Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
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November 2, 2017
- Netanyahu Delays Cabinet Vote on the “Greater Jerusalem [Annexation] Bill”
- More Settlement Approvals in East Jerusalem: Ramat Shlomo & Ramot Plans to Advance
- Settlers Continue Protests for Immediate “Security Package” Funding
- Israel Appoints Settler Leader to Craft Legal Cases to Retroactively Authorize Outposts
- Bonus Reads
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At the last minute, Prime Minister Netanyahu postponed the Israeli Cabinet’s consideration of the highly controversial “Greater Jerusalem [Annexation] Bill,” scheduled to take place on Oct. 29th. In the words of the bill’s author, the purpose of the legislation is to guarantee a Jewish majority in Jerusalem by annexing over a dozen settlements into the Jerusalem Municipality. You can find a detailed explanation of the bill, including key resources from anti-settlement watchdogs, in last week’s Settlement Report.
Despite sustained, strong international condemnation of the annexation bill, the Trump administration’s eleventh hour intervention is what convinced Netanyahu to delay the bill from advancing. Ynet News reports that Saudi Arabia’s prodding is what ultimately convinced the U.S. to intervene against the bill, rather than concerns of the U.S. itself (pro-settler media reports that the U.S. knew about the bill for months and never expressed criticism).
An unnamed U.S. official commented, “It’s fair to say that the U.S. is discouraging actions that it believes will unduly distract the principals from focusing on the advancement of peace negotiations. The Jerusalem expansion bill was considered by the administration to be one of those actions.”
Though tabled for the time being, the “Greater Jerusalem [Annexation] Bill” could resurface anytime. One of the bill’s authors, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, has already announced that he is redrafting the bill and expects the Knesset to pass during it during the current winter session. The new draft will not extend Israeli sovereignty to the prescribed settlements, but will still count the settlers as Jerusalem voters.
The “Greater Jerusalem [Annexation] Bill” is not the only active Israeli effort to redraw the borders of Jerusalem in ways that seek to secure Jewish majority in the city. As we reported last week, a second bill that similarly aims to gerrymander a Jewish majority in Jerusalem is still in play. This bill will cut out some 100,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem from the Jerusalem Municipality, creating a new Israeli regional council for them – and only them – instead. And a third bill, the so-called “Jerusalem Supermajority,” is also in play. This bill will required 80 out of 120 votes in the Knesset to approve any deal transferring parts of Jerusalem to a foreign entity.
Ir Amim writes,
These dangerous unilateral initiatives disregard the wishes and interests of the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, treating them as a pawn to be moved around at will. Such plans will bring neither peace nor stability to Jerusalem.
Another 700 highly controversial East Jerusalem settlement units are set to be promoted by the Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee this week. The plans are for 500 units in the Ramat Shlomo settlement and 200 units in the Ramot settlement. The Ramat Shlomo and Ramot announcements follow a month of alarming settlement advancements made by the High Planning Council and last week by the Jerusalem Planning Council, both of which include highly sensitive plans in East Jerusalem.
The plans for Ramat Shlomo and Ramat are particularly noteworthy, not just for their location in Palestinian East Jerusalem but also in light of very recent history. A vote on the plans was scheduled in December 2016 on the same day that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Israel to give a major speech on U.S. peace principles. Israel cancelled the vote in light of U.S. anger. In 2010, tenders were issued for units in Ramat Shlomo while Vice President Joe Biden was in Israel, leading the Vice President to issue sharp words against Israel while on the ground. Henceforth the plans for Ramat Shlomo that were advanced in 2010 have been dubbed “The Biden Plan.”
The promotion of these plans comes in the context of an opening of the settlement floodgates in Jerusalem, starting at the beginning of July. For details, see this comprehensive timeline of East Jerusalem settlement-related developments (July 1 – Oct 30), published by Jerusalem expert Danny Seidemann. Seidemann notes:
The intensity of the government initiatives in Jerusalem in the last four months is unprecedented, whether in regard to the scope and implications of the settlements announcements, to the nature of the legislative initiatives, or to the political assault against all those daring to challenge the occupation and the government narrative in Jerusalem.
Settlers staged another protest in front of Netanyahu’s home to demand immediate funding for infrastructure projects across the West Bank. In early October, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman promised a $939 million “settler security package” as part of the 2019 budget. A week later, Netanyahu promised that $228 million will be made available in January 2018 for settler infrastructure projects. Not trusting Netanyahu at his word, settlers insist that the money be allocated immediately.
Peace Now has detailed information and maps showing the 5 bypass roads that will be funded in 2018 as specified by Prime Minister Netanyahu in a letter to settler authorities. Peace Now points out the 4 out of 5 bypass roads serve settlements deep inside the West Bank, one near the Nablus and another near Hebron.
Peace Now writes,
The projects…have far-reaching implications in terms of reaching a two state solution as on the one hand expansion of settlements connected to the roads is expected to accelerate and on the other hand the possibility for Palestinian development will be limited or eliminated in those areas.
In addition to the bypass roads, the funds will also cover projects to install cell phone service towers, street lights, and to increase the number of armored buses services settlers across the West Bank.
A top settler advocate has been appointed to lead a new government committee that was formed in the wake of the Amona outpost evacuation in order to protect unauthorized Israeli outposts from similar actions. The appointee, Pinchas Wallerstein, has an extensive history representing settlements, and last year he admitted to lying to the Israeli government about the construction of the Amona outpost, which was later proven to have been knowingly built on privately owned Palestinian land.
In response to Wallerstein’s appointment, Dror Etkes – who heads the settlement watchdog Kerem Navot – commented:
In a normal, healthy society Mr Wallerstein, who is involved in countless number of criminal actions of land grab and dispossession, would likely be writing his memoir from jail right now; but in 2017…he is treated as a culture hero.
The work of the outpost defense committee is set to begin in the coming weeks, but the work should ostensibly be on hold under an injunction against the so-called “Regulation Law.” The law was passed by the Knesset earlier this year to provide a legal basis for the retroactive legalization of outposts constructed without Israeli authorization. The injunction was issued by Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandleblit in August, to allow the High Court to hear arguments on two petitions that civil society groups launched to challenge the law’s constitutionality. In September, the Knesset asked the Court to reject the petitions; the Court has not rejected the petitions. Arguments were expected to be heard in October, but have not yet been scheduled.
Peace Now found that 55 outposts (out of approximately 100 across the West Bank) and 4,000 outpost units stand to be retroactively legalized if the Regulation Law survives the pending challenges (in addition to legalizing the unauthorized seizure of large areas of West Bank land being used for settler agriculture).
- “Jewish Federations Donated Millions to Israeli Settlements Over Four Years” (Haaretz)
- “Creeping Annexation” (J Street)
- “FIFA will not take action on Israeli settlement teams” (Al Jazeera)
- “Israel Denies Entry to Amnesty USA Staff Member” (Amnesty International)
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.