Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
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May 10, 2019
- Annexation Proceeds: Israel Tourism Ministry Creates Official Funding Channel for Hotels in Settlements
- Settlers Take Over Another Palestinian Home in Hebron, IDF Says It Was for “Military Needs”
- IDF Helps Settlers Celebrate Passover At the Site of the Evacuated Amona Outpost (Which Palestinians Still Cannot Access)
- Israel Issues Construction Permits for Two Settler Bypass Roads
- Every Month Israeli Forces Evacuate the Same Outpost; This Time, 18 Settlers Were Arrested
- No Shame: Settler Builds Illegal Outpost Near Khan Al-Ahmar While Calling for Bedouins’ Eviction
- UNSC Holds Meeting on Israeli Settlements; U.S. Peace Envoy Says Settlements Are Not a Problem
- Greenblatt Touts “Shared Prosperity” Paradigm for Peace Plan Following Beverly Hills Conference
- Bonus Reads
Annexation Proceeds: Israel Tourism Ministry Creates Official Funding Channel for Hotels in Settlements
On April 18th, Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin – who has emerged as a frontrunner to be given the Justice Ministry portfolio in the next government – announced that his ministry had launched a new grant program to expedite funding channels for the construction of hotels in settlements located in Area C of the West Bank. Under previously Israeli law, hotel projects in settlements had to receive special approval from the government; the new program expedites and normalizes that process.
These grants are more than an economic program. Investing in the growing tourism industry inside of settlements in the West Bank is a strategic endeavor intended to entrench settlements, provide for their expansion, normalize their existence within the international community, and advance their seamless integration into Israeli territory. In a recent report on companies which profit from tourism in the settlements, Amnesty International further explains:
“In recent years the Israeli government has invested huge sums to develop the tourism industry in settlements. It uses the designation of certain locations as tourist sites to justify the takeover of Palestinian land and homes, and often deliberately constructs settlements next to archaeological sites to emphasize the Jewish people’s historic connections to the region.”
Following the announcement of the new grant program, Hananel Dorani – Chairman of the powerful Yesha Council, a settlement umbrella group – told the press:
“We thank [Tourism] Minister Yariv Levin (Likud) for his important work on the issue of tourism in Judea, Samaria, and the Jordan Valley. Building hotels and guest houses in the area is an important step which shows the deepening of our roots in the ground and paves the way for Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria. Giving grants for the creation of hotels is another supplemental step which will help solve the problem of where to sleep and will strengthen settlements and our hold on Judea and Samaria.”
Oded Revivi – the foreign envoy of the the Yesha Council – commented:
“[Tourists] will see how there are good neighborly relations between Jews and Arabs. Unlike what has been told to them, they will see that there is not war here every day and that there is no apartheid.”
The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates said in a statement:
“These plans fall within the framework of the gradual erosion of the occupied Palestinian territory, in particular Area C, under various security, military, economic, settlement and tourism pretexts, which requires the international community to move urgently to save what is left of the chance to achieve peace on the basis of a two-state solution.”
In early May 2019, a group of settlers broke into a Palestinian-owned home in the Casbah area of the Old City of Hebron. The settlers moved in and promptly started renovating the property. The property is legally owned by the Arafeh family, who were forced to move out in 2005 due to the extreme restrictions on Palestinian movement in the area imposed by the Israeli military.
A lawyer for the Arafeh family asked the Israeli Civil Administration to evict the settlers from the privately owned property. Rather than take action against the settlers, a spokesperson for the Civil Administration justified the settlers’ illegal entrance to the property and the “renovations” they undertook, arguing that the settlers were working on behalf of the IDF to build a military post on the roof of the Arafeh family’s house. This, despite the fact that, according to Peace Now, the Palestinian homeowners never received a notification that the IDF was seizing the property, as required under Israeli law.
Peace Now said in a statement:
“If the works were done for the IDF, it is a shame that the IDF does not respect Palestinian ownership and treats their empty homes as if they were no-man’s property. The Palestinians were forced to leave their houses because of the heavy restrictions imposed by the IDF in order to protect the settlers in Hebron. Those ‘temporary’ restrictions have remained in place now for decades, and the way the IDF and the settlers treat the Palestinian properties show that the security excuse cannot hold anymore and that what is done in the Old City of Hebron may be better described as forced displacement. If the works were done by the settlers, then it is part of a cruel method of the Palestinian dispossession in Hebron: first the IDF closes streets, shops and Palestinian homes to protect a handful of settlers. Then, because of the severe restrictions, Palestinian families are forced to leave their homes. And then settlers take over the empty houses without any permit. Finally the government allows them to remain and establish a new, illegal settlement in the heart of the Palestinian population.”
IDF Helps Settlers Celebrate Passover At the Site of the Evacuated Amona Outpost (Which Palestinians Still Cannot Access)
Haaretz reports that the Israeli military assisted settlers in trespassing into the site of the evacuated Amona outpost to celebrate Passover. The land – which in 2017 the Israeli High Court ruled to be legally owned by Palestinians – remains inaccessible to the Palestinian landowners under a military closure order barring all civilians from entering the area. In practice, the closure only applies to Palestinians. Settlers, on the other hand, are not only given free rein in the area but received high profile political backing and significant funding in their December 2018 efforts to illegally rebuild the Amona outpost. With much scandal, in January the IDF removed several pre-fab structures the settlers managed to install at the Amona site, and evacuated the settlers despite their violent resistance.
In January 2019, the Israeli NGO Yesh Din assisted the Palestinian landowners to filed a new petition with the Higher Court of Justice to reverse the military closure order to allow Palestinian landowners to access their land and restrict Israeli settlers from doing so. The petition is still pending.
On May 1st, the Israeli Civil Administration approved construction permits for two new bypass roads for settlers – the Huwwara and Al-Arroub roads. The approval brings construction of the roads closer, though it may still be stalled if Palestinians challenge the government’s confiscation of privately owned Palestinian land for the roads (confiscated on the basis of “security needs”). It’s worth recalling that a recent Kerem Navot report found that a whopping 47% of the total land seized by Israel for “security needs” is currently used to serve the needs of the settler population.
Peace Now said in a statement:
“These expropriations are part of the government’s continued capitulation to the settlers to build Israeli-oriented bypass roads throughout the West Bank. The settlers know very well that without good roads the settlements will not be able to develop, and tactically demand that they be built ‘for security reasons.’ This stated rationale masks the real goal behind these roads: to expand the settlements and to advance plans for annexing the West Bank at the cost of a two-state solution.”
Both roads will be located deep inside of the West Bank: the Huwwara road will serve settlements near Nablus and the Al-Arroub road will serve settlements near Hebron. Among the many benefits for settlers, bypass roads entrench the presence of settlements, enable their expansion, and advance their seamless integration into Israel proper.
Gloating over the new roads, Samaria Regional Council chief Yossi Dagan said:
“The Prime Minister has proven his leadership, responsibility, and his integrity. Netanyahu kept his promise, and I praise him for sticking by the agreement. The Hawara and Al-Arroub bypass roads are strategic roads, which, God-willing, will change the map of the State of Israel in general and the map of Judea and Samaria in particular.”
According to Haaretz, the cat and mouse game (once dubbed “the never-ending evacuation”) between settlers and the IDF over the “Esther Maoz” outpost site has finally resulted in the arrest of 18 settlers.
For years, the IDF has evacuated settlers from the outpost only to allow them to immediately rebuild it. Following the settlers evacuation and arrest, the NGO Honenu – which acts as a legal defense fund for settlers – alleged that the security forces “used intense violence” against the settlers.
The Esther Maoz site is located near the Kokhav Hashahar settlement, and can only be accessed by road from inside of the settlement.
An Israeli settler name Boaz Ido is funding the illegal construction of an unauthorized outpost just hundreds of meters from the location of the embattled Khan al-Ahmar Bedouin community. Construction at the outpost site has continued despite stop-work orders issued against it by the Civil Administration.
While funding the illegal project, Ido has lobbied the government to forcibly remove Khan al-Ahmar’s inhabitants, based on the argument that the village lacks the required Israel-issued building permits.
Haaretz visited the site of Ido’s new outpost and found a group of Israeli settlers working to construct a straw and mud structure. The location of the construction falls within the approved borders of the Ma’ale Adumim settlement, but is not contiguous with the built-up area of the settlement. Moreover, there are no valid building plans or permits for Ido’s current undertaking.
Dror Etkes, founder of Kerem Navot, told Haaretz:
“It’s no wonder that someone who has been investing so much energy into evicting the Bedouin neighbors who were in the area for decades before him is the same person who is investing a lot of energy into controlling land that he has not even a hint of a right to.”
Ido is a well-connected settler living in the Ma’ale Adumim area. He runs the nearby “Genesis Land” tourism site and is an active member of the Jerusalem Periphery Forum, a group working to evict bedouin from the area. Ido has been deeply involved in pushing the government to evict the bedouin from Khan al-Ahmar, including extracting assurances from Prime Minister Netanyahu and briefing the Knesset about “Palestinian take over of Area C.” According to the settler-run Arutz Sheva outlet, Ido told the Knesset members:
“We cannot lose control of Route 1 and permit illegal [Arab] construction as in the Negev. We are working continuously on the ground and I am pleased that, for the first time, in 2016, cooperation with the Civil Administration has been stepped up, with corresponding results – a halt to illegal construction as well as a small reduction in the number of structures on the ground.”
So in addition to his current hypocrisy, Ido is also complicit in an extraordinary manipulation of facts regarding Area C — a term which refers to the 60% of the occupied West Bank which the Oslo Accords temporarily assigned to complete Israeli control (civil and security) as part of an interim agreement designed to remain in place for a short period, pending conclusion of permanent status negotiations. Since then, Israel has implemented a discriminatory planning policy in Area C, which B’Tselem says is aimed at “preventing Palestinian development and dispossessing Palestinians of their land.”
While implementing a planning system under which it is nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits, Israel routinely enforces demolition orders against Palestinian structures built without permits while looking the other way with regards to illegal settlement construction in the area. In addition, the government is undertaking a systematic campaign to retroactively authorize the vast majority of illegal outposts and unauthorized settlement construction – – a contradiction which clearly benefits Ido’s new outpost.
On May 9th the United Nations Security Council held a meeting at the request of Indonesia, Kuwait, and South Africa entitled “Israeli Settlements and Settlers: Core of the Occupation, Protection Crisis and Obstruction of Peace.” The informal “Arria formula” meeting provided a forum for member states to be briefed by experts in the field; speakers included John Quigley ( Ohio State University), Emily Schaeffer Omer-Man (Israeli human rights attorney); Mohammed Khatib (Popular Struggle Coordination Committee); and James Zogby (Arab American Institute). Member states in attendance included France, Germany, Russia, and Colombia.
U.S. Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt delivered remarks at the meeting on behalf of the United States (not as an expert). His remarks – rather than dealing with the substance of criticisms on settlements – sought to flip the script and attack the UNSC for alleged anti-Israel bias and accuse it of ignoring Hamas attacks on Israelis. Unsurprisingly, given the Trump administration’s public embrace of settlements, Greenblatt said:
“Let’s stop pretending that settlements are what’s keeping the sides from a negotiated peaceful solution. This farce and obsessive focus on one aspect of this complicated conflict helps no one.”
Arab American Institute President Dr. Jim Zogby said of the deterioration of U.S. policy on settlements:
“There has been a steady erosion of US policy on Israeli settlements, it went from rejection to acceptance, and from passive acquiescence to legitimization. It saddens me as an American to say: This makes my government complicit, and more recently an enabler of this criminal activity. A new strategy is needed, not just to challenge Israel, but to challenge the impunity the US has bestowed on Israel that makes it unaccountable.”
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, who chaired the meeting, said:
“inaction was not an option. Public pressure to end the settlement is absolutely vital… Indonesia will spare no effort to ensure that the Palestinian issue remains one of the main focus of the UN.”
Marsudi also suggested creating an international day of solidarity with the victims of illegal settlements.
On April 29th, following a private briefing for attendees at the ritzy Milken Institute’s 2019 Global Conference, U.S. Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt tweeted:
“this year’s [Milken Global Conference] theme ‘Driving Shared Prosperity’ couldn’t be more fitting for what Jared, Amb. David Friedman and I hope will be the future of our peace vision for Israel, Palestinians and the region.”
Jared Kushner also made an appearance at the conference, held in Beverly Hills, California. Kushner and Greenblatt were not listed among the conference speakers, which included prominent celebrity figures such as animal biologist Jane Goodall and NFL quarterback Tom Brady.
The Milken Institute describes itself as:
“a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank determined to increase global prosperity by advancing collaborative solutions that widen access to capital, create jobs and improve health. We do this through independent, data-driven research, action-oriented meetings, and meaningful policy initiatives.”
- “Will Netanyahu Annex the Settlements?” (Newsweek)
- “As Israeli Group Expands, Palestinian Houses Face Demolition” (Associated Press)
- “Some of Israel’s Best American Friends Worried by Netanyahu Annexation Talk” (Times of Israel)