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, 2018
- Liberman Announces A New Settlement in the Old City of Hebron
- Housing Ministry Signs Deal for 20,470 New Settlement Units In Maale Adumim
- Settlers Establish a New Jordan Valley Outpost
- Israel Plans to Double Size of IDF West Bank Bureaucracy…To Aid Settlers
- Yesh Din Documents How Yitzhar Settlement Uses Violence to Seize Palestinian Land
- West Bank Municipal Elections Empower Anti-Establishment Settler Leaders
- Bonus Read
Comments, questions, or suggestions? Email Kristin McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announced that he is advancing plans for the construction of a new settlement in Hebron, to be located above a Palestinian marketplace in the Old City of Hebron. This is the third major settlement initiative in the heart of Hebron undertaken by the Israeli government over the past four months. It follows closely on the heels of the October 2018 announcement of a new settlement at the site of an Israeli military installment in Hebron, and a July 2018 Cabinet decision to fund a new settler municipal body – despite a court injunction against forming the body – meant to empower Israeli settlers living in enclaves in downtown areas of Hebron.
The plan for a new apartment building for settlers above the market in the Old City of Hebron is not new, but has been stalled for years due to “legal difficulties” according to Liberman. Those “legal difficulties” are the protected tenancy rights of Palestinian vendors who rented the market stalls from Jordan after 1948, rights which were upheld by Israel following the 1967 war. Liberman worked alongside Justice Minister Shaked to find a way to move the project forward (i.e., to find a way to void Israel’s recognition of the protected tenancy rights); the result is a new legal opinion greenlighting the project based on Jewish ownership of the land prior to the 1929 Hebron riots, when 67 Jews were killed. The Defense Ministry has not yet released the text of this new legal opinion.
The Times of Israel settlement correspondent Jacob Magid notes:
“Such a legal opinion would apparently conclude that Jewish ownership of the property prior to the establishment of Israel trumps the Palestinian protected tenancy status that was granted after 1948 — a hierarchy that the High Court of Justice has thus far rejected.”
Significantly, Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit gave his endorsement of the Defense Ministry’s opinion on the matter.
Justice Minister Shaked released a statement saying:
“This week we made a significant breakthrough in the return of Jewish lands stolen during the 1929 riots in the so-called wholesale market. This is a very important area in the heart of the Jewish settlement in Hevron, which for 25 years was not settled, even though it belongs to the Jews according to all the records. For 25 years, Israeli governments have repeatedly evacuated Jews who settled in the area and haven’t granted building permits. This week, thanks to the Defense Minister, Legal Advisor Avichai Mandelblit, Deputy Legal Advisor Erez Kaminitz, and Defense Ministry Legal Advisor Itai Ophir, we brought about a breakthrough and removed the barriers, leading to approving the planning.”
The Jewish community in Hebron released a statement praising the legal opinion as a “Zionist and just decision,” saying that the new settlement will help “strengthen our hold on the inheritance of our forefathers.”
[Updated on 11/2/2018 after publication].
Peace Now has published a detailed explanation of Liberman and Shaked’s plan to build a new settlement above the Palestinian marketplace in the Old City of Hebron. An accompanying Peace Now statement reads:
“The settlement in Hebron is the ugliest face of Israel’s control in the Occupied Territories. In order to maintain the presence of 800 settlers among a quarter of a million Palestinians, entire streets in Hebron are closed to Palestinians, denying them freedom of movement and impinging on their livelihoods. Moreover, by implementing the “right of return” for Jews, the Netanyahu government has pulled the rug out from under Israel’s moral basis for its resistance to recognizing the right of return for the Palestinians, thus endangering Israeli interests.”
A key piece of Peace Now analysis reads:
“The Defense Ministry’s new opinion for building this new settlement compound is yet another example of how the government is currently reinterpreting existing laws in order to circumvent current restrictions on settlement building that safeguard Palestinian private property and protected tenancy. This in turn is part of a broader trend of settlement-backed government efforts to confiscate land, and legalize and expand Israeli settlements with the aim of de facto Israeli annexation of the West Bank.”
The Israeli government signed a $765 million deal to build 20,470 new settlement units in the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement, located just east of Jerusalem. The government is slated to issue permits for 470 units to begin construction immediately (plans for which have already been granted final approval), while the plans for 20,000 units still need to be approved.
After signing the agreement, Construction and Housing Minister Yoav Gallant (Kulanu) made it clear that the mega-project is part of a broader scheme to consolidate Israeli control over West Bank areas to the north, east, and south of Jerusalem:
“In addition to the new housing units, public and educational institutions will also be established, and will include synagogues, schools, parks, community centers and sports arenas. We must continue to establish [our] hold on the Jerusalem area, from Maaleh Adumin in the east to Givat Zeev in the west, from Atarot in the north to the area of Bethlehem and Rachel’s Tomb to Efrat and Gush Etzion…[these places are of] historic, strategic and national importance…. we will continue to act to strengthen the city…. We must continue to maintain full control over Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley and bolster the settlement in these regions.”
Following a meeting in Ramallah, the PLO Executive Committee released a statement blasting the plan:
“The decision to build additional housing units beyond the Green Line completely prevents the realization of a two-state solution and frustrates efforts to move a genuine peace process forward….the expansion of the settlement in and around east Jerusalem through the construction of settlement blocs that cut off the connection between Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories [will complete the] Judaization of Jerusalem within the framework of the plan for a greater Jerusalem.”
Last month a large group of Israeli settlers invaded the site of an abandoned IDF base in the Jordan Valley in order to establish a new outpost there. In what appears to be a well-thought-out and organized initiative, twelve settler families (appearing to be religious) broke into and took up residence in six buildings at the site and immediately began renovations. Settlers have also locked the gate at the entrance to the disused base and stationed a security guard there. The Israeli Civil Administration has issued a stop-work order against the settlers’ renovations, but have not acted to remove settlers from the site.
In an atypical scenario, the State of Israel notified the High Court of Justice last month that settlers had moved into the site, known as “Camp Gadi,” to set up an outpost. The State was required to file the brief because of a pending case from 2017, which was initiated by anti-settlement activists after rumors and social media posts strongly suggested that settlers were preparing to enter the same site and set up an outpost there. Hoping to prevent this from taking place, three individuals petitioned the High Court of Justice to preemptively intervene. When the Jordan Valley Regional Council – a municipal body responsible for governing settlements in the area – told the High Court that it was not planning to establish a new outpost there, the individuals who filed the petition agreed to withdraw the complaint, but the Court never officially closed the case. The State was therefore obligated to tell the Court that settlers moved into the site this past month.
The Jordan Valley Regional Council has denied involvement in the establishment of the new outpost.
Israeli Cabinet ministers are close to reaching a deal to double the size of the Israeli Civil Administration, adding 280 employees of which, according to reports, 150 will be Palestinians. The Civil Administration (CIVAD) is the branch of the Israeli Defense Ministry which acts as the sovereign ruling power over all civilian affairs – including building laws – in the occupied territories, and explicitly does so “through the lens of Israel’s interests,” in violation of international law. Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman are expected to reach a deal on expanding the CIVAD and present it to the full Israeli Cabinet for approval by the end of November. Prime Minister Netanyahu reportedly supports the plan.
Making no attempts to hide the CIVAD’s work on behalf of the settlement movement and its supporters, CIVAD’s head, Brigadier General Ben Hur, told the Knesset this week:
“The organization’s purpose is to ensure maximal security stability in the region, while promoting quality of life for all the residents who live and work there and shaping the region based on Israeli interests. Thirty to 40 building plans are stalled in the Civil Administration, for reasons that include a personnel shortage.”
An incisive 2017 report by Yesh Din highlights the truth in Brig. Gen. Ben Hur’s statement, documenting how the CIVAD implements Israeli interests in the West Bank, to the detriment of the Palestinian population and in violation of international law. Yesh Din writes:
“At the most basic and evident level, the Civil Administration functions as a tool for controlling West Bank Palestinians. As the agency that makes and executes decisions, it has control over Palestinians’ travel and work opportunities, over construction and development of infrastructure, health, education and welfare, to name some. The Civil Administration uses this control arbitrarily, relying on bureaucratic justifications, or wielding it in a ‘carrot and stick’ fashion – as a means of oppression and domination over the Palestinians. The Civil Administration also functions as an executive arm and a political tool serving Israel’s ambitions in the OPT – pushing the settlement project forward and dispossessing Palestinians of their land. One of the practices that serves this goal is the institutionalization of ethnic- national segregation, privileging the settlers and discriminating against the Palestinians and exploiting them.”
In a major new report, Yesh Din documents 40 incidents of violence connected to the Yitzhar settlement and its many outposts (located south of Nablus), and shows how violence is an effective means by which Yitzhar settlers – with the backing of the Israeli military and government – are able to continue seizing more privately owned land from six nearby Palestinian villages.
After documenting 40 incidents, analyzing emerging trends, and demonstrating how settler violence against Palestinians and their property actually results in land being handed to the settlement, Yesh Din concludes:
“Israel’s conduct, which not only tolerates the violence perpetrated by settlers but, in fact, supports them, leads to the proliferation and expansion of violent actions. This violence is not incidental or banal. It is part of a system, another link in the chain of measures that work to take over Palestinian land. This Israeli policy severely violates the human rights of Palestinians, primarily the rights to life and security of person, rights to property and to freedom of movement. It cripples the daily lives of women, men and children, who are forced to confine themselves to ever shrinking spaces and live in constant fear, even inside their own homes.”
The Times of Israel has a comprehensive look at the success of anti-establishment settler leaders in the recent Israeli local elections. Four significant upsets for the head of local settler councils hints at the weakening of the Yesha Council, which for decades has operated as an effective umbrella group coordinating amongst all settlement regional councils in order to present a unified political block in lobbying the government on behalf of the settlements. The new leaders prefer a go-it-alone strategy, thinking it more effective, and have criticized both the Yesha Council and the Netanyahu government for not doing enough for the settlers.
- “LPHR Briefing on the impending demolition of the Palestinian community of Khan al-Ahmar in the occupied West Bank and the forcible transfer of its residents” (Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights)
- “Israel’s Chief Rabbi Pushes for First West Bank Rabbinical Court” (Haaretz)
- “Israeli settlers storm Palestinian homes in Hebron” (MEMO)