Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
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October 12, 2017
- Bibi Approves Major Expansion of Settlements
- DETAILS: Thousands of Settlement Units to Advance Next Week with Netanyahu’s Permission
- U.S.: No Comment, No Change in Talking Points
- Bonus Reads
Comments, questions, or suggestions? Email Kristin McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week, the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu announced imminent approval of major new settlement construction across the West Bank, including in some especially sensitive/controversial areas.
How major? There has been debate and disagreement in the Israeli press about the number and what they exactly mean. Haaretz reports that, while Netanyahu listed plans totalling 3,736 settlement units, only 600 of those units will actually be approved for immediate construction (the rest are part of plans that are in earlier stages of the approval process). However, the Times of Israel counts 1,941 units being advanced, of which 1,197 units will receive final approval. The Peace Now Settlement Watch Project counts 3,400 units up for advancement, and tenders (the final step before construction) expected for 296 units.
This debate over the numbers should not obfuscate the fact that Netanyahu is orchestrating an acceleration of settlement growth, the totality of which we will have definitive knowledge of only after the High Planning Council meets next week.
Please note, there is no benign stage in the settlement planning process. No matter the stages of the planning process involved, Netanyahu’s announcement this week represents a huge wave of forthcoming settlement construction.
As Terrestrial Jerusalem’s founder Daniel Seidemann wrote in 2015,
There is no such thing as a “window of opportunity” in stopping settlement planning/approvals. When the world objects to settlement approvals, the answer from Israeli officials, invariably, is either, “It’s too early, it’s just a plan – what are you objecting to?” or “It’s too late, this was approved long ago – why are you bothering us now?” In truth, settlement plans can be stopped at almost any point on the road to implementation, and the earlier a plan is stopped, the lower the political costs.
With that in mind, we cover the plans expected to be advanced in detail below.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has publicly announced his permission for the High Planning Council to advance 3,736 of settlement units during the Council’s meeting next week (Oct. 17-18). If all of the reported plans are approved, the total number of settlement units promoted so far in 2017 will reach 6,500 by the end of the month, a significant increase compared to 2,629 for all of 2016, and 1,982 for all of 2015, according to Peace Now data. One Israeli official has promised the settlement numbers will reach 12,000 by the year’s end, bragging that the amount is four times the total promoted in 2016.
Of the thousands of units slated for advancement, several plans are at the final stage of planning and will likely receive the green light to start construction. These plans fulfill specific promises to settlers Netanyahu has made over the years (and address some of his most acute domestic political pressure points). The following plans – all of which are in settlements located deep inside the West Bank and beyond the separation barrier – are expected to receive building permits, as reported by Haaretz:
- 31 units for the settlement enclave on Shuhada Street, in the heart of downtown Hebron. This is the first plan for new settlement units in downtown Hebron in the last 12 years; the Hebron Municipality is expected to mount a legal challenge against the plan’s implementation. Peace Now explains, “alongside additional developments in Hebron, including the creation of an independent administration and the entry to the Abu Rajab House, this can be seen as another effort by the government to strengthen the radical settlement in the heart of Hebron.”
- 296 units in the Beit El settlement, which are part of Netanyahu’s promise to compensate for the settlers evacuated from the Ulpana outpost in 2012.
- 86 units in the Kochav Yaakov settlement which are part of Netanyahu’s promise to compensate for the settlers evacuated from the Migron outpost also in 2012. The evacuation of the Migron outpost has lead to the construction of not one but two new settlements as compensation.
- 146 units in the Nokdim settlement, where Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman lives.
- 9 units in the Psagot settlement.
The Times of Israel reports additional units expected receive final approval:
- 459 units in Ma’ale Adumim.
- 102 units in the new settlement of Amichai, which was approved earlier this year as payoff for settlers evacuated from the unauthorized outpost of Amona. Haaretz suggests that construction of these units will remain stalled as the State responds to a petition filed against the Amichai settlement by the Israeli NGO Yesh Din, arguing that the settlement’s borders annex land that is privately owned by Palestinians. As reported in detail in past editions of the FMEP Settlement Report, Amichai is the first new settlement to receive government authorization in the past 25 years. It is to be located deep inside the Shilo Valley in an area that cannot, under any conceivable two state arrangement, be included inside the borders of an Israeli state in a way that preserves the territorial contiguity of a Palestinian state.
The High Planning Council will also consider depositing for public review (a last step before final approval) plans for 30 units in the unauthorized outpost of Netiv Ha’avot, an outpost where the government is appealing to the High Court to save settlement homes that were partially constructed on land that is proven to be privately owned by Palestinians. The Court has ordered that the outpost i be razed by March 2018.
The plan for the Netiv Ha’avot is a step towards retroactively legalizing an outpost that was constructed in violation of Israeli law. Advancing plans for retroactive legalization ignores the pending fate of the “Regulation Law,” which provides a legal basis for the move. As FMEP reported in August 2017, Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandleblit (a vociferous critique of the Regulation Law who is expected to argue against the law in front of the Court this month) issued a two-month injunction against the use of the law to legalize previous construction, even prohibiting preliminary steps towards using the law. The injunction was issued to allow the Court time to weigh arguments on two petitions challenging the constitutionality of the law filed by civil society groups – Israeli (Peace Now, Yesh Din, and ACRI) and Palestinian (Adalah, Al-Mezan, and the Jerusalem Legal Aid Center) – earlier this year.
The government has gone wild with settlement plans deep in the West Bank for thousands of new settlers, whom Israel will have to evacuate in a two state solution agreement. Faced with the growing pressures and investigations, Netanyahu goes out of his way to prove how radical he is, without considering the consequences of massive settlement expansion on the future of the two state solution. The plans for Hebron and Nativ Ha’avot are particularly enraging, as they indicate to settlers that the rule of law does not apply to them and illustrate the government’s deteriorating legal standards when it comes to settlement expansion.
The Trump Administration has issued no statement regarding Netanyahu’s brazen settlement advancements. Instead, unnamed White House officials repeated the same talking points that have defined the Trump Administration’s settlement stance, saying,
President Trump has publicly and privately expressed his concerns regarding settlements, and the administration has made clear that unrestrained settlement activity does not advance the prospect for peace. At the same time, the administration recognizes that past demands for a settlement freeze have not helped advance peace talks.
Hagit Ofran, Director of Peace Now’s Settlement Watch Program, told the Washington Post, “This year is looking to maybe even be a record year… It’s without a doubt due to the fact that there have been changes in the White House.”
- “By Backing ‘Greater Jerusalem’ Bill, is PM leaning towards annexing settlements?” (Times of Israel)
- “The Transformation of Jerusalem” (Arab American Institute)
- “The Bedouin village where compassion ends” (+972 Magazine)
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.