Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
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June 28, 2019
- Radical Settler Group Deepens Control Over East Jerusalem Neighborhood & Tourism Network
- Israel Advances Plan for Settlement Enclave in Beit Hanina Neighborhood of East Jerusalem
- Former Mayor of Jerusalem Proposes Plan to Build 12 New Settlement Industrial Zones in Area C
- McDonald’s Wins Bid to Operate in Ben Gurion, Despite Settler Campaign
- Settlers Continue Price Tag Attacks on Palestinian Villages, Still No Arrests
- The Bahrain Workshop [Shhh… Don’t mention Settlements!]
- Bolton Tours Jordan Valley & Hints at U.S. Support for Permanent Israeli Control
- Bonus Reads
Questions or comments? Contact Kristin McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Approximately two months ago, the radical settler organization Elad opened a new cultural center and cafe in the Palestinian neighborhood of Abu Tor (Abu Tor is a mixed but segregated neighborhood). Named “House in the Valley,” Elad’s new cafe is uncoincidentally located adjacent to the site of a planned new pedestrian footbridge designed to expand Elad’s tourist infrastructure across the area. Specifically, that new footbridge will connect Abu Tor with Elad-run tourist sites and settler homes in the Palestinian Silwan neighborhood – located just outside the Old City’s Dung Gate, in the shadow of the Temple Mount/Haram Al-Sharif.
A week after Elad’s new cultural center was opened in April 2019, the Jerusalem Municipality issued “gardening orders” to take control, for a period lasting 5 years (with the likelihood of extensions after that), of 12 nearby plots of privately owned Palestinian land. “Gardening orders” allow Israel to “temporarily” take over privately owned land for what are public purposes (like establishing a parking lot or public garden), based on the argument that the owners are not presently using the land.The government notices posted on the land, say that the Jerusalem Municipality intends to transform the plots with new landscaping, adding new terraces, and a new walking path. Importantly, as Emek Shaveh notes, the 12 plots in question are located in an area declared by Israel to be a national park, meaning that private landowners are legally barred from using their own land.
In short, this is an Orwellian situation wherein Israel has actively blocked Palestinains from using their own land, and is now using the fact that the Palestinians aren’t using their land as a pretext for seizing it. Adding insult to injury, the land is being taken ostensibly for public purposes – but the public the seizures are designed is Elad and its supporters, not the Palestinian residents of the area.
Ir Amim explains key context:
“Portrayed as a seemingly innocuous new establishment for arts and culture designed to serve the Israeli public, Elad’s ‘House in the Valley’ serves as an entry point into the settlement ring around the Old City. The new promenade, constructed by the municipality to aid and abet Elad’s efforts by connecting its center with the Jerusalem Cinemateque, not only enables access from West Jerusalem to an Elad-managed site beyond the Green Line, but it propagates the idea of a contiguous Israeli space, while blurring its Palestinian surroundings and diffusing the political agenda behind these efforts. Moreover, the confiscation of privately-owned Palestinian land for purported purposes of beautification is intended to serve the Israeli public projected to visit Elad’s new complex and likely lead to additional settler activities in the area.”
Emek Shaveh says:
“In effect, the gardening orders and the tourism development of the area are part of an attempt by the Elad Foundation, with the assistance of the Jerusalem Municipality, to gain a foothold in Abu Tor as well and to increase the Israeli presence in the Palestinian part of the neighborhood. A pedestrian bridge that will lead to the café from Mount Zion (see map) is also part of this effort. A budget of 1.8 million shekels for the construction of this bridge was approved two months ago by the Jerusalem Municipality.”
As a reminder, Elad – along with its fellow travelers at Ateret Cohanim – has undertaken a politically- and ideologically-motivated project to hide, marginalize, and erase the presence and history of East Jerusalem’s Palestinian population. It has done so in large part by developing and controlling tourist attractions and infrastructure in the area. Elad’s activities in this regard have been funded, politically and bureaucratically enabled, and encouraged by successive Israeli governments. One of Elad’s most spectacular projects is the planned Jerusalem cable car line – which, despite objections from transportation and planning professionals, was recently advanced through another phase of the planning process. That project, like Elad’s other tourism schemes, is designed to further entrench settler activities and tourism sites inside Silwan, while simultaneously delegitimizing, dispossessing, and erasing the Palestinian presence there. As a spokesman for Elad once proudly declared, “Our aim is Judaize East Jerusalem”).
On June 27th, a plan for 150 new settlement units in the Beit Hanina neighborhood of East Jerusalem was deposited for public review, a move which sets off a 60-day period for the public to submit objections to the plan. The Beit Hanina settlement plan – as FMEP has previously reported – is backed and promoted by settlement impresario Aryeh King, and it provides for the construction of 150 new units in the southern end of the Beit Hanina neighborhood. If built, it will be the first-ever authorized settlement project in Beit Hanina, located north of the Old City.
Ir Amim explains essential context:
“If approved, the plan will enable an ideologically driven settler outpost in the heart of Beit Hanina, a neighborhood located on the northern perimeter of East Jerusalem that has remained relatively untouched by Israeli settlement within its limits. Since the land in question is not far from Ramat Shlomo to the south-west and Pisgat Zeev to the north-east of it, its construction may mark the beginning of a far sweeping move to create contiguity between the two settlements, while driving a wedge between Bet Hanina and Shuafat.”
According to the plan, 75 units units would theoretically be earmarked for Palestinians – a point used by the plan’s supporters to suggest that it is actually benevolent. The key word here, however, is: theoretically. As noted by Jerusalem expert Danny Seidemann in another context:
“Since 1967, the Government of Israel has directly engaged in the construction of 55,000 units for Israelis in East Jerusalem; in contrast, fewer than 600 units have been built for Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the last of which were built 40 years ago.”
Former Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat joined Professor Michael Porter of Harvard University to write what a proposal calling for the establishment of 12 new settlement industrial zones in the West Bank, which Barkat argues will complement the recently unveiled U.S. economic “plan” in jump-starting the Palestinian economy. Like the U.S. plan, Barkat and Porter’s scheme seeks to entrench permanent Israel control and annexation of the land, people, resources, and economy of the West Bank. Barkat made as much clear in an interview with Israel Hayom when he said:
“The plan’s working assumption is avoiding the eviction of Jewish or Arab residents from their homes. Our goal is to take advantage of the relative advantage every society has. The Israeli side can bring the innovation, the capital and managerial knowledge for the benefit of the Palestinian side, which through working in these industrial areas could significantly increase its income. This is a plan that is also good for the settlements, and all the settlement heads have welcomed it.”
Barkat and Porter’s plan – which they say can employ over 200,000 Palestinians and double their average salary – is based on the demonstrably false notion that industrial zones benefit the Palestinian work force and economy. In fact, as Who Profits recently explained:
“Israeli IZs constitute a foundational pillar of the economy of the occupation. They contribute to the economic development of the settlements, which are in violation of international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention, while relying on the de-development of the Palestinian economy and the exploitation of Palestinian land and labor…The IZs in the oPt form part of a practice of ‘financial annexation’ which is an essential component of the broader policy of annexation taking place.”
The report on Barkat and Porter’s plan does not include many specific details as to the locations of the 12 proposed industrial zones, but it hints at several projects that are already known to the public, like the “super settlement” and industrial zone planned to unite four settlements in the northern West Bank, and the industrial zone in the South Hebron Hills near the Tene-Omarin settlement – the latter of which was briefed to the U.S. administration by the Israeli government in September 2018. It is also worth recalling that in January 2019, the Israel government advanced plans for two new industrial zones, one near the Beitar Illit settlement and another near the Avnei Hafez settlement.
Barkat and Porter also call for investments in the West Bank tourism industry, specifically Biblical sites like the Ibrahimi Mosque/Tomb of the Patriarchs (in Hebron) and Solomon’s Pools (located just south of Bethlehem).
According to the report, Barkat and Porter presented this plan to Israeli Prime Minister Netanayhu and U.S. peace envoys Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, all of whom – according to Barkat – welcomed it. Barkat believes his plan enhances the U.S. menu of investments and proposals outlined in Kushner’s “Peace to Prosperity” presentation. Further, Barkat argues that his plan is more feasible than the U.S. program because it only envisions projects in Area C, the 60% of the West Bank over which Israel maintains full control, while (he argued) the U.S. plans focus on Areas A & B. In fact, nothing in the text of the Kushner plan specifies any territorial locations, boundaries, or divisions for the proposed projects.
On June 23rd, the McDonald’s franchise owner in Israel was awarded a government contract to operate one of the few food stands at Ben Gurion International Airport. His bid of 17 million shekels ($4.7 million) was vastly higher than other competing bids, winning him the right to operate a McDonald’s branch in the airport for seven years, with an optional 2-year extension.
Ahead of the government’s decision, settlers led a campaign to disqualify Omri Padan – the Israeli man who holds the only McDonald’d Israel franchise license – from bidding on the contract, based on Padan’s failure to open any McDonald’s branch in an Israeli settlement. The settlers claimed that Padan’s failure to do so violates Israel’s Anti-Boycott Law and therefore disqualifies him from receiving public contracts.
Settlers are believed to be behind three separate attacks on Palestinian property this week, including a rash of hate crimes that damaged Palestinian cars, homes, and religious buildings, and served to intimidate Palestinians living near Israeli settlements.
On June 24th, Palestinians in the village of Sinjil woke up to discover 12 cars with tires slashed and hate messages sprayed painted in Hebrew on several buildings. This is the fifth hate crime connected to settlers in the month of June. Some of the graffiti read “a village of terrorists” and “We give them jobs and they rape.” The latter is a reference to the horrific alleged rape of a 7-year old girl in a settlement; a Palestinian man was immediately charged with the crime and subjected to the equivalent of a national political and media lynching; this week, after 55-days of imprisonment, he was released due to lack of evidence.
On June 26th, vehicles were vandalized and hate messages were spray painted on walls in the Palestinian town of Sarta, which is located west of the Ariel settlement in the northern West Bank. Some of the graffiti read, “non-Jews = enemies,” and the Star of David appeared many times. This is the first time that Sarta has been targeted in a price tag attack.
Yesh Din – an Israeli NGO that tracks and demands justice for settler violence – said in a Facebook post:
“The violent action tonight joins a series of riots that we document in the West Bank against Palestinians and their property. A reality in which families wake up for a day’s work and are forced to discover that while they are sleeping, unknown gentlemen in an area where their children play with the neighbors’ children has become routine. Over the past month we have reported such riots in various areas of the West Bank: Sinjil, Kafr Malik, Einabus, Asira al Qibliya, Burin from Madame, and more. The one who is supposed to prevent the disturbance, and to stop the unknown people who terrorize the Palestinian villages are the policemen of the SJ District, who only this week presented their amateurish work at best, and failed in their worst case. These interrogators and police officers have a responsibility for the personal security of the Palestinians and they do not fulfill their duties. Thus, they create a reality of terror in which there is no safe place for the Palestinian population, and a sense of security does not exist even in the most private space.”
The U.S.-hosted “Peace to Prosperity” economic workshop took place in Manama, Bahrain from June 25-26. The widely-ridiculed event focused on a 95-page project prospectus published by the White House in the two days ahead of the workshop. Without giving any real details, the plan talked about enhancing Palestinian property rights — a notion that begs a myriad of questions given that Palestinain private property rights today are undermined first and foremost by Israel, which in 1967 closed the land registry, and which since 1967 has exploited every available mechanism to seize Palestinian private land, and where such mechanisms could not be found, it created them (like the Regulation Law). Notably, the Trump Administration plan treats Palestinian land registration strictly as a means to foster a better investment climate in the West Bank and Gaza (as opposed to a pillar of rule of law that upholds fundamental rights of individuals).
In this regard, the Director of Human Rights Watch Israel, wrote:
“The plan speaks of the importance of private property rights without mentioning the Israeli authorities’ methodical theft of thousands of hectares of privately owned Palestinian land in the West Bank to build settlements, which are illegal under international humanitarian law, or their illegal.”
Mocking the workshop’s very strange approach to Palestinian property rights, The Economist journalist Gregg Carlstrom – who live-tweeted his disbelief of the entire conference – noted sarcastically on June 26th:
“We kickoff the afternoon’s fun with Kevin Hassett, the ‘Dow 36,000’ guy, talking about property rights. In Palestine, ‘You can radically transform economies when you improve their ability to document property rights!’”
Another notable storyline from Manama: Palestinian businessman Ashraf Jabari was the only Palestinian to be on-stage at the event. As FMEP has previously covered, Jabari has been slammed as a traitor by the Palestinian Authority, shunned and dismissed by his fellow Palestinian business people, and disowned by his family in light of his ongoing role with the Judea and Samaria Chamber of Commerce, an initiative Jabari runs alongside Israeli settlers.
In Manama, Jabari spoke about developing thriving businesses in the West Bank. The Washington Post notes that Jabari was the only speaker to discuss political matters on the stage. The Post writes:
“When asked by British broadcast journalist Nik Gowing…whether the plan could benefit him, Jabari replied that it could — if Palestinians had a state.”
Jabari might have been telling the truth, but he apparently failed to mention the fact that he, alongside Israeli settler Avi Zimmerman, have proposed the launch of a “bond bank” to become the financing vehicle for the Trump Administration’s plan. The bond bank would aggregate projects and issue debt to fund them, allowing for lower borrowing costs. According to the White House presentation, the U.S. envisions a funding mechanism it calls, “The Peace to Prosperity Master Fund” which will manage the money and projects.
On June 24th, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton toured the Jordan Valley, Jerusalem, and the separation barrier, accompanied by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, U.S. Ambassador David Friedman, and Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer. At a stop overlooking the Jordan Valley, Netanyahu explained to Bolton:
“For those who say that for peace to be established Israel has to leave the Jordan Valley, I’ll say that’s not going to bring peace, that’s going to bring war and terror. We’ve been there and we don’t want to be there again. Under any peace agreement, our position will be that Israel’s presence should continue here for Israel’s security and for the security of all.”
Following the tour, Bolton did not disappoint Netanyahu, tweeting:
“Today I visited the Jordan Valley and Jordan River with PM @netanyahu, Israeli NSA Meir Ben-Shabbat, @USAmbIsrael, & @AmbDermer. I saw firsthand the strategic importance that these locations have on Israel’s national security. In similar acknowledgement of the simple but profound reality that for Israel to defend itself, it cannot relinquish strategic ground along its border, the President in March, signed a proclamation recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.America welcomes the opportunity to strengthen the already deep cooperation between the U.S. and Israel and build on our lasting partnership, demonstrated repeatedly when courage and persistence are required.”
Some 11,000 settlers and 65,000 Palestinians live in the Jordan Valley – the latter facing severe restrictions on land use and freedom of movement, and lack of access to municipal services like water and electricity. Israeli government officials have publicly and repeatedly demanded complete Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley – which makes up 30% of the West Bank – in the context of any peace agreement, meaning that any future Palestinian state would be entirely encircled by Israel, having no international border with any other nation. Likud MK Sharren Haskel has led several Knesset efforts to formally annex the entire Jordan Valley, and recently re-submitted a bill to that affect in May 2019.
- “The Day After: What Happens If Israel Annexes the West Bank?” (Mint Press News)