Since the beginning of this year, an unprecedented but little-noticed campaign has been waged in Congress—backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and others—in support of Israeli settlements. At the core of this campaign is an effort to legislate a change in U.S. policy, which since 1967 has remained firmly opposed to settlements, under both Republican and Democratic presidents.

Backers of the campaign, both in Congress and among outside groups like AIPAC, are promoting numerous pieces of legislation that redefine “Israel” to mean “Israel-plus-the-settlements” and make supporting settlements an integral and mandatory part of American support for Israel, as a matter of policy and law. They pass off their efforts as an entirely non-controversial matter of countering boycott-divestment-sanctions (BDS) against Israel in general, countering BDS policies adopted by the EU and some European countries, in particular.

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Michael Koplow, the Policy Director at the Israel Policy Forum, this week added his voice to those suggesting that the US should drop its 48-year-old policy of opposing all Israeli settlement construction, and replace it with one that in effect green lights some such construction - or in Koplow's words, a policy that "distinguishes between kosher and non-kosher settlement growth." Koplow joins Brookings' Natan Sachs and others, all of whom follow in the footsteps of Dennis Ross in supporting such shift and predicting that it would help pave the way to peace. And Koplow - like his predecessors - uses words like "realistic" and "pragmatic" to describe his approach, suggesting that those who disagree are anything but.

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Fact Checking Netanyahu’s November 10 Statements on West Bank Settlements

NetanyahuHands350x224Speaking at Washington’s Center for American Progress, Prime Minister Netanyahu was asked about his government’s West Bank settlement construction policies. His replies were littered with falsehoods and misrepresentations. 

Here are the facts:

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A recent article in Foreign Affairs by Brookings fellow Natan Sachs is getting a lot of attention: Why Israel waits: Anti-Solutionism as a strategy. (Full disclosure: Sachs is a friend and someone for whom I have great professional respect.)

The piece offers some valuable insights into how Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and those around him justify their approach on national security issues. However, the analysis suffers from an important omission with respect to the Israeli government's approach to the Palestinians, and offers a policy recommendation that, if adopted, would be disastrous.

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Rejecting any claim that settlements play a part in the current violence, Netanyahu has adopted data showing he's built less than his predecessors. But don't believe the statistics.

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Netanyahu’s (Real) Settlement Record

Jointly authored by Lara Friedman, APN (USA) and Hagit Ofran, Peace Now (Israel)

Defenders of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu have seized on a recent report in Haaretz to argue that Netanyahu’s record shows that he has, in fact, been less pro-settlements than his detractors (including Peace Now) have suggested. Their argument hinges on a single statistic raised in that story: the average number of construction starts in settlements per year, as counted by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS), across the 6 years Netanyahu has been in office, compared to that same number for previous prime ministers over the past 20 years.  But as is often the case when it comes to statistics, the devil is in the details, and a single statistic taken in isolation will always obscure more than it reveals.

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Peace Now Settlement Watch News Flash: Settlement-Related Updates Amidst Violence and Tensions

Following the increase in violence attacks and tensions between Israelis and Palestinians we wish to highlight two settlement-related updates with significant short and long term consequences on the reality on the ground:
1. Netanyahu announces intention to build bypass roads in the West Bank (our estimates and a case study of the Lieberman Road showcasing the impact of bypass roads on settlement development)

2.  Pending violent eviction of a Palestinian family in Silwan

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Wild Settlements

The murders of toddler Ali Dawabsha and his father Saed generated an uproar. The fire set to the house in the Palestinian village of Duma with its dwellers inside, led to the death of two and the mortal injury of two others. However, this horrid act was not committed in a void. Since 1999, when the illegal outposts began appearing in the nearby “Shiloh Valley,” the region has undergone a process of increased Israeli control and Palestinian ousting.

This objective is often achieved through violence as a political tool for altering the status quo in favor of the settlers. This process is made possible, inter alia, by the fact that the region is a lawless area. Throughout the years, wild outposts’ settlers have enjoyed ongoing support from the authorities, whether by act or omission: a local authority allocating financial support, government offices build and provide infrastructure, enforcement agencies avoid enforcing the planning and construction laws, security forces do not only protect illegal outpost settlers but also help them remove Palestinians from the farmlands, even when it is their personal land. Changes in this area in the years after the wild outposts were established demonstrate that the settlers’ presence in the area leads to ongoing thievery and acts of violence.


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Peace Now - Settlement Watch News Flash: Advancement of 1065 Housing Units in the Settlements

The sub-committee for settlements of the higher planning committee of the military’s Civil Administration met yesterday to discuss 15 plans, at various planning stages and in different settlements. In total, the committee discussed plans that regard 1,065 housing units. Of these housing units, the plan approved 541 new housing units, retroactively legalized 228 existing housing units, and approved the development of infrastructure for a plan that consists of 296 housing units, while further approval will be needed before construction of the housing units can begin.

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Peace Now News Flash: The Ramat Shlomo Plan is to get the Final Green Light

Shalom Achshav, APN's sister organization in Israel, reported:
The Jerusalem District committee for Construction and Planning will convene on Wednesday, 6/5/15, to approve Plan no. 11085 for the construction of 1,531 housing units in Ramat Shlomo. The plan was called "The Biden Plan" when during the visit of Vice President Biden in Jerusalem, on March 2010, the plan was approved for depositing by the planning committee
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