Brookings2.320x320On Monday, July 11 2016, the Brookings Institute published the results of the most recent surveys on American attitudes toward the Middle East, conducted by Shibley Telhami, Nonresident Senior Fellow. The newest poll was conducted within two weeks of the shootings in Orlando, focusing on American attitudes toward Muslims and Islam. These results were compared to those of similar polls carried out in November 2015 and May 2016 to see whether there has been a shift in public opinion since two important landmarks: The most vital months of the presidential election campaigns, and the Orlando massacre.

Telhami noted that the results of the most recent polls were unexpected: despite the extremely inflammatory anti-Muslim rhetoric of the presidential campaigns, as well as the fact that the Orlando shootings were carried out by a radicalized Muslim, more people tended to be favorable toward both the Muslim religion and the Muslim people in the May and June 2016 polls. In November 2015, 53% of those questioned responded that they held a favorable attitude toward the Muslim people. That percentage increased to 58% in May 2016 (pre-Orlando) and then to 62% in June 2016 (post-Orlando). This trend also repeated itself with regards to attitudes toward the Muslim religion: 37% were favorable toward the Muslim religion in November 2015, 42% in May 2016 and 44% in June 2016. It was also encouraging to see that the proportion of Americans who identify with the position that Islamic and Western religious and social traditions are incompatible with each other has decreased from 39% in November 2015 to 34% in June 2016.

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On July 6, 2016 the High Planning Committee of the Civil Administration convened in order to discuss and approve construction plans in the settlements. The committee discussed the approval of 531 housing units in Ma'ale Adumim and the plan to retroactively legalize the illegal outpost of Horesh Yaron, which is located west of Ramallah. Since the beginning of 2016 construction plans for 1,823 housing units in the settlements were promoted. out of the 1,823, 314 are retroactive plans for housing units which were built illegally. It is important to note that the Quartet Report's criticism on Israel's settlement policy focused specifically on retroactive legalization of illegal outposts and illegal construction. 

Additionally, yesterday, July 10 2016, the government approved a transfer approximately 50 Million Shekels to Kiryat Arba and Hebron.

Peace Now: The promotion of plans in Ma'ale Adumim and the retroactive legalization of an illegal outpost are a slap in the face of the Quartet. Netanyahu is signaling to Israel's most important allies that he is not interested in peace and two states but rather in the continuation of the occupation. 

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Peace Now Settlement Watch: Deciphering the Announcement on Construction Plans in East Jerusalem

Last weekend Prime Minister Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Lieberman announced the approval of 240 housing units in East Jerusalem and another 560 housing units in Ma'ale Adumim, but the announcement lacked specifics on the plans and their planning stages. The PM and MoD also announced their intention to re-open a tender for 42 housing units in Kiryat Arba.

In the last two days we learned that beyond the tender for 42 housing units in Giv'at Ha'Harsina in Kiryat Arba, which was published yesterday, three plans for the construction in 169 housing units in Har Homa, Ramot and Pisgav Ze'ev were published for depositing on 5 July 2016:

Plan number 103753 - 120 housing units in Ramot on Mirsky Street (adding new floors to building that have already been approved).
Plan number 143768 - 30 housing units in Pisgat Ze'ev on Eliyahu Meridor Street (adding new floors to building that have already been approved).
plan number 202481 - 19 housing units in Har Homa on Eliyahu Koren Street (a 6 floor building).

For more information on the planning process click here.

It is not yet known what are the additional plans discussed in the PM and MoD announcement.

Peace Now Settlement Watch: Tender for 42 Housing Units in Kiryat Arba Issued

Today, (Wednesday, 6th of July) the Israeli Ministry of Housing issued a tender for the construction of 42 housing units in Kiryat Arba. The tender was issued today but bids can only be submitted at the 31st of July. This means that the Government wanted to publish the tender quickly, before the paperwork is completed, in order to make the connection between the deadly attacks against Israelis last week and the promotion of the construction in Kiryat Arba. 

Peace Now: "Construction in settlements is not an answer to terrorism; it is not going to save the life of any Israeli but rather strengthen the extremists on both sides. The real answer to terrorism is ending the occupation and reaching a negotiated peace agreement. Unfortunately, Israeli citizens continue to pay the price of the extreme right wing government's policies."

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Peace Now Settlement Watch: Settlement Construction Is Not The Answer to Terrorism

Following the deadly attacks against Israelis last week, it has been reported that the government is advancing plans for 800 housing units in Maale Adumim and in East Jerusalem. It is not clear at this point exactly which plans are being promoted and the promotion of 560 housing units in Ma'ale Adumim, for instance, seems to be made up of several smaller plans. In addition, it has been reported that the government will open a tender for 42 housing units in Kiryat Arba. For more information on this tender and the Kiryat Arba population see below.

Peace Now: Settlement construction is endangering both the possibility for peace and two states and the security of Israeli citizens. New housing units in the settlements will not prevent the next victims but rather strengthen the extremists on both sides. The real answer to terror is ending the occupation and reaching a negotiated agreement. Meanwhile, Israeli citizens will continue to pay the price of the extreme right wing government's policies. 

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APN Explainer: The Pitfalls of the New York Executive Order on BDS

On June 5, 2016, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an Executive Order (EO) entitled: “Directing State Agencies and Authorities to Divest Public Funds Supporting BDS Campaign Against Israel.

Americans for Peace Now (APN) opposes boycotts of Israel. APN also opposes legislation (and the equivalent, like this executive order) that seeks to outlaw boycotts or other forms of legal, non-violent activism against Israel. We believe such initiatives are the wrong way to combat BDS. Our full policy is here.

Our brief explainer, laying out our objections to the new EO in New York (and which apply equally to similar legislation being considered/adopted elsewhere in the country), is below.

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Tomorrow the Jerusalem Local Planning Committee is expected to approve the construction of a large building for settlers in the heart of the Batan Al Hawa neighborhood in Silwan. The three story building will be located in one of the most densely populated areas in East Jerusalem, near the Yonatan House (see map). The land in the area was sold to the settlers by the Israeli General Custodian without any tender, together with three additional parcels in the neighborhood (Parcels 73, 75, 84, 97). The pretext for selling the land to the settlers was the fact that they already own two other parcels in Batan Al-Hawa (parcels 95-96) that were released to them by the General Custodian in September 2002 (see more here)

Peace Now: While PM Netanyahu and MoD Lieberman just backed the two state solution, on the ground they are supporting actions that are making a future compromise much more difficult. They government can still prevent the construction of the house by withdrawing from the deal of selling the four parcels to the settlers. By approving the construction on the Eve of Ramadan Netanyahu and Lieberman risk igniting the region and compromising Israelis' security for the benefit of extreme settlers.

Silwan-parcel73-map
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APN policy on BDS-Related Legislation (Federal & State)

On May 19, 2016, the Executive Committee of APN's Board of Directors unanimously adopted the following policy regarding ongoing efforts in the U.S. Congress and in various state capitals to pass legislation dealing with BDS and the occupation.

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As published May 9th in Haaretz following Peace Now's investigation, construction of a huge structure referred to as the “Amana House” has recently started in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem. The structure is intended to serve as an office building for the Amana association - a private entity operating toward establishing and expanding settlements and responsible for many of the illegal outposts in the Territories. The structure is being built within the Palestinian neighborhood  of Sheikh Jarrah, and is adjacent to St. Joseph Hospital, which serves the Palestinian population of Jerusalem and the West bank.

Construction of the settlement is supported by a wide array of governmental institutions, headed by the Israel Land Authority (ILA). The ILA, in an illegal and misleading procedure and without a tender, expropriated private Palestinian land and handed it over to Amana, a right-wing, pro-settler organization that is politically and ideologically affiliated with the right-wing government.

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Earlier this week the Palestinian Media reported on a new expropriation order in the lands of the village of Al-Zawiya. This order was published based on the State's most recent publication procedure of the Blue Line Team's work. 

While the original declaration in this area included 1,264 dumans, the current order, following the work of the Blue Line Team, adds another 115 dunams that are now declared as state lands. The order also deducts 213 dumans that are no longer considered as state lands, and yet 30 of the 213 dunams have already been expropriated for the purpose of the "Cross Samariah" highway.
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