Peace Now: Settlers Take Over 6 Houses in Silwan

Settlers entered last night (30.09.2014) into 6 buildings in Silwan, in the area of Wadi Hilweh creating a new reality in the sensitive area, just few meters from Jerusalem's Old City and Temple Mount (Al-Aqsa Mosque). Despite settlers claim to have purchased the buildings from Palestinians, some owners of the buildings are denying any sale and have begun operating in order to evacuate the settlers, among others, through legal procedures.

The implication of this offensive act has far reaching consequences.  It is the largest settler operation since the creation of settlements at Silwan, back in 1991. The 6 buildings consist of approximately 20 housing units, which could thus expand the settler presence by about 100 settlers, an increase of about 35% from the amount of settlers in the area as of yesterday.

The political context of the matter is heavily severe. Albeit if the government of Israel was not a direct agent in the current settler entrances, its policies granted the radical settlers to achieve substantial powers that they can determine almost at will the political reality, and among others, the planning, constructions, tourism, purchases and policing at the Palestinian neighborhood. Government and municipal policies allowed the settlers to create their own private guard which secured this operation at the middle of the night. After the dramatic entrances, the Israeli police are now protecting the newly created settlements. The unjust and dangerous reality at Silwan has been achieved after 2 dozen years that the Israeli government and police are allowing and supporting the different settler operations.

The creations of the new settlements come at a horrifying time in Jerusalem. Since the murder of Mohammad Abu Khdeir, nearly 3 months ago, there are heavy tensions in the city, including almost daily violent clashes at Palestinian neighborhoods. This upcoming Friday both the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur and the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha will be celebrated, causing further pressures and tense, especially around Al-Aqsa Mosque.

This article was originally posted September 30,2014 on the Peace Now website.

Peace Now: So How Many Settlers Are There?

As published today by AP, Settlers claim that the number of Israelis living in the West Bank is 382,031 (excluding those who live in East Jerusalem). This number shows a rapid growth in setters' population, of 2% in six months, double the growth rate in Israel itself.

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16/9/14

Earlier this year the Jerusalem Municipality approved two construction permits requested by the right wing Elad association in Jerusalem's Hashalom Forest located on the seam zone between East and West Jerusalem. One permit was for legalizing structures built by Elad as part of an ideological tourist center they established on lands given to them by the JNF (KKL), and the other was for the construction of a new camping site meant to accommodate large groups.

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Everything Elliot Abrams & Uri Sadot Want You to Believe about Settlements Is Wrong

Last week, Elliot Abrams and Uri Sadot co-authored yet another defense of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s settlement policy.  At the heart of their case is this assertion:

 Israel's actual settlement construction pace has reached a historical low.  Only 507 housing units were approved for construction by Netanyahu’s government in the first six months of 2014, a 71.9 percent decrease from the same period in 2013… 

What does the data actually say? 

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Peace Now: High Court advises sending Nahla land case back to appeals panel

8/9/14 

The High Court of Justice issued yesterday (7/9/14) a detailed pre-ruling decision on a petition by landowners from the village of Nahla, located northeast of Efrat, contesting the declaration of 1,341 dunams as state lands. In its decision, the court rejected most of the petitioners' arguments, but suggested referring the case back to the appeals committee in order to discuss the question of whether it is possible to declare a parcel of land as state land if only part of it is being cultivated.

The state must announce by September 30, 2014 whether it accepts the court's proposal.

Download the court's ruling (in Hebrew) here


Background

In August 2004, the Israeli Civil Administration declared 1,341 dunams of land adjacent to the Nahla village and Efrat settlement as state lands. The designated territory, referred to by the settlers as "Givat Eitam," is earmarked for the expansion of the Efrat settlement. Under a Ministry of Housing plan that is still awaiting approval, some 2,500 housing units are slated to be built. This would have a far-reaching impact on the chance of reaching a two-state solution. (See details here.)

The landowners appealed the declaration to the military appeals committee, and after their appeal was rejected, they submitted a petition to the High Court of Justice via Attorney Sani Khoury.

 

High Court test on the method of 'declaring state lands'

About a week ago, some 4,000 dunams in the Bethlehem area were declared state lands. The declaration elicited harsh criticism of the government's policies and the system of "declaring state lands" as a way of gaining control of lands for settlement purposes. The declaration is based on Israel's interpretation of Ottoman land law, according to which the state can expropriate land that has remained uncultivated for ten years. In its decision, the High Court affirms the system in principle, but seeks to examine the question of declaration vis-à-vis a parcel of land that is only partly cultivated.

 

And this is how the High Court justifies the system:

The petitioners' argument – the declaration is actually expropriation. It turns private land into state land; and since it is prohibited to expropriate private lands in occupied territory for settlement purposes, the declaration is illegal.

The High Court's decision – the declaration is not expropriation. It does not change the status of the land; it only declares its status from a substantive perspective. The president of the Supreme Court, Asher Grunis, explains in the decision that according to Ottoman law, land can be privately owned only if the owner holds a deed to the property or proves that the land has been cultivated for ten consecutive years. Therefore, in the case of uncultivated land, there is no private ownership and its declaration as state land does not change the status of the land – it merely resolves the land's status.

 

The petitioners' argument – discrimination on an ethnic basis: declaration for Palestinians only. The area includes an uncultivated parcel of land that according to the state's system ("the substantive law") should also be declared state land. However, it remained outside the bounds of the declaration. The lands coordinator of the Efrat settlement testified in the appeal that it was purchased by Jews and therefore was not included in the declaration.

The High Court's decision – the petitioners did not explain which land they were referring to. It should be noted that in the discussion at the High Court, the justices asked to see the map on which the lands coordinator marked the parcel acquired by Jews. But the appeal file from the appeals committee disappeared inexplicably.

 

The petitioners' argument – the aim of the declaration is to expand the Efrat settlement. Throughout the discussions of the petition, the state did not deny that it intends to allocate the land for expansion of the Efrat settlement. According to the petitioners, this is a discriminatory outcome because the land will be given to settlers and not to Palestinian residents of the area.

The High Court's decision – the land was not yet allocated to the settlement, so it cannot be argued that the declaration in itself engenders discrimination. It should be noted that although there was apparently no agreement allocating the land to the settlement, the land has already been attached to Efrat's area of jurisdiction.

 

The petitioners' argument – the settlers prevented us from cultivating the land. Throughout the discussions, the petitioners argued that the lands coordinator of the Efrat settlement served as a land inspector in cooperation with the Civil Administration, and that he prevented the landowners from working the land.

The High Court's decision – we do not intervene in a factual determination by the appeals committee. The appeals committee heard the testimonies and decided that even if there was some interference by the lands coordinator, it is nonetheless true that the land was uncultivated during the years that preceded this. 

 

The petitioners' argument – we have a deed to the property.

The High Court's decision – we do not intervene in a factual determination by the appeals committee. The appeals committee determined that the petitioners did not succeed in proving that the deed they have refers to the relevant land, because the boundaries of the Ottoman deed are imprecise and are not based on a land survey.

 

The question that remains for discussion:

The land includes parcels which were only partly cultivated. The state divided these parcels and declared the uncultivated part to be state land. In other cases, where less than 50% of the parcel was cultivated, the whole parcel was declared as state land. The petitioners argued that there are no grounds for dividing the parcels, and that as long as a section of the parcel is cultivated – the parcel cannot be declared state land.

The court suggested that the state agree to send this question back to the appeals committee for discussion, and ordered the state to announce whether it agrees to this by September 30, 2014. If the state agrees, the case will return to the appeals committee and it might take another year or even 2-3 years to complete the discussions and approve the declaration. The state may refuse to agree to return the case to the appeals committee and try to persuade the court that it was not necessary, and then the court may either give its own decision on the matter or rule that the case will return to the appeals committee without the state's consent.    

 


The area of "E2"- the planned settlement in Nahla

Peace Now: The New Settlement in E2 (Nahla) - A Significant Threat to the Two States Solution

Update on E2 – September ‏2014
Prepared by Peace Now, Kerem Navot, and Combatants for Peace
 

At the present time, preparations are moving ahead for establishing a new settlement near the Palestinian village of Nahla (south of Bethlehem and east of the settlement Efrat). Establishing this settlement would bisect the West Bank and seriously damage the chance for a two-states solution (as would the plan to expand Maaleh Adumim westward to area  “E1”, east of Jerusalem), and for this reason we call this plan E2. The plan is for 2,500 housing units on an area of about 1,700 dunams (i.e.170 hectares or 425 acres).

In 2004 Israel declared most of E2 as “State Lands” and incorporated it into the municipal jurisdiction of the Efrat settlement.  The Palestinian landowners appealed against this declaration, and the High Court of Justice (HCJ 2676/09) is expected soon to reject the appeal.  At that time, Israel will be able to begin the actual process of building the settlement.
 
In the meantime, since October 2013, Israel has allowed settlers to use part of area E2 under the guise of an “agricultural farm”, but the Ministry of Housing under the settler-minister Uri Ariel is already preparing plans to replace the “farm” with a first stage of 840 building units.
 
It should be noted that area E2 is located totally east of the separation fence (i.e. outside the area that Israel defines as “settlement blocs”), and establishing a new settlement in this place would violate the Israeli commitment to build no new settlements.  The settlement would block Bethlehem from the south, and prevent any development in the only direction that has not yet been blocked by settlements or bypass roads (that were paved principally for Israeli settlers).  The planned building in area E2 would likely finalize the cutting off of Bethlehem city from the southern West Bank, delivering a crushing blow to the Two States solution.
 
 
Article appeared first on 9/2/2014 on the Peace Now website

Peace Now: Unprecedented land confiscation of 4,000 dunams near Bethlehem

The Civil Administration declared 4,000 dunams (990 acres) as State Land near the settlement of Gva'ot west of Bethlehem. As far as we know, this declaration is unprecedented in its scope since the 1980's and can dramatically change the reality in the Gush Etzion and the Bethlehem area. For an explanation about state land declaration see here.

Gva'ot was established in 1984 as a Military Base between the Palestinian villages of Al Jab'a and Nahhalin. During the 90’s, the soldiers were replaced by Yeshiva students that occupied the 30 caravans on site, and in 1998 the site was included within the official Municipal Borders of the settlement of Alon Shvut, which is located 3 km away. Recently, some 10 families moved in Gvaot and established an education institution on site.

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APN's Lara Friedman in the Forward: Did Hamas Get Bibi to Freeze Settlements?

Settlements haven’t been in the news of late — and not simply because war pushed them off the media’s radar. They haven’t been in the news because since the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli yeshiva students back in June, there hasn’t been much settlement news to report.

True, already-approved settlement construction continued unabated (and there’s plenty of it). And settlers established several new illegal outposts. And tenders were awarded for new construction in the East Jerusalem settlement of Gilo. So clearly we’re not in the midst of a full-fledged settlement freeze. However, with respect to both the West Bank and East Jerusalem, there is undoubtedly a semi-freeze: no major new settlement plans promoted through planning committees, very few new approvals granted and then for only a tiny number of units, and no new tenders issued.

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Taking Advantage: Three New Outposts

Peace Now has just announced that in the last few days, following the killing of the three Israeli teens, there have been alarming developments on the ground in settlements: Three new (serious) outposts were established and a new road to Givat Eitam outpost was paved, in addition to other several protest tents and other developments that the settlers put up in different places in the West Bank.

The settlers are taking advantage of the killing of the three teens in order to set facts on the ground that they wouldn't dare to do before. We don't know if they got a green light from the government (although such a green light could not have made the acts legal, short of planning procedures), however, those developments will be judged by the government's reaction.

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Facts on the Ground: Elliot Abrams’ Flawed Defense of Bibi’s Settlement Push

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is getting a raw deal.   That’s the line being peddled by Elliot Abrams, who has emerged in recent months as one of the staunchest U.S. defenders of Netanyahu’s settlement policy.  Rather than bury Netanyahu with criticism for expanding settlements, Abrams argue, the world should praise him for his unrecognized settlement restraint.  The facts, Abrams insists, tell the story – facts that Abrams cherry-picks and spins to build a case that is pure fiction.

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