Peace Now Settlement Watch: Establishing a New Settlement in Hebron - More Information Revealed

Following our exposure regarding the possible establishment of a settlement in Hebron's "Plugat Hamitkanim" military base, below is new information uncovered in the past 24 hours.  

1. It appears that former Defense Minister, Moshe Ya'alon, approved the allocation of a portion of the land where the military base is located to the Ministry of Housing. The Housing Ministry is now preparing a plan to build 28 housing units in the area. If implemented, the plan would increase the number of settlers in Hebron by approximately 100 (an increase of over 10% to the settler population in the city). The planning process at the Civil Administration's High Planning Committee has not yet begun.

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Peace Now Settlement Watch: Settlers' Residence Being Prepared in a Hebron Military Compound

  • Renovations are currently taking place in the military compound of "Plugat Hamitkanim" in Hebron, in order to prepare the area for the residence of settlers.
  • This area, which used to serve as Hebron's central bus station, was seized through a military order during the 80's. By law, and according to a High Court verdict from 1979, it is forbidden to seize lands for military needs and then use them for the purpose of settlements.
  • Having residential housing in a military base also contradicts the principle of distinction between civilians and combatants, and constitutes a clear violation of International Humanitarian Law. Thus, the plan is to deduct a portion of the land seized for military purposes and allocate it for the purpose of a settlement. While the seizure order will be lifted, this constitutes a bending of the law mentioned above for the benefit of settlers.
  • This portion of the land used to be under Jewish ownership prior to 1948 and was leased to the Hebron municipality by the Jordanians. The status of Hebron municipality is of protected tenancy and therefore, until now, the Israeli legal opinion was that the land cannot be taken from the municipality other than in the pretext of military use.
  • In addition, allocating lands belonged to Jews before 1948 to settlers  is practically an implementation of the "right of return" for Jews only and on the expense of the protected Palestinians tenants.
  • In a letter to the Defense Minister and to the Head of the Civil Administration, Peace now demanded to prevent the establishment of this New settlement in Hebron.
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Peace Now Settlement Watch: Land Expropriation Advanced for a New Settlement on JNF Lands

In the State's response from August 10, 2016, to Peace Now's High Court petition, the State notified the court that it is currently conducting a land survey in order to declare "state lands" south of Bethlehem, near the village of Nahla. A declaration as such, combined with the allocation of a small portion of the state lands in the area for the purpose of a road, will enable to connect the planned settlement of Givat Eitam to the settlement of Efrat. This connection will then allow for the establishment of the Givat Eitam settlement, also known as E2 due to its dire consequences on the two state solution. While the state lands in Givat Eitam have not yet been allocated for the construction of the planned settlement, the government intends to initially build the new settlement on the 300 dunams owned by Himanuta, a subsidiary of JNF. 

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This morning an ad was published in Al-Quds Newspaper on behalf of the Custodian's Office which is responsible for government and abandoned property announcing the takeover of absentees' land near the illegal outpost of Amona. It can be assumed that the takeover's purpose is to allow the relocation of the settlers of Amona from the land they are currently occupying to a nearby plot. Those who claim ownership of the land can submit their objections within the next 30 days.

Earlier this month, this relocation idea was raised by the regularization committee, a committee established by the government to find a solution for the illegal outposts issue. On August 7, 2016, the Attorney General, Avichai Mandelblit, stated that he will consider the option of moving Amona to a nearby absentees' property despite "weighty legal issues." 
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The Attorney General, Avichai Mandelblit, stated yesterday (August 7, 2016) that he will consider the option of moving Amona to a nearby absentees' property despite "weighty legal issues." The option was proposed to him by a committee established by the government to find a solution of the illegal outposts issue. Approving the committee's legal opinion will consist of a sharp change of Israeli policy thus far, and contradict decisions of the Supreme Court, according to which private land cannot be used for the purpose of settlements. Such an approval will expose Israel to lawsuits and create a precedent that could lead to the doubling of the land taken up by settlements.

Peace Now: "The Attorney General is signaling that he is willing to approve the stealing of private lands of absentees for settlers who themselves stole private lands against the law. The extrapolation of the AG approving this option is that from now on, absentees' property could be leased to the settlers, despite of the fact that these are private properties. The government's willingness to politically compensate the settlers of Amona, who settled on private Palestinian land, is leading to devastating consequences on the ground and to the distortion of Israel's moral and legal systems."

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The Legal Opinion Submitted to the Attorney General
on Amona: a Crossing of a Red Line

Amona-wikimedia-320x265This morning the Army Radio reported that the committee established by the government to find a solution of the illegal outposts issue recently submitted a legal opinion to the Attorney General according to which it is possible to use the absentees’ property in the case of the illegal outpost of Amona. The committee’s idea is to take private Palestinian lands in the nearby plot to where Amona is today, whose owners do not live in the West Bank, and lease them to the settlers of Amona through a lease that will be renewed every three years. This way, the settlers of the illegal outpost, which must be evacuated by the end of December due to a High Court ruling, will be able to live close by to where the outpost is located today. AG Avichai Mendelblit will soon announce whether he intends to accept or reject the legal opinion.
Peace Now: "Accepting the legal opinion of the committee and thereby violating private property rights in the Occupied Territories will constitute the crossing of a red line. The acceptance of the legal opinion would have dire consequences on a future peace agreement as it could lead to the establishment of dozens of new settlements and to the multiplying of the land taken up by settlements in the West Bank. The Israeli government cannot justify the stealing of private lands of absentees only to please the demands of settlers who themselves stole private lands against the law."


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From the archives: The Settlers’ Lawyer (or, Elliott Abrams Is At It Again)

[Originally posted on June 25, 2009, on an earlier version of the APN website)

On May 23, 2005, the Washington Post ran a an incisive op-ed by former State Department negotiator and Middle East advisor Aaron Miller, entitled “Israel’s Lawyer,” in which Aaron argued “For far too long, many American officials involved in Arab-Israeli peacemaking, myself included, have acted as Israel’s attorney…” I was reminded of that article when I read today’s piece by Elliott Abrams in the Wall Street Journal, which should, I believe, have been entitled “The West Bank Settlers’ Lawyer.”

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Peace Now Settlement Watch: Tenders Published for 323 Housing Units in East Jerusalem

This morning, tenders for 323 housing units in East Jerusalem were published:

89 units in Gilo
36 units in Neve Yaacov
68 units in Pisgat Zeev 
130 units in Har Homa
These tenders are for housing units that have been tendered in the past but were never built (the tender in Gilo was published without dates and details so we cannot tell if these are new units or units that were tendered before). Although the government tried to build these units in the past, it never did so and thus the government is now initiating entirely new construction.
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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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