Peace Now Settlement Watch: The government declares 2342 dunams south of Jericho as state land

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

The Army radio exposed today that on March 10, 2016, during Vice President Biden’s visit to Israel, the Civil Administration’s Head of the Government Property signed a declaration according to which 2,342 dunams (580 acres) south of Jericho are now government property. This declaration of state land comes two months after the Minister of Defense approved a declaration of 1,500 dunams as state lands in an area south of Jericho. It appears that the January approval by the MoD permitted the land declaration which is now being implemented. However, the size of the land declared is larger than what was published in January and includes 2,342 dunams. The declaration, which is in fact a confiscation, was meant for the expansion of nearby settlements as well as for trade and tourism projects operated by the settlers. This is one of the largest declarations in recent years, and it is another illustration of the government’s policy of land confiscation, including those far beyond the green line and the separation barrier.

 
Peace Now: This declaration is a de-facto confiscation of Palestinian lands for the purpose of settlement. Instead of trying to clam the situation, the government is adding fuel to the fire and sending a clear message to Palestinians, as well as to Israelis, that it has no intention to work towards peace and two states. Netanyahu proves yet again, that settler pressure is more important to him than the deteriorating security situation.

 

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Derech_Ha-Avot320x265

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

Earlier today (March 7, 2016) the State updated the High Court of Justice on its position regarding Peace Now's petition for the evacuation of 17 structures in the outpost of Derech Ha'Avot. Due to the "request of the political echelon" and despite its previous commitments, the State announced that it seeks to work on the retroactive legalization of 10 of the structures built on private Palestinian land in the illegal outpost. The State hopes to do so by applying a "First Registration" procedure, a long complex procedure asking applicants to prove legal ownership of a land. This comes only two years after this land had been surveyed and was not declared state land, as it had clear owners. If the court accepts the State's position, in the best case scenario the evacuation of the illegal structures as well as the return of the land to its Palestinian owners will be postponed by several years, and in the worst case scenario, the State will find a way to retroactively legalize the structures. As for the remaining 7 structures, the state argued that it will evacuate them within two years.

Peace Now: The government's shameless legal acrobatics efforts meant to take over  lands in area C is putting the two state solution in danger. We hope that the High Court will deny the State's attempt to act against its previous commitments and demand the evacuation of the illegal construction in the outpost of Derech Ha'Avot.

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With Obama Signing Statement, the Conflation Campaign Must Stop

On February 24th, Congress sent HR 644, known as the “Customs Bill,” to President Obama's desk. As we has been reporting for the past year, this bill includes a provision that, while ostensibly about countering the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS) against Israel, is in truth about legitimizing settlements and for the first time in history legislating U.S. support for and defense of Israel's settlement enterprise and the occupation that enables it. The provision achieves this by conflating Israel and the occupied territories, in effect requiring the U.S. to treat both as sovereign Israel.

As long predicted by APN, when President Obama signed HR 644 into law shortly after it reached his desk, he issued a signing statement observing (correctly) that the conflation of Israel and settlements contradicts longstanding U.S. foreign policy and violates the Executive's constitutional foreign policy prerogative, and declaring that this conflation would not be implemented.

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Setting the Record Straight (again) on U.S. Labeling Policy [UPDATED*]

Yesterday, Israeli media reported on a blockbuster report alleging that the Obama Administration is lying when it says U.S. policy regarding the labeling of products from West Bank settlements hasn't changed since 1995, and alleging that the policy reiterated last month in a statement issued by the U.S. Customs Service (CBP), in fact, represents a change in U.S. policy.

These allegations rest on a “smoking gun,” unearthed by the intrepid researchers at a right-wing Israeli non-governmental organization called the Legal Forum for Israel, in the form of a 1995 document issued by CBP.  The Legal Forum for Israel alleges that the document proves that U.S. labeling policy since 1995, according to which exports from the West Bank cannot be labeled as made in Israel, applied only to those areas of the West Bank under Palestinian self-rule in 1995. The NGO insists that the “reminder” of the policy issued by CBP in January 2016, which stated that labeling rules apply to the entire West Bank, thus clearly represents a (stealth) shift in U.S. policy.

Is this document, in fact, a smoking gun? Not in the slightest.

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

Report2015SettlementsOver the weekend, Israel’s Peace Now movement published its annual report on West Bank settlement planning and construction in the past year. Following is the executive summary of Peace Now’s report, followed by a link to the full report, as well as links to several news articles about the report.

2015 In the Settlements: No Freeze At All
Settlement Watch Annual Construction Report
Peace Now's annual construction report reveals that in 2015 construction continued throughout the West Bank settlements, and especially in isolated settlements. These finding refute the argument that a "silent freeze" is currently in place. While earlier this year Netanyahu argued in English that he is the Prime Minister who has built the least in the settlements, in Hebrew he proudly demonstrated to Likud members the increase in settlement construction during his time in office. It is clear that in 2015 as well, Netanyahu's statements in Hebrew are more representative of the reality on the ground than his statements in English.
 
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"Cotton’s bill aimed at settlements policy"

This week, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) introduced S. 2474, purportedly in order to ensure “fair” treatment by the United States of Israel and Israeli products. In truth, this bill has nothing to do with Israel or products made in Israel. It is about one thing only: reversing nearly five decades of unbroken U.S. policy opposing settlements built by Israel in territories it occupied in the 1967 war.  

Cotton’s bill is just the latest salvo in a broader campaign, taking place both in Washington and in state capitals, to exploit concerns about BDS (boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel), in order to legitimize settlements.

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(published 2/1/16 at LobeLog)

Attention is finally focusing on a bill pending in Congress that would make it U.S. policy to defend and support Israeli settlements. Known as the Customs Bill, this legislation regulates U.S. trade relations with foreign countries and includes the pro-settlement language in a provision that, ostensibly, is about defending the state of Israel against boycotts. It is part of a broader campaign, waged in Washington and in state capitals across the country, that seeks to undermine growing grassroots support for the boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel and reverse Washington’s longstanding opposition to settlements in the occupied territories.

Back in July, Congress passed a similar provision as part of the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill. The State Department responded with a statement rejecting the pro-settlements language, noting that “[e]very U.S. administration since 1967—Democrat and Republican alike—has opposed Israeli settlement activity beyond the 1967 lines.” The administration’s rejection provoked a harsh critique by one Washington Post blogger who writes on both legal issues and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The blogger, Eugene Kontorovich, testified on the BDS movement and ways to combat it before the Subcommittee on National Security of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform last July. Now, with the Customs Bill in the spotlight and likely to soon come before President Obama, the arguments presented in his critique—which apply equally to the settlements-related provision in the Customs Bill—bear close scrutiny.

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The Campaign to Legislate Support for Settlements: Taking the Battle to the States

In 2014, opponents of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel began promoting legislation in various U.S. states denouncing the BDS movement.

In 2015, these efforts shifted/expanded to mirror efforts in the U.S. Congress to hijack concerns about BDS against Israel in order to pass legislation mandating that Israeli settlements be treated, in effect, as part of sovereign Israel.

At the outset of 2016, it is already clear that these efforts are continuing and building. Indeed, the clear trend at the state-level is moving away from anti-BDS resolutions in favor of binding legislation to – in effect – have states boycott, divest from, and sanction companies that engage in BDS against Israel, or that in any concrete way differentiate between Israel and the settlements.

This table  -- which will be updated regularly and which is based on data drawn from the websites of the various state legislatures -- is intended to help people understand and follow what is happening at the state level. 

(Do you know about legislation missing from the table? Please let me know - LFriedman@peacenow.org).

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Settlement Product Labeling Policies, U.S. vs. EU

The current U.S. and EU approaches are similar in that both bar producers and exporters of products made in settlements from indicating that the point of origin of the products is Israel. The approaches differ, however, in how far they go. U.S. labeling, in effect, differentiates between Israel on the one hand, and the West Bank/Gaza on the other. The EU differentiates not only between Israel and the West Bank, but within the West Bank between Israeli and Palestinian goods. This difference reflects, fundamentally, the different historical and economic circumstances in which the respective regulations were adopted.

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Peace Now Settlement Watch: Settlers Take Over Two Houses in Hebron

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

Today, (January 21st, 2016), settlers took over two houses in Hebron near the Cave of the Patriarchs. The settlers broke into the houses claiming to have purchased them from the Palestinian owners. It was reported that the owners deny having sold their houses and plan to take legal measures to force the settlers out and maintain ownership on their property.

Even if the houses were truly bought by the settlers, it is still in the hands of the Israeli government to decide whether to allow them to settle in the houses. The authority to establish a settlement in the West Bank rests exclusively in the hands of the Government of Israel, irrespective of any ownership claim. Every purchase of property in the West Bank by Israelis must be approved by the Minister of Defense, and such an approval have yet to be granted.

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