlers are Haredim” (July 18, 2017; Times of Israel)
- “Why Adelson is Pouring Millions of Dollars Into an Army-run Israeli University in the West Bank” (July 19, 2017; Haaretz+)
- “The Biggest Attack in Jerusalem” (July 18, 2017; Haaretz+)
- REPORT: “Insurance against political risk: Settlements and the Yanai governmental insurance corporation” (Akevot, July 21, 2017)
Overview: “Archival records, now declassified at Akevot’s request, tell the story of the financial safety net Israeli government provided for commercial companies and settlement agencies beyond the Green Line. Referred to as a “political guarantee” or “political insurance”, it protected settlers and investors in the occupied territories against such “political risks” as Israel’s evacuation from the occupied territories, policy changes or boycotts. As use of the government guarantees gradually expanded, a government insurance corporation was created, to sell insurance policies against these political risks. This is the story of the political guarantee in the occupied territories and the Yanai insurance corporation.”
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.