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.

In the past, Peace Now has exposed that the Ministry of Housing had an initial plan to build 15,000 units to establish a city in Gvaot. This plan was never promoted, however smaller plans have been approved for promotion by the Minister of Defense to build 523 units (plan no. 418/2/1) and another 61 units (plan no. 418/2/2) on lands that have been declared as State Lands in the past.

The new declaration will allow to expand the settlement even further, it is possible that the current announcement will connect Gva'ot to the Green Line.

Peace Now views this declaration as proof that Prime Minister Netanyahu does not aspire for a new 'Diplomatic Horizon' but rather, he continues to put obstacles to the two state vision and promote a one state solution. Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ya'alon are directly responsible to the declaration, which cannot pass without their approval. By declaring another 4,000 dunams as state land, the Israeli government stabs President Abbas and the moderate Palestinian forces in the back, proving again that violent delivers Israeli concessions while nonviolence results in settlement expansion. 

 

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.

This is nothing like the 10-month “moratorium” Netanyahu grudgingly negotiated with then-U.S. envoy George Mitchell, during which all sorts of new settlement planning and approvals continued apace, and previously-approved construction went ahead without restraint. And it’s nothing like the settlement “restraint” that Netanyahu disingenuously promised Secretary of State John Kerry in the context of the last U.S.-backed peace effort, which translated to a huge spike in settlement approvals and announcements.

To be clear, a lull in new settlement approvals and announcements under Netanyahu isn’t unprecedented. However, coming on the heels of the collapse of even the pretense of peace talks and Israel’s condemnation of Abbas for forming a reconciliation government approved by Hamas, one would have expected Netanyahu to open the floodgates. Instead, he adopted a policy that, if adopted months earlier, could have given peace talks a chance to survive and even succeed. Why? The most likely explanation is that Netanyahu calculated that at a time when he wanted the world to see the Israel-Palestinian conflict in the most black-and-white terms possible — a peace-seeking democratic nation fighting an irredeemably evil terrorist enemy — he was better off keeping settlements out of the news. And so he did.

It has long been known that Netanyahu has the ability to clamp down on settlement promotions and approvals; what he has consistently lacked is the political will to do so. This summer’s semi-freeze underscores the truth in this observation, as well as the fact that most Israelis remain steadfastly indifferent to the settlement enterprise.

That is the good news. The bad news, as Jerusalem expert Danny Seidemann suggested in his recent analysis (regarding the awarding of tenders for new units in the East Jerusalem settlement of Gilo), is that there is a strong possibility that Netanyahu has promised settler advocates in his Cabinet that once the war is over he will re-open the settlement floodgates. The equally bad news is that, with a battle now raging over who “won” the war, Netanyahu is on the defensive domestically, attacked by his political opponents for failing to crush Hamas (something that was impossible), for failing to re-occupy Gaza (a nightmare scenario for Israel), and for failing to rid Israel of the annoying Gaza problem (something that can’t happen without a peace agreement).

In this context, Netanyahu will undoubtedly be looking for ways to placate his critics and pander to his right-wing base. And when placating and pandering come up on Netanyahu’s agenda, settlement announcements are never far behind.

This is cause for serious concern, and not just because settlements and their expansion are anathema to any negotiated two-state solution. Something even bigger is at stake today. As Seidemann — whose prescience is as legendary as it is often depressing — aptly noted (in analysis that applies equally to the West Bank):

The impact of renewed settlement activities will be even more devastating than in the past. We now know that Hamas has succeeded in getting Netanyahu to freeze Jerusalem settlement expansion — something Netanyahu refused to do for Abbas or for the sake of negotiation. If East Jerusalem settlement construction starts up again, Hamas will be able to say, with reason, ‘we were able to get a settlement freeze in Jerusalem through armed resistance, something Abbas was unable to get through negotiations.’

Make no mistake: If Netanyahu re-opens the settlement floodgates, it will be a slap in the face to Abbas, a Palestinian leader who still rejects violence and endorses a negotiated agreement, and a middle finger to the United States, Israel’s best friend and chief benefactor. And if he does so, he will take Israel further down the path toward international pariah status, fueling BDS and anti-Israel activism and further guaranteeing Palestinian recourse to international legal forums.

Perhaps worst of all, at least from the viewpoint of Israelis who have just endured almost two months of rocket attacks, if Netanyahu re-opens the settlement floodgates, he will recklessly bolster the argument of Hamas — and groups even more extreme than Hamas — that the only language Israel understands is violence.

This article first appeared in The Forward on August 28, 2014.

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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Settlements: Learn More!

Settlements

 

 

Peace Now’s Settlement Watch project is recognized worldwide as the authority on settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Comprised of two staff members and scores of volunteers, it monitors and documents the expropriation of land, establishment of new settlements and illegal outposts, expansion of existing settlements and the demographic, economic, and security ramifications of settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This short video (below), prepared especially for APN, demonstrates the work of Settlement Watch.
Watch the video.

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Settlements: What You Can Do

Settlements

YOU can help reclaim Israel's future by standing against settlements. Here are actions you can take right now:

  • Denounce this government of the settlers. Write to Israel's Ambassador in Washington. Tell them that Americans who care about Israel will not make excuses for an Israeli government that puts the Greater Israel ideology over Israel’s own best interests.

Tell the world: Supporting Israel = Boycotting Settlements

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Ministry of Housing and Construction issued today tenders for 1466 new housing units at the West Bank (1066) and East Jerusalem (400).  The announcement comes three days after the ministry also re-issued tenders for an additional 232 housing units at the West Bank settlements.
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Peace Now: Summary of the 9-Months Talks: Unprecedented Settlement Development


During the 9 months of Secretary Kerry’s efforts in the region, the Israeli Government promoted plans and tenders for at least 13,851 housing units in the settlements and East Jerusalem - an average of 50 units per day and 1,540 units per month.

 
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Peace Now: Minister of Defense approves new settlement in Hebron, first time since the 1980s

The Minister of Defense has approved the creation of a new settlement inside the Palestinian city of Hebron, making it the first settlement in the city since the 1980s.
 
The impact of the settlement is remarkable: a large building, 4000 square meters,  that can hold more than 20 settler families (more than 120 people) and on a strategic and pivotal location: relatively distant from the other settlements inside Hebron, and on the route that connects Hebron to Kiryat Arba settlement.

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Press Release: Settlement Surge Looms Large over Netanyahu-Obama Meeting

As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu landed in Washington today, the Israeli government’s Central Bureau of Statistics issued a report showing a whopping 123% surge in West Bank settlement construction in 2013, more than double the number of new settlement homes built in 2012.

The data was analyzed and highlighted today by Israel’s Peace Now (Shalom Achshav) movement. It confirms past interim reports by Peace Now’s Settlement Watch Project. Americans for Peace Now (APN), Shalom Achshav’s US sister-organization, joins Peace Now in condemning Netanyahu’s government for this reckless policy of settlement construction.

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