Settlement Report: May 18, 2018


Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.

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May 18, 2018

  1. Israeli Cabinet Approves Projects to ‘Deepen Israeli Sovereignty Over East Jerusalem’
  2. IDF Applies New Israeli Law in the Settlements, Before It Is Even Law
  3. Another Sheikh Jarrah Eviction is Imminent
  4. Abbas: U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem is an “American Settlement Outpost”; Erekat: We’re Going to the Hague
  5. Bonus Reads

Comments, questions, or suggestions? Email Kristin McCarthy at

Israeli Cabinet Approves Projects to ‘Deepen Israeli Sovereignty Over East Jerusalem’

On Sunday, May 13th – the day that thousands of radical religious Israelis marched provocatively through Palestinian areas the city in celebration of Jerusalem Day, and the day before the celebration of the official opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem – the Israeli Cabinet authorized a series of projects that, as Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) explained, will “deepen Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem,” at a cost of $560 million USD. NOTE: Israel annexed East Jerusalem and surrounding areas in 1967 – an annexation rejected by virtually the entire world through the present day.

One of the projects the Cabinet authorized is a “Land Regulation” scheme which directs the Israeli Justice Ministry to register the status of all East Jerusalem land with the Israeli Land Registry. Under the new project, Palestinians must file a claim with the Justice Ministry to have their ownership of lands in East Jerusalem assessed and recorded (or challenged/denied). In cases where Israel determines that Palestinians have not sufficiently proven their property claims, the land will be taken over by Israel for development. Cases in which more than one party claims ownership (e.g., where Israeli settlers claim to have, through various means, gained title to the property) will be referred to an Israeli court. Given that since 1967, Israeli judges have overwhelming ruled against Palestinian claimants in cases dealing with land ownership, the project appears to be a transparent, large-scale mechanism to transfer Palestinian property into the hands of the Israeli government and settlers. The project also sets up a panel of government officials to begin preparations for developing the land in the future, including assessing the state of water and sewage connection.

Shaked connected the “Land Regulation” project to broader events of the week, saying:

“A day before we strengthen Jerusalem by moving the US embassy here, we are bolstering the city by applying Israeli sovereignty in East Jerusalem through the plan to regulate land claims. This is the first practical application of Israeli sovereignty since Israel took sovereign control of the eastern part of the city.”

The Cabinet also voted to allocate an additional $56 million USD towards the Jerusalem cable-car project, which, according to Emek Shaveh, means the cable car project is now fully funded. FMEP has covered the cable car project, and the settler-run Kedem Center which will be its final stop, many times in the past. The project is properly understood as a touristic settlement project that bolsters the presence and control of Israeli settlers in the Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan.

The Cabinet approved $16.5 million USD for archaeological excavation projects in the Silwan neighborhood, to be carried out by the radical settler group Elad. FMEP covers Elad’s activities on a near weekly basis; the group’s mission is to establish Jewish hegemony over East Jerusalem, and Elad focuses its activities intensively on Silwan, both in terms of taking over properties and gaining control of the public domain through control over parks, tourist facilities, and archeological sites.

The Israeli NGO Emek Shaveh has a detailed look at what excavation projects will be funded. Emek Shaveh writes:

“These decisions constitute the state’s commitment to financing and promoting the settlers’ plan in Silwan and in the historic basin, constituting an escalation in the use of archaeology and tourism for political purposes: The scope of the projects and the budgets allocated for their implementation are unprecedented. It appears that the Israeli government is no longer maintaining the pretense of distinguishing between its own actions and those of the settlers.”

IDF Applies New Israeli Law in the Settlements, Before It Is Even Law

Haaretz reports that IDF Commander Nadav Padan issued a military order applying to settlements a new set of rules and regulations for the upcoming municipal elections. These rules and regulations are contained in a bill that is under consideration, but has not yet been passed, by the Knesset (regarding candidate eligibility, polling place regulations, and voter registration issues). The issuance of the order in advance of the Knesset plenum’s consideration of the bill was neither a mistake nor a coincidence: Padan reportedly issued the order to appease Interior Committee Chairman Yoav Kisch (Likud), who had delayed progress of the bill specifically out of concerns over how it would be applied to the settlements. Once the military order was issued, Kisch allowed his committee to vote on the bill. The measure is expected to pass a final Knesset vote when it is brought up.

Kisch was a key figure in the recent effort to require all Knesset legislation to state how it can be applied to the settlements (via military order or directly). That effort failed, and Kisch was forced to accept the recommendation of the Knesset legal advisor that instead of changing Knesset rules to require a statement of applicability, Knesset legal advisors are instructed to discuss the issue during the bill’s formulation. However, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) succeeded in a similar effort within the Israeli Cabinet, ensuring that all Knesset legislation seeking government backing is now required to include a written statement of how it will be applied in settlements.

The IDF Commander’s preemptive order is a novel new tactic by which the Israeli government is affecting the de facto annexation of areas in the West Bank by applying Israeli domestic law there. As the Haaretz report notes, it typically takes months if not years for the IDF Commander to issue military orders that apply Israeli laws to the settlements after they are passed by the Knesset. FMEP recently published a compendium of policies that advance that end – but this week’s events are notable in that the military order effectively implemented a law that the Knesset has not yet passed (or even debated).

Another Sheikh Jarrah Eviction is Imminent

In’am Kneibi, a 77-year-old Palestinian woman living in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem, received notice last week that the Israeli government intends to execute an eviction order against her family, to take place between May 13th and May 27th.

Peace Now warned that the timing of the eviction alongside the opening of the U.S. Embassy and the celebration of Jerusalem Day might ignite simmering tensions in the city:

“The expected eviction of the Kneibi family represents an organized, systematic campaign by radical settlers, in cooperation with government agencies, to supplant Palestinian communities in East Jerusalem with new settlements.”

Sheikh Jarrah is a particularly combustible area of occupied East Jerusalem, where radical religious Israeli settlers have concentrated their activities. Earlier this year, the eviction of the Shamasneh family from their home in Sheikh Jarrah ended an unofficial moratorium on Israeli evictions in the neighborhood. Peace Now notes that 75 families in Sheikh Jarrah are currently facing eviction. Simultaneously, the Israeli government has advanced several highly provocative settlement plans in Sheikh Jarrah, including a 7-story Jewish religious school (a yeshiva) on the main road leading into Sheikh Jarrah.

Abbas: U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem is an “American Settlement Outpost”; Erekat: We’re Going to the Hague

“What we saw in Jerusalem today was not the opening of an embassy, but the opening of an American settlement outpost.” – Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Top Palestinian Authority diplomat Saeb Erekat followed up Abbas’ comments by announcing that Palestinian Authority leadership has decided to pursue war crimes charges against Israel for its settlement construction in the occupied territory.

Bonus Reads

  1. “New report on illegal outposts fuels West Bank annexation concerns” (Times of Israel)
  2. “Living in the constant shadow of settler violence” (+972 Mag)
  3. “A Tale of Two West Bank towns: A Bleak Palestinian Refugee Camp Choked by a Thriving Israeli Settlement” (Haaretz)
  4. “Seven decades of struggle: How one Palestinian village’s trouble captures pain of the ‘Nakba’” (The Guardian)
  5. “To Demolish Palestinian Villages in the Name of Parity” (Haaretz)
  6. “VIDEO: A Muslim Amongst the Settlers” (The Atlantic)
  7. “Settlements Are Not the Periphery” (Haaretz)
  8. “Defense establishment girds for price tag attacks in midst of combustible week” (Ynet)