APN's Lara Friedman in The Times of Israel: Is the JFNA Legitimizing Settlements?

Last week, Jewish Federations of North American (JFNA), an organization representing federations across the United States, opened the door, as a matter of formal policy, to taking Americans to visit Israeli settlements. These are the areas located east of the 1949 Armistice line separating Israel and the occupied territories (aka “the Green Line”) in which Israel has been actively settling its citizens since 1967. This decision, upending longstanding JFNA policy, doesn’t come in a vacuum. Rather, it comes in the context of a campaign to legitimize settlements in the eyes of American law and in the minds of American Jews – contrary to consistent U.S. law and policy since 1967 rejecting the legitimacy of both settlements and the occupation, and contrary to the vital interests of Israel.

Make no mistake: Settlements are the bricks-and-mortar expression of an ideology that prioritizes land over peace, and values the expansion of Israel’s borders over Israel’s democracy, over its security, and over good relations with the world. Generations of Israeli generals and security experts have concluded that a peace agreement with the Palestinians is vital to Israel’s security, and that such an agreement will have to be based on the Green Line, with limited border modifications agreed to by both sides. Continued Israeli settlement expansion and obfuscation of the Green Line threaten the achievement of such an agreement and undermine Israel’s security.

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Peace Now Settlement Watch: Update on The New Outpost in the Northern Jordan Valley

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

Earlier this week Haaretz reported that a new illegal outpost is being established on private Palestinian land near Givat Salit and near the Palestinian community of Al-Khaimah. Yesterday (25.10) the settlers moved the outpost from the private lands and re-established it on "state lands" in a nearby hill. 

It is yet to be seen whether the government takes action to evacuate the illegal structures or allows for the substantiation of a new outpost.

All of the structures in Al-Khaimah were demolished completely by the Civil Administration approximately a month ago and Peace Now tends to think that the demolition of Al-Khaimah and the establishment of the new outpost are related, in the sense that the settlers exerted pressure on the government to demolish specifically in that area. Furthermore, It is possible that the new illegal outpost is meant to serve as a bargaining chip by the settlers, who will demand demolitions of more Palestinian homes if the government will seek to enforce the law and evacuate them. Peace Now is familiar with at least one case in which this method was utilized by the settlers, when two years ago settlers established an illegal outpost near the settlement of Maskiyot and the Palestinian community of Ain al Hilweh and agreed to evacuate only after several Palestinian homes were demolished. 

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Lara_Friedman_Micahel_Sfard_Beige_BackgroundIn the October 14, 2016 briefing call with APN's Lara Friedman and Israeli Legal Expert Michael Sfard on the UNSC Session on Israeli Settlements, they discussed the threat to Israel's security and the two-state solution posed by settlements, the dangers of unilateral withdrawal, and the possibility of further action at the UN.

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APN’s Lara Friedman to Address the United Nations Security Council on Settlements

Americans for Peace Now (APN) today announced that its director of policy and government relations, Lara Friedman, will be speaking October 14, 2016 before the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) at a special session organized to examine the issue of “Illegal Israeli Settlements: An Obstacle to Peace and a Threat to the Two-State Solution.”

 APN President and CEO Debra DeLee commented:

 “We are extremely proud that Americans for Peace Now has been invited to address the Security Council on the issue of Israeli settlement policies. This is an issue on which APN and our Israeli sister organization, Shalom Achshav, are justifiably recognized as the leading experts, both in terms of knowing and in terms of explaining the facts about settlements and their implications for peace and the two-state solution. And the facts point to a clear conclusion: the Israeli government’s policy of prioritizing settlements threatens the vital interests of Israel – its people and its national future. This Security Council meeting is a welcome opportunity to highlight the damage settlements are doing to Israel and the quest for peace.” 

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APN at the UNSC October 14 - full statement

Statement by Lara Friedman, Americans for Peace Now
Delivered at the United Nations Security Council – October 14, 2016

The full statement can be viewed as a pdf here
Watch the full testimony here
View the post-meeting press conference here.

 

Distinguished members of the Security Council,

As a representative of Americans for Peace Now – an organization that is committed to Israel’s existence and its future – it is not easy for me to speak before this body today.

It is not easy because while this forum will focus in large part on human rights violations by Israel, there are states represented here whose own human rights records are abysmal. There are even states in this forum that still do not recognize the existence of Israel, 70 years after that nation’s birth and despite its membership in the UN’s General Assembly.

It is also not easy for me to speak here today because of the deteriorating political climate in Israel as far as democracy is concerned. For some time now we have been witnessing an ugly campaign against courageous Israeli human rights and civil society NGOs – carried out by reactionary groups in Israel and by the Israeli government itself. Campaigns that target the legitimacy of NGOs like our Israeli sister organization, Shalom Achshav – Peace Now.

These groups are being targeted because their work reveals facts that some prefer to hide – facts that challenge the official Israeli government narrative.

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Peace Now: The 98 Housing Units Promoted Near Shiloh: A New Settlement Indeed

News from Peace Now:

Last Saturday, Our Settlement Watch team exposed that the Civil Administration's Higher Planning Committee promoted a plan for a new settlement east of Shiloh. Today, following the statement issued by the U.S. State Department condemning this development, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued its own statement, arguing that the 98 units that were promoted do not consist of a new settlement and do not expand the Shiloh's municipal boundaries.

These are the facts behind our analysis, which illustrate that this is indeed a new settlement:

1. The driving distance between the new settlement and Shilo is 2km (1km from Shvut Rachel).

2. The Municipal boundary of Shiloh was changed in May 2013 to including this new hill.

3. The fact that an area is included in the municipal boundary of a settlement means nothing about the location of it in or out of the existing settlement. According to our study of the municipal areas of settlements, the built-up area of the settlements takes only 9% of their jurisdiction. In other words, 91% of the municipal boundaries of the settlements is out of the built area of the settlement.

4. According to the protocol of the planning committee which took place last week, the architect who presented the plan said that "in terms of its functioning, the neighborhood could be independent, illustrating that this is a de-facto a new settlement, but the government needs politically to call it a neighborhood for political reasons.

For all of the reasons above, it is clear that the housing units promoted are not an integral part of Shiloh, but rather, a new settlement.

Peace Now's response to the U.S State Department's statement: "two weeks after President Obama approved a $38 billion security assistance package to Israel, Netanyahu chooses to thank him with a slap in face, and to illustrate that his commitment to settlers who stole private lands is more important to him than the true interests of the State of Israel."

Shiloh_10.6.2016

Today (October 5th, 2016) Peace Now and Ir Amim jointly released a new report on settlement planning in one of the most sensitive and volatile areas in Jerusalem, in a Palestinian neighborhood in the heart of Silwan. The report,  "Broken Trust: State Involvement in Private Settlement in Batan Al-Hawa, Silwan." The report describes how, since 2001, the Ateret Cohanim settler organization has been working to transform Batan al-Hawa into a large Israeli settlement through sales without tender, questionable acquisition of Palestinian properties, forced eviction and removal of Palestinian families who have lived in the neighborhood for decades. If the settlers are successful, Batan al-Hawa will become the largest settlement compound in a Palestinian neighborhood in the Historic Basin of the Old City,  significantly tightening the emerging ring of settlements around the Old City, creating,"an irreversible reality" and severely undermining the possibility of a future two state solution.

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APN Condemns New Israeli Settlement Plan

Today Americans for Peace Now joined its Israeli sister organization, Shalom Achshav (Peace Now), in condemning the Israeli government’s announced plan to establish a new West Bank settlement in the Shiloh Valley (full details on the announcement are here).

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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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