On 24 September, 2014 the Jerusalem local Planning and Construction Committee published an ad in a local Jerusalem weekly announcing the validation of plan No. 14295 for the construction of 2,610 housing units in Givat Hamatos (link to the ad). Following the harsh reactions of the Americans, Netanyahu tried to argue that there was nothing to criticize him about. Here are a few facts following Netanyahu's claims:
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.