News from Peace Now's (Israel) Settlement Watch:

The Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS) published its data on construction starts earlier today. The Data shows that in the first six months of 2016, 1,195 housing units started to be constructed in the settlements. This is an increase of 40% in comparison to the previous six month (July-December 2015), during which 850 housing units began to be constructed. In contrast, a 3% decrease in construction starts was noted in Israel proper (23,691 housing units in the first half of 2016 as opposed to 22,898 housing units in the second half of 2015).

Peace Now: "Netanyahu is the Prime Minister of one sector only - the settler sector, which comprises of less than 5% of the Israeli population. His investments in the settlements do not only come on the expense of the Negev, the Galilee and the rest of Israel but also lead towards a one state reality.

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Hebron-and_Amona404x604The Israeli government is in the process of establishing – by stealth –the first new settlement complex (28 units, providing housing for some 100 settlers, or a 10% increase in the settler population in the area) in Hebron in more than a decade. It is doing so by taking properties seized years ago by the Israeli government for military use and handing them over to the settlers. This action directly contravenes Israeli law, which prohibits seizing lands for military needs and then using them for the purpose of settlements. It also contradicts the principle of distinction between civilians and combatants and constitutes a clear violation of International Humanitarian Law. In addition, allocating these properties to the settlers based on the argument that they belonged to Jews before 1948 in essence constitutes implementation of a “right of return” for Jews, at the expense of protected Palestinians tenants – even as Palestinians are denied any parallel “right of return” to properties they left or were expelled from before 1948.

On August 24th, State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner said that if reports about what is happening in Hebron are true, “…it would represent a deeply concerning step of settlement expansions…

At the same time, the Israeli government is moving ahead with plans to “relocate” the illegal outpost of Amona. It plans to move the settlers off the privately-owned Palestinian land where the outpost it currently located – land that after years of trying, the Government was forced to admit it could find no “legal” way to expropriate and give to the settlers – and on to a nearby plot of privately-owned Palestinian land that it has now found a pretext to seize. In short, this case involves Israel taking new land from the Palestinians for the sole benefit of settlers. And it involves Israel acting not to punish and deter settler law-breaking, but instead rewarding and incentivizing such illegal actions. And it contributes to the growth of the settlement foothold deep in the West Bank, via the direct support and collusion of the Israeli government.

On August 11th, the Director of the State Department’s Press Office, Elizabeth Trudeau, said that the State Department was “deeply concerned by reports that the Israeli Government has begun the process to take over privately owned Palestinian land to relocate the illegal Israeli outpost of Amona.”

 

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Sign our Petition: Tell Israel - Stop the land grabs, stop the settlement expansion.

PN_pic_Setlement_overlook475x680Nearly 50 years into the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the current Israeli government continues to exploit a wide range of tactics, laws, and regulations to take control of more Palestinian land and hand it over to the settlers. Here are just the latest examples:

  • In Sussya, located in the south Hebron hills, Israel is seeking to raze Palestinian homes to make way for more settlement.
  • Northeast of Ramallah, near the settlement of Ofra, Israel is working to take over more Palestinian-owned land to give to settler law-breakers from the outpost of Amona.
  • South of Bethlehem, the Netanyahu government is actively seeking to seize land in order to implement an extraordinarily dangerous and destructive new settlement plan which activists have dubbed “E-2,” involving thousands of new units.
  • In the heart of Hebron, the Israeli government is in the process of establishing – by stealth – a new settlement complex: 28 housing units for some 100 settlers, or a 10% increase in the settler population in the area. This is the first new settlement construction in Hebron in more than a decade. The government’s method, this time, is taking properties seized years ago by the Israeli government for military use and handing them over to the settlers – in direct contravention of Israeli law.

With actions like these, the Israeli government is telling the Palestinians that it is not interested in peace or a two-state solution. It is telling the world that it places greater value on land than on peace, that it prioritizes settlements over security, and that it is more concerned with ensuring permanent control over “Greater Israel” than in ensuring Israel’s relations and reputation with nations around the world, including the United States.

With no immediate possibility of re-starting peace talks on the horizon, it is critical that world leaders stand firm against Israeli government efforts to further expand and entrench the occupation – the very possibility of the two-state outcome hangs in the balance.

Sign our petition today (to be sent to addressees and released as an open letter). Join us in calling on the heads of state of the U.S., UK, France, and Germany -- as well as top officials in the European Commission and the UN, and other world leaders -- to individually and collectively stand up to the Netanyahu government’s plans to confiscate or transfer West Bank land for new settlement activity.

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Planned “relocation” of the illegal outpost of Amona

FOTG_AmonaAmona is the largest illegal outpost in the West Bank, home to some fifty families, located near the settlement of Ofra, northeast of Ramallah. Built on some 100 acres of land registered as privately-owned by Palestinians, the outpost was built without permits from the Israeli government, but with the direct and indirect support of Israeli authorities. In 2006, following a decision of the Israeli High Court of Justice, nine structures in the outpost were demolished – but in the years since, the outpost has grown and flourished. Now, the High Court is forcing the Israeli government to take action once again to remove the illegal construction – but rather than simply removing the outpost, the Israeli government has decided to re-locate it – to another area of privately-owned Palestinian land.

 

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LEARN MORE

APN Q&A on Amona
APN Briefing Call with Peace Now Settlement Watch Director Hagit Ofran (August 25, 2016)
APN to Obama 8/11/16: Act to Reverse Israeli Government Taking Over Palestinian Land for West Bank Settlement
Peace Now Report, August 2016: The Legal Opinion Submitted to the Attorney General on Amona: A Crossing of a Red Line
APN report 8/8: Peace Now Settlement Watch: AG Mandelblit Considers Relocating Amona to Lands Owned by Absentees (with translation of AG’s opinion)
Peace Now report 8/11/16: The Israeli Government is Taking Over Absentees' Property Near Amona
Comprehensive report on the original battle over Amona and the destruction of 9 units there: APN Settlements in Focus 2/17/06 and APN Settlements in Focus 7/29/05
View this & other settlement-related developments on APN’s Map App

 

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Expanding the Settlers’ Hold in Hebron

FOTG_HebronThe Israeli government is in the process of establishing – by stealth –the first new settlement complex (28 units, providing housing for some 100 settlers, or a 10% increase in the settler population in the area) in Hebron in more than a decade. This action directly contravenes Israeli law, which prohibits seizing lands for military needs and then using them for the purpose of settlements. It also contradicts the principle of distinction between civilians and combatants, and constitutes a clear violation of International Humanitarian Law. In addition, allocating these properties to the settlers based on the argument that they belonged to Jews before 1948 in essence constitutes implementation of a “right of return” for Jews, at the expense of protected Palestinians tenants – even as Palestinians are denied any parallel “right of return” to properties they left or were expelled from before 1948. The Israeli Peace Now movement uncovered this story and is leading the effort to pressure the Israeli government to cancel these plans.  

 

TAKE ACTION

Write to the State Department
Sign our petition
Forward this page
Tweet this page
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Donate to support our work

 

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APN Briefing Call with Peace Now Settlement Watch Director Hagit Ofran (August 25, 2016)
Peace Now’s August 23, 2016 report: Establishing a New Settlement in Hebron - More Information Revealed
Peace Now’s August 22, 2016 report: Settlers' Residence Being Prepared in a Hebron Military Compound
View this & other settlement-related developments on APN’s Map App

 

US OFFICIAL REACTION

Haaretz 8/24: U.S. 'Deeply Concerned' About Plans to Advance Construction for Jewish Settlers in Hebron
State Department Press briefing 8/23: “…if these reports are true, it would appear to be an effort to expand civilian Israeli settlement in the city of Hebron, and that would represent a deeply concerning step of settlement expansions…

 

IN THE MEDIA

Arutz Sheva (settler media outlet) 8/24: Peace Now 'slanders' activists over Hevron construction
Maan News 8/23: Peace Now: New settlement will add 100 more Israeli settlers in Hebron
Haaretz 8/22: For First Time in Decade, Israel Plans to Expand Jewish Settlement in Hebron
Times of Israel 8/22: Israel said planning to build several Jewish homes in Hebron
Associated Press 8/22: Israel Takes Steps Toward New Settlement in Volatile City

Planned new settlement of Givat Eitam, aka E-2

FOTG_E2The Netanyahu government is actively promoting an extraordinarily dangerous and destructive new settlement plan which activists have dubbed “E-2” – a name that reflects the fact that the plan is as dangerous and destructive to the two-state solution as the infamous E-1 project (against which the international community has formed a united front). The E-2 project, which the settlers call Givat Eitam, involves thousands of new units to be built south of Bethlehem, near the settlement of Efrat. Documents recently released by the government in connection with a lawsuit brought by Peace Now show that the Netanyahu government is actively moving ahead with this plan at this time, including working to seize new land on which it can build necessary infrastructure to implement the project (a new major road).

 

TAKE ACTION

Write Letters to the Editor
Get the word out: Tweet About E-2
Sign our petition
Forward this page
Tweet this page
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Sign up for APN’s News Nosh & Weekly Update
Donate to support our work

 

LEARN MORE

APN Briefing Call with Peace Now Settlement Watch Director Hagit Ofran(August 25, 2016)
Peace Now report 1/13/16: High Court Rejects Nahla Landowners' Petition Removes Legal Obstacle to Establish a Settlement in E2
Peace Now report January 2015: The new settlement in a-Nahla – a significant threat to the two-state solution
September 2014 report by Peace Now, Kerem Navot, and Combatants for Peace: The New Settlement in E2 (Nahla) - A Significant Threat to the Two States Solution
View this & other settlement-related developments on APN’s Map App

 

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Peace Now Settlement Watch: Update - Plans Promoted for 463 Housing Units in the Settlements

News from Peace Now's (Israel) Settlement Watch:

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Peace Now Settlement Watch: Promotion of Plans for 546 Housing Units in The Settlements

News from the Peace Now's (Israel) Settlement Watch:

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Amona: Everything You Need to Know

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Q: What is Amona?

A: Amona is the largest illegal outpost in the West Bank, home to 42 families (As of August 2016), located near the settlement of Ofra, northeast of Ramallah. An illegal outpost is a settlement built without official Israeli government approval, in violation of Israeli law, typically on privately-owned Palestinian land.

Q: Is Amona built on privately-owned Palestinian land?

A: Yes. It is built on some 100 acres, registered as privately-owned by Palestinians from the adjacent village of Silwad.

Q: Why is Amona in the headlines?

A: Amona is in the headlines because the Government of Israel is seeking ways to legalize it by removing it to an adjacent location, in an effort to address a December 2016 Supreme Court deadline to demolish the outpost.

Q: But wait, wasn’t Amona already evacuated in 2006, with much pomp? Wasn’t there a great deal of violent resistance by the settlers and excessive use of force by the Israeli police?

A: Well, yes and no. The famous fight in Amona in February 2006 was over nine permanent structures. The State agreed to destroy these homes following a petition that Shalom Achshav (Peace Now) filed to the High Court. After the removal of these structures, the outpost has grown into a medium-sized, semi-autonomous community and boasts a visitor center, a synagogue, a ritual bath, businesses, industrial workshops and agriculture.

Q: How is that possible? If this outpost was illegally built on privately-owned Palestinian land, why didn’t the government go ahead and dismantle it, or at least prevent its growth?

A: Good question. Like most illegal outposts, Amona started out as a rogue initiative by the settlers – in this case a group of settlers from the adjacent veteran settlement of Ofra – and with government support has grown from two prefabricated structures in 1996 to many houses and more than 50 families today. Under government instructions, the outpost was connected to the power grid and to the water network. Israel’s housing ministry even issued tenders for contractors to build permanent housing there, and funded the purchase of several prefabricated homes for Amona settlers. It also funded the building of an access road to an archaeological site near Amona.

Q: So, the Israeli government not only acquiesced, but fully assisted the construction and development of an illegal outpost. Is this a common phenomenon?

A; Yes. The Israeli government’s thorough involvement in the construction of illegal outposts – in practice knowingly aiding and abetting an illegal act -- has been the subject of much criticism both inside Israel and by the international community, including by the US government. The chief reason for this extraordinary phenomenon is the strength of the settlers’ lobby, which has a strong presence inside the government itself.

Q: Why is Amona so important to the settlers?

A: Amona is important to the settlers for two main reasons. One is its location. It functions as a “finger” that extends from Ofra eastwards, and could allow Ofra to grow further eastward in the future, creating a corridor that would hinder Palestinian contiguity and further complicate the creation of a Palestinian state. The other reason is that for the settlers, Amona has become a symbol, an icon.

Q: How so?

A: The February 2006 battle over the removal of nine structures in Amona was a major landmark for the West Bank’s ideological settlers. Many among them were extremely critical of what they saw as the weak resistance exercised by Gaza Strip settlers during the 2005 “Gaza disengagement.” They were concerned that the Israeli public’s and the Israeli government’s takeaway from this experience was that the settler movement is a “paper tiger” – meaning i.e., that despite settlers’ threats to strongly, even violently, resist any removal of settlements, in practice the settlers would easily give in when faced with decisive government action to uproot settlements. Given the political climate at the time of the original Amona battle – featuring most notably Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s election campaign, which championed a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from most of the West Bank – the settlers’ leaders decided that it was imperative to change the public’s “paper tiger” perception and make clear that the settlers will not acquiesce to further removals of settlements. Some among the settlers’ leaders even spoke in terms of restoring deterrence vis-à-vis the government. The settlers’ leaders decided therefore to resist the demolition of nine structures in Amona on February 2006 with extreme violence. They injured scores of police officers who were deployed to enforce the demolition. A parliamentary investigation committee was formed to look into the incident. It criticized the settlers for using violence, and criticized the police for using excessive force.

Q: If Amona is so important to the settlers, and if the government openly supported it over the years, why hasn’t the government just gone ahead and legalized it as a full-fledged settlement.

A: The government of Israel has spent a huge of amount of time and energy looking for a way to do precisely that – to legalize Amona – but based on Israel’s own laws, it cannot. In short, it is impossible for the government of Israel to simply legalize Amona, since Amona sits on lands privately-owned by Palestinians (and that ownership is recognized by the state of Israel). The owners of the land petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court in November 2008 demanding the eviction of the outpost. It took the Court six years of deliberations, but in 2014, it finally accepted the petition and ordered the government to completely remove Amona by December 2016.

Q: So what’s the problem? The Court has decided, and the government must respect the Court’s ruling, right?

A: Well, yes – but now is when the government is getting creative. Rather than just removing Amona, as required by the Court, the government wants to re-locate Amona to a new location in the same area – on land that, once again, is privately owned by Palestinians. But this time there’s a trick: The Palestinian owners of this alternative plot of land, unlike those who petitioned the High Court to remove Amona from their land, do not presently live in the West Bank. They are what Israel terms “absentees,” and therefore under Israeli law are deprived of the right to claim their real estate or petition to the court when it is seized. So in effect, what the Israeli government is offering, under the pressure of the settlers’ lobby and under the pressure of the Court decision’s deadline, is to relocate Amona to an adjacent location, on Palestinian absentee-owned land. The move, according to Israeli media reports, will be considered “temporary,” subject to a lease agreement that the government will have the prerogative of extending in three-year intervals. This proposal, if approved by the government’s legal advisor and the court, will violate a High Court ruling stipulating that privately-owned Palestinian land may not be used for settlement construction.

Q: Where do things stand as of late August 2016?

A: In mid-August, the Government of Israel published a notice in a Palestinian newspaper, announcing the takeover of Palestinian absentee land near Amona. Earlier this same month, the idea to relocate Amona to absentee land was raised at a committee that the government had formed to find ways to legalize illegal outposts (known as the “Regularization Committee”), and on August 7, Attorney General Avichai Madelblit said that he would look into the option of relocating Amona to absentee land, despite “weighty legal issues,” as he put it. The developments in early August suggest that Mandelblit has in fact given a nod to the idea of relocating Amona to adjacent absentee land as a way to effectively legalize the outpost.

Q: Wait, let me make sure I understand: The settlers took privately-owned Palestinian land to establish Amona, right?

A: Right.

Q: The government, using taxpayer money, aided and abetted in the construction of an illegal outpost on what was effectively stolen land, right?

A: Yes, that is correct.

Q: And now that the Court has ruled that the government must remove this illegal outpost, the government is seizing private land to serve as an alternative site for Amona, fully aware of the “weighty legal issues” that its Attorney General alluded to. Right?

A: Yes, that’s right.

Q: So, instead of prosecuting and punishing those who stole land and used it illegally, instead of taking measures against government officials who actively participated in this illegal act, the settlers who live on stolen land will be compensated by an alternative site, which also sits on privately-owned Palestinian land. Is that right?

A: Essentially, yes.

Q: Now, what about that governmental “Regularization Committee”? Is the Israeli government trying to legalize other illegal outposts?

A: Yes, it is. One of the conditions set by the Jewish Home party (the party that most closely represents the ideological settlers) for joining Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government was creating a committee to legalize the status of illegal outposts. The committee, comprised of senior representatives of government ministries, is reviewing various options pertaining to the status of outposts built on privately-owned land (approximately 80% of the outposts). At the same time, Israeli Knesset members are working to address this issue through legislation. Several bills seeking to confiscate privately-owned Palestinian land in return for financial compensation were struck down in June 2016, following legal briefs from the Attorney General stating that the bills were patently unconstitutional and after Prime Minister Netanyahu threatened to dismiss cabinet members who support them. But even then, Netanyahu softened the blow to settlers by reaching an agreement with the Jewish Home stipulating the construction of 851 new homes in West Bank settlements.

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

News from Peace Now's (Israel) Settlement Watch:

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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