The Israeli Peace Now movement (Shalom Achshav) today released an explosive report detailing the record of Prime Minister Netanyahu's government on settlements over the course of its full term in office (April 2009-present). The report, based on official Israel government statistics, reports, and Peace Now field research, documents how over the past four years, the Netanyahu government has used settlements as a tool to systematically undermine the chances of achieving a viable, realistic two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, despite Netanyahu's rhetorical embrace of such a goal.
The full report is available in English, here.
Key findings of the report include:
- Promoting Construction East of the Barrier: Contrary to popular belief, under the Netanyahu government almost 40% of new construction starts were in isolated settlements, located east of the approved route of Israel's separation barrier in areas that would necessarily become part of Palestinian state - as opposed to in "settlement blocs." This is in stark contrast to previous years, when only 20% of construction in the settlements took place in settlements east of the barrier.
- A Record Number of Tenders for New Settlement Construction in the Short- and Medium-Terms: While the Netanyahu government issued almost no tenders during its first two years in office (due mainly to pressure from the Obama Administration), in the past two years the Netanyahu government abandoned any pretense of restraint, leading to a record number of tenders - a number that effectively erased the effects of the 10-month "moratorium" and paves the way for an explosion of construction in settlements in the coming years. In total, between March 31, 2009 and January 2013 the Netanyahu government issued tenders for the construction of 5302 housing units in settlements and East Jerusalem. Many of these tenders are focused on settlements - like Efrat and Ariel - whose expansion directly undermines the possibility of achieving a two-state solution.
- A Flood of Planning for New Settlement Construction in the Medium- and Long-terms: The Netanyahu government has advanced the planning for at least 8207 housing units in settlements, including thousands of units in isolated and remote settlements. These approvals pave the way for a huge increase in settlement construction in the coming years. The Netanyahu government has also advanced plans, and announced the intention to expedite plans, for massive settlement construction in East Jerusalem. This includes expediting construction of the settlement of E-1, which would effectively dismember the West Bank and prevent the emergence of a viable Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem.
- Establishing New Settlements: The Netanyahu government is the first government since the time of Yitzhak Shamir (1988-1990) to break this commitment and establish new settlements in the West Bank. It established 10 new settlements by legalizing illegal outposts and another new settlement through the approval of a new "neighborhood" of an existing settlement that is, effectively, a new settlement. It also announced plans to expedite the approval of the new settlement of E-1 - a settlement that previous governments promised not to build. In East Jerusalem, the Netanyahu government approved the establishment of the first new settlement since 1997 (when Har Homa was established under the first Netanyahu government.
- Legalizing Illegal Outposts/Promoting Illegal Construction: The Netanyahu government broke with previous governments' commitments to remove illegal outposts, adopting a new official policy explicitly supportive of illegal settlement construction. In announcing this policy, the government in effect declared that it had no intention to enforce the law on the settlers unless forced to by the courts. It also gave settlers a green light to establish facts on the ground as they saw fit, without government permits, without any oversight, and in violation of the laws adopted democratically by the state of Israel.
- Opening the Settlement Floodgates in East Jerusalem: The actions of the Netanyahu government in terms of support for East Jerusalem settlement expansion outstrip previous governments by every measure. In recent months, the Netanyahu government has opened the floodgates with respect to the approval of construction and planning for construction in East Jerusalem, resulting in a flood of approvals that dwarfs the number of settlement approvals issued over the course of the past two decades. Moreover, the location of much of the approved construction - in areas that are acutely sensitive, given their impact on the possibility of achieving any viable two-state peace agreement in the future - sends a message that the Netanyahu government is deliberately using East Jerusalem settlement approvals as a weapon to undermine the two-state solution.
- Demonstrating Extraordinary Generosity in Funding for Settlements: The Netanyahu government has presided over a period of intense upheaval inside Israel, focused on complaints related to social justice and socio-economic issues. During this period, the government has demonstrated little sympathy for the demands of its citizens living inside the Green Line, coupled with extraordinary generosity toward the settlers. According to the Finance Ministry for the Central Bureau Statistics, the Netanyahu government provided at least NIS 3.7 billion in surplus funding to settlements - funding that would not have been spent if the settlers were living inside Israel proper.
- Coddling Settler Law-Breakers: Under the Netanyahu government, violence and lawlessness by settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem - often part of a self-declared "price tag" campaign - has reached unprecedented heights. It has included challenges by settlers to the rule of law, with attacks not only against Palestinians and their property but also against IDF soldiers, Israeli police, and IDF military facilities. These attacks also began taking place inside Israel, with attacks on Palestinians in West Jerusalem and sporadic targeting of mosques and churches throughout the country. This issue, including death threats and attacks targeting Peace Now, has been covered well in the Israeli and international media- as has the fact that the Netanyahu government's response has been ineffectual at best.