Ori Nir 00:15
Hello, everyone. Welcome to this Americans for Peace Now webinar. With us today is peace now Executive Director, Lior Amihai. As you know, we before we start, we have our usual comments. So I will remind you that like all our webinars, this one is recorded and you will find the video recording probably tomorrow that will happen on our YouTube channel. The audio will be uploaded sometime later today to our podcast Peace Cast. I will also remind you that you are invited to ask questions and you can do that anytime during the webinar beginning now using our q&a tool that is at the bottom of your screen. I ask you that you keep your questions short, because we go through them as we go along with the webinar. I'm assuming that you by now you most of you, if not all of you are familiar with Lior Amihai, The executive director of Israeli sister organization Shalom Achshav, peace now, Lior has been with Peace Now for quite a few years as the co director of its settlements watch project. Then he joined Yesh Din and was its director, the director of Yesh Din, and recently he came back home to us to head Shalom Achshav, we're very happy about that. And really, you know, very few people know the situation in the West Bank on the ground, particularly as it relates to settlements, but better than Lior. So, Lior, thanks for joining us.
Lior Amihai 02:04
Thank you Ori, thanks for inviting me, and thank you for being here.
Ori Nir 02:08
And you know, the reason why we wanted you to talk to us and we were really grateful that you were able to do it at a kind of short notice is that Peace now was involved with a really interesting activity on Friday with the residents of Burqa, which is a West Bank village, northern part of the West Bank, that is really paying the price of the settlers return to a settlement called Homesh, or in a site, called Homesh. This was a settlement that was vacated and dismantled in 2005, as a part of the disengagement, and is now being reclaimed, if you will by the settlers and their allies, and the government. And peace now had a really interesting, together with other organizations, activity with the residents of Burqa on Friday. So I wanted to ask you, though, if you could tell us a little bit about the purpose of this action with Burqa's Palestinian residents, what happened? What was the significance of the action, as you talk, I will show some of the photos really great photos that were taken at the events. So I'll figure out how to share my screen. So go ahead Lior.
Lior Amihai 03:35
Thank you. And thank you for allowing me to share. So two questions, I think one is the purpose. And the other thing just to describe what really happened because that was was a dramatic event for for us. So the purpose maybe I'll say was to struggle against omission, what form of symbolizes and what Homesh means and there are a lot of elements to Homesh. So as you described right for the Homesh is an outpost that is an Israeli settlement that is being built by settler initiatives. And now it's being supported or supported for many years, but now directly by the government as well. Now, there are so many things that you can say about Homesh and I'll mention a few. One of them is settler violence, the violence settlers arriving from Homesh and attacking Palestinian villages, Burqa first and foremost, but also many others in the area is something that's been going on for years now since the establishment of that outpost and when I say violence I mean in the worst as we know it in the most violent means in the most frequency and and really just horrible things that we should all be ashamed of. The other thing that's Homesh is a symbol for is land theft, because homeownership is built on a hilltop, all of it is declared as private property of Palestinian farmers. There are three, two or three plots that are defined as public lands, so not private lands. But really, it's a hill, that's all private lands. And the fact that this small outpost sits there prevents Palestinian villagers to enter any of the plots of lands on that hill. And, you know, when I was the director of Yesh Din, you know, one of my shameful one of my low points as a director, when I feel that I failed, as a director, was when we were pressured by the judges, to let the Palestinian farmers enter their lands. Now, the deal was that there were, you know, there were for many points in time, the military prevented, legally speaking. So there was a military order that prevented Palestinians from entering that hilltop, but at some point, they removed the legal order. And then the state said, but look, the Palestinians are not going to their lands. And we argued, oh, they can't, because once they once they do, they're met with severe violence. And the state didn't really believe us. And the judges didn't really believe us, because, you know, if they make a complaint to the police, and if they don't complain to the police, therefore, it didn't happen. And if the military didn't prevent it, or didn't document that it didn't happen. And we were getting the feeling that, that our lawyers were getting the feeling that if we want to make the cut, we have to make the case. And we have to show the persons are attracted to the land and to see what happens. And we sort of told that, ultimately look, you with the judges want to see this would make a good argument, try to go there and and we sort of didn't want to say convince them, but we told them, this would help their case. And they went and they went with one of these things field researcher again, it was the director of the time. And again, that the violence that came out against them, I felt at the time in your own today's technology, it's all live, right. So you know, you've sensed the fear and the voice of my yesterday's field, we sit through there, and the Palestinians who were just running from their lives, and they caught one of the Palestinians, and they beat them. And following that incident, you know, yesterday and myself as a director, we immediately went to work to the Palestinian village and apologize, we went one by one to all these houses that were injured due to that attack. And we said sorry, sorry for putting you under this pressure to go to your lands. In order to make the legal case, it wasn't worth it. You guys know best, how to handle your politics, and how to handle your struggle. And we shouldn't interfere, that was really a low point for me, and that we sort of enabled and this sort of pressure on them. And that's a demonstration of length deficit of balance. Now, Homesh is also a symbol of other things. And I'll say them really briefly, one is the attempt to go back to the north part of the West Bank, the West Bank, the north part of the West Bank is the only territory that doesn't have settlements. There is one area that there's settlements. And of course, it's the Jordan Valley. That's there's settlements there. But if you look at the map, the West Bank, there's a chunk of land that's almost Indian without, of course with military with military presence, but without settlers, and this is dramatic, because politically speaking, of course, this means that if you want to get past in a two state solution, Palestinian state, you don't have to evacuate settlements is not an issue for negotiations whatsoever. And the government of Israel is trying to change that. And they want to establish settlements. You know, Jenin is on the news. Now, they want to start with settlements all around Jenin. And hopefully, by establishing Homesh, that's a first step to establish further settlements in that area for the settlements and outposts. You know, maybe I'll say a last point that what I think almost symbolizes, and that is the protests in Israel and the judiciary changes that the government is trying to do, because, as I said, Homesh sits on private Palestinian lands. And there is a legal case against the settlement of Homesh. And one of the arguments is that it's a private Palestinian. Now, again, I want to stress the coalition is an illegal outpost or unauthorized outpost, that means that all the structures that are there in the presence of settlers, they're illegal, according to Israeli law, not only according to international law, so the legal argument, of course, is problematic for the State. You know, there's an outpost there is there is illegal construction, there's illegal presence of settlers, you know, what's happening, why aren't you preventing them? And the government of Israel knows that so And as I said, there's 1, 2, or 3 plots of lands that are not privately owned, they're publicly public lands. And so what the Israeli government did, they sort of, you know, told or maneuvered it in a way or strategically or tactically, whatever, decided to move the outpost from the private lands, to the public lands. Now, concretely, it's it doesn't mean anything, because Palestinians still don't have access to any of the plots of land that are private. So it doesn't matter if they're on one of the private lands, or extended public lands, because the entire hilltop is, you know, there's no access. But Legally speaking, once, if the settlement was on public land, the state government of Israel could go to the court and say, Oh, look, it's on a private land, it's on a public land, we will establish an asset to them. And they're now this is so wrong in so many ways, because, of course, public land is Palestinian public land, and except for settlements, or settlers, or whatever, but to the court, this is acceptable, and Israel could then make the case Oh, look, we're establishing some public land. It's not, it's not the very private lands. Because this is an unauthorized outposts. You cannot establish an outpost on public land, either it doesn't have a plan, it's not approved and anything. So and you cannot, you know, forgot to put you know, you cannot bring equipment to establish a settlement there at all, it's illegal in order to establish a settlement, you have to have a plan, it has to be approved as a government decision, etc. A lot of things happen. But in order to make the legal case, the government of Israel ordered the military to enable that there will be equipment, and you know, tractors or whatever it's called to enter the hilltop and to establish the outpost on the public plot. Now, this is an illegal order by the government, this got this, this means that the government told the military enable construction, without a plan without a government decision, you know, without any steps that are being taken that illegal, take that and build an outpost in order by the government to build an illegal outpost, I go against Israeli law. So the government is giving is giving the military in order to do something illegal according to Israeli law. And guess what happened? The military accepted and enabled this. Now, when we're talking about traditional changes in the Israeli government, everybody's talking about what will happen if the government will have all this power? And who will the military commanders listen to? Will they listen to the rule of law? Or will they listen to the orders coming from the government? And here we saw a first example of an illegal order that was accepted by the military that didn't create any court informed much public discussion about it, and just happened? And this is a shameful moment, I think, for the military and also for Israel, and exemplifies what will happen if and once constitutional changes will proceed.
Ori Nir 13:15
Fascinating before we go to the actual activity that you did there on Friday, just a clarification. Homesh was a full fledged settlement before? 2005? Right? Yes. So was it built then already on private Palestinian land?
Lior Amihai 13:33
Yes, the answer is yes. And it was a much bigger settlement. And it took the entire hilltop and yes, entirely private Palestinian land. And the justification for that was that it was built in 1978. And until 1979, when Israel established settlements in the West Bank, the status of the lands, whether it's private or public, was meaningless, because the justification was security. And they just took military orders. There's still settlements to this day that sit on private Palestinian land that were established in the 70s. And they really continue to renew the military order, the military taking care of the military order to take profit off the land, and are just done with a settlement. This policy generally ended in 1979, the 80s. But once Israel evacuated the settlements in 2005, you know, theoretically, the Palestinians, you know, the only makes sense that they'll go back to their land. And still they haven't. So to this day, almost 20 years since 18 years since the evacuation of a settlement of a status on private Palestinian land. Palestinian land owners have not entered or cannot go back to their lands.
Ori Nir 14:42
So you decided together with the residents of Burqa to march on Homesh? What happened?
Lior Amihai 14:53
So this is very exciting. And we had several sort of, we had several discussions on the piece in the office and we said well, hoping you do. And then one of the colleagues said, Maybe let's have a joint march. And frankly, I was very skeptical, because for two reasons. One is that whoever's familiar with the Israeli Palestinian conflict, the past two decades have been horrible. For Israeli Palestinian cooperation. It just doesn't happen. It doesn't work. You know, it's an anti-normalization for the Palestinian in the the weakness of the Israeli left. On the other hand, the shaming the traitor nests, if you wanted to collaborate, Palestinians, there are so many reasons and also that it didn't work. So Palestinians are in place with said, look, it doesn't work it just just but there's not any, I think I think there aren't any joint Israeli Palestinian collaborations in the occupied territories. To this day, there are some may be, but they're more economic based, or people to people without a political sort of direct political purpose or another struggle for the occupation. So maybe an economic discussions or maybe for an environment or maybe for these sort of things, but they don't discuss or deal with the occupation. And they don't, they're not in maybe an upfront. So this is something novel in that sense. The other thing that I was skeptical about this was we knew, I know, you know, from firsthand experience, that those who will pay the price for this march are the Palestinians, Palestinians will be shot at by the military grenades, through tear gas. And it will be followed and met with several banners during the march following the birth. Certainly, it's just a month ago, we brought diplomats from the EU to work out to the Palestinian village to view Homesh, that evening, settlers from Homesh arrived and made settler attacks on Palestinians. So what they took price that immediately follows and taking these two scenarios in mind, so one that you know, anti-normalization, this doesn't happen anymore. And two, that the Palestinians will pay the price for this, I was very skeptical. Nevertheless, Peace now has contacts with Burqa for quite some time now, through our settlement watch units or activity last year, we also made some activity jointly with Burqa, and we discussed it. And I must say that was a moment that I was like, wow, they were so enthusiastic about it. They said, Look, this is so important for us, we have our legal battle, this will show the court that we're serious this will so this will prove the court that you know we can't go to our lands, we really want to make a public event around this, you know, to the legal case will be you know, amplified in the public arena. And they were like come on come every Friday, let's do this several that they were like pushing us to do this. And they say, look, let's do this together. And we started and we met four or five times during the past two months, perhaps. And we planned this out very strategically. We said okay, we'll meet on the state. And we'll go from here. And there's a row that goes over here. Oh, and this goes through Area C. I can't move there without the permission of the military whenever. So we found a route that's all in Area C. And we discussed it in a way really we just planned it out. And we thought of how to make it through. And again, this was and we maintain the identities of both publics like we went on, I'll say differently. There are there in the past, there was some collaboration to the Israelis and Palestinians. But it was always like inconvenient. That was full on a Palestinian struggle, and you had Israelis that weren't supportive of that. But an Israeli Palestinian struggle against something taking in mind that this is first and foremost a Palestinian struggle, but you also have Israelis coming with their identity to this was something novel. So we planned it out. And, and again, they loved it. They wanted this this was something that, you know, they even encouraged us to do.
Ori Nir 19:24
They received a formal invitation from the mayor of Burqa right from the head of the local council.
Lior Amihai 19:31
And again, and this is to my request, because knowingly that these are all private Palestinian lands I didn't want that will bring the Israelis to trespass on private lands. So I said we have to have an official invitation that you know we're we're against it there's going to trespassing a Palestinian land so we can't do it ourselves. So we have an invitation to this so we can even show the military will ask or to even to justify to ourselves and to the public but we're not and the immediately wrote this and they said this beautiful letter saying they're the people of work are inviting us to a nonviolent march to their lands. And yeah, they were completely supportive of this.
Ori Nir 20:14
What happened on Friday?
Lior Amihai 20:17
So what happened on Friday. So first of all, the Israelis, once we came out with a call that we're going to march, we got immediate support by Israeli organizations. So before we came out with a call, we approached other Israeli colleague organizations from Zazim and breaking the silence and all these other and Combatants for Peace and, and then about 10, Israeli organizations, and so much and others, I feel that I need to mention all of them by name, and really all their logos there. And we sort of shared with this. And of course, Yesh Din with in front of the court. And all of these organizations were supportive of this Yesh Din, the lawyers, they love the idea makes their case even stronger. So we really got encouraged by the support, and everybody wanted to join this sort of March. And once we came out publicly, the amount of Israelis that joined, you know, it was we had 450 participants who paid for a bus ride. That's, you know, usually when I was at Peace now, five or 10 years ago, we never had people pay for the buses, we'd order a couple of buses, people would sign up, and you're just to make it as many people as possible. Now, because of the mass, and we wanted to better organize it. Okay, let's, you know, let's collect a small fee for the bus ride. We give some tickets, and we get the people are buying we had, again 40 to 50 people participate. And this is a time that we had in the last week that this happened. There were think, several, at least two attacks, one terror attack against an Israeli separately, and another against an Israeli solider not too far from that area, were being shot at by Palestinian fighters. And also there was a military operation, a very severe one at Jeanine, just a couple of days. It ended on Wednesday, I think ish. So, and still in this, of course, I think if we didn't have these sort of events, you know, we've had we've doubled the number of members, because we reached 400, the figure or 350, or something earlier in the week, so Jenin, and all that I think, in the event made it stop the participant, we would have many more if we if this depends in happen. But nevertheless, we had nine buses, full buses of Israelis from the entire areas of Israel from the north to the south from Jerusalem, Haifa, Tel Aviv, the Galil from Beer Sheva, coming in to this March. And what happened was that we started driving to right before we entered the West Bank, we all the buses met. And we started driving, you know, as all the nine buses together one after the other, and knowingly that the military would prevent this not. Because we said anything, we've been notified that we sent a letter to the military earlier the week saying, Look, we're going into this March, please prepare yourself in advance, because of the violence. make sure that the settlers won't attack us. So the military was well aware of this. On Monday morning, the event was Friday, and they didn't respond to this. So we were nine buses were in the West Bank, we're driving to Burqa. And we are expected from our experience and our knowledge about struggles in the occupied territory is really struggles against the occupation. We knew that the military would prevent us despite the fact that they didn't mention anything. And we we went on off routes. And we started driving, to an off Route just just parallel to the main road, that once we took the turn, the military came and stopped us. And they didn't say it wasn't illegal. They didn't say anything. And they're preventing us. They said, Hey, wait, let us check. What are you doing here? We're not familiar this all of a sudden, and then buses. Let's see. And we immediately understood what's happening. They were sort of reinforcing themselves and getting organizing themselves in order to prevent a march. Once we sort of understood that we told all the participants that this is happening. The military is about to prevent us from walking. They've already stopped our buses from continuing. We have to start marching to the March, we have to start marching to Burqa to the village in order to start to meet the Palestinian partners. And this was a tough decision, because we had young people certainly, but we also have elderly people. And this was you know, this is Israel. of the occupied territories. This is the summer. This is a there's no shadows there. So it's all under the sun. And we had a three and a half kilometer walk. That's I think about two miles, I believe , I think about two mile walk. And some of the people were above the age of 80. But nevertheless, we started marching. And more or less, you know, the military enabled us to do so we outnumbered them dramatically. They were just, you know, four or five soldiers. We were, again, about 400 Israelis and we started marching. And that was a very optimistic point, because we had the drums and we had, we were singing songs and slogans and just walking freely and understanding and hopefully that were coming. Once we finished the three and a half kilometer, the two mile walk, the military sort of was prepared for us at the end of the road, and met us there and said, Oh, you're not continuing anywhere. And at that point, they started throwing grenades, as you call it, when they hit him. So it's not like
Ori Nir 26:09
Lior Amihai 26:15
at a field, a very dry field of olive trees. And they started every time they threw these stun grenades, it started making fires, and the fire started spreading. And the people started going to various directions to sort of avoid the fire and to try to escape the military. And this is a place where I was very afraid, because we sort of lost control of the events we I lost, as the director who led the march, you know, we lost control of what's happening. People were starting to disperse themselves. One they wanted to reach Burqa, the protesters, we wanted to get there. On the other hand, we wanted to escape the fire. And again, we were a mix of young and elderly and, and people were you know, we're smokey, we're smelling and breathing the smoke, and feeling the tear gas in our eyes. And people were going to various directions, it was very fearful moment. And also know that I think even people that were experienced in our experience in the circle, were surprised by the military retaliation, because it's shameful. But it's true that, you know, they're, they're Palestinians cannot protest non violent in the occupied territories, they're always met with violence. And Palestinians cannot march is about if the Palestinians want to make the march that we did, Israeli they can't. And they will be met with Livefyre if they do so, and the rest and whatever. But us Israelis were privileged, we're not used the, you know, the minute we had officers in the March, you know, we had four members of Knesset in the march, and they were thrown stamp grenades, and being in tear gas, etc. So we were we were surprised by the extent or how the military responded to us. Now, this created something good, because through the mess, we had one group of about 200 people that started walking to Burqa on the main highway, and another about 70 people and a different way to worker and those 70 people made it to work and maybe 100 people, they made it to work. And the rest was just all over. And I was pitching these people, I was just going around to make sure that everybody's safe. And we know everybody we know where everybody's at and etc. And what was also amazing is that Palestinians were there either because they knew of the protests, and they wanted to meet us. So they came or just others that were just there, started bringing us water and started taking the elderly in their cars and bringing to Burqa we had Israelis who came to Burqa without the military knowing it in Palestinian cars, because they just saw these people walking there. They were all dried up under the sun in between fire and tear gas and whatever. And they took them in their cars and brought them to the village in order to take care of them. So it's just absurd, and in a way also sad that Israel is at this point that a peaceful march against illegality against thievery against violence, you know, of hope of Israeli Palestinians together, you know, being brave and courageous, you know, we are going against our government, Palestinian village going against anti normalization. And, and this is in the military and the government is responding as it did. Now, we ended up very proud and very optimistic because one we did have the 70, maybe 100 Israelis that did good work or the march in Burqa worker, and you know, and we had the slogan in Hebrew and Arabic And of course, it was the same story again, when in the coordination, we decided together and so it was all and the we had the sticks with the slogans on it again and who resolved jointly together so happy we made the march with Burqa. So to a degree was was successful, and we met to the person that we succeeded. On the other hand, it was very severe, very violent. And and I think it just shows that again, this sort of action is what the Israeli government fears for the most, you know, joint Israeli Palestinian cooperation and gets the occupation is something that, you know, people just don't know how to handle. And maybe I'll just say another sentence. And in context, we are about, what, what, two weeks following severe pogroms by Israeli settlers against Palestinians. Hundreds of settlers going into Palestinian villages, throwing cocktail, Molotov cocktail bottle that multiple, you know, throwing stones at belting ability burning cars, without arrests, enable them in the military is always restraint, you know, enabling them to do so. While they do it, they establish six, seven outposts in addition outpost. Yes, let's accept it, the military is not preventing that. So you can see the different responses to this.
Ori Nir 31:03
So are you at peace now planning to continue with this type of, of activity? I know that in the past, there was a little bit of a reluctance on the Israeli side of the peace now side to engage in such activities. And I also know, obviously, that there's a great deal of reluctance on the Palestinian side, to engage in activities that have to do with what is known as normalization. Do you feel like there is potential for more such activity in the future?
Lior Amihai 31:36
I think so. But in the same sort of manner that we conducted this one, I think that this week or next week, we will drive up to Burqa once again, and organize them next up in stages, I think that there is a feeling that we do want to do this again, and we do want to do we want to be smart, we want to do it again, it showed power and strength. However, we do want to speak with about this to see what they feel, I must tell you that the immediate responses by our Palestinian colleagues were very positive, you know, when we were sitting on the ground, for hours waiting for the people, you know, for the set, the people of 70, that made it to Burqa, the other 300 was waiting about two kilometers below, in the shade and whatever. And during that time, Palestinians from Burqa, took different various, you know, offset routes, you know, because they know better than anyone, you know, they live there. And they came speaking with us, people from the municipality, people from the village, and they spoke to us, and they were so enthused and so happy. And, you know, I don't really know the reason for this. But one of the explanations that we thought of, or that somebody said, and I think it has some essence to it is true, is that because of anti normalization, and because of that there is no Israeli Palestinian joint activities on this for so long. This, you know, this was a moment of hope we showed them I think it's really is that support their cause? And we weren't, we weren't different kind of we weren't the military, and we weren't settlers, and we weren't the state that, you know, we're taking their land or violent settlers, you know. So this, I think they were very encouraged. And we already received sort of calls from from few of them that we should plan again, and we should conduct it and a lot of ideas. But we haven't done this officially yet. So we'll go on the coming days there. And we'll plan it together.
Ori Nir 33:42
Let's zoom out a little bit and go back to, you know, our well known territory shows of settlements and talk a little bit about you just issued a new report that has a lot of data on settlement construction settlement activity in the in the territories. Obviously, there's a rise in numbers this we all knew with the new government. But what is interesting to me, and I wanted to ask you to talk about a little bit is to go a little bit beyond the numbers and talk about patterns, whether there are new patterns that characterize this government's attitude toward settlement construction.
Lior Amihai 34:25
Oh, thank you for this question. And I think this is this question is the one I when I brief, you know, people around this is what I tried to say that basically, the message is that, you know, this past half year of the government there, I think there are four trends, four or five trends that are happening, that are going under the radar and that people are noticing, because the focus is on the judicial changes because the focus is on so many other things that this government is doing. And government's policies on the occupation is it's not going it's not heard doesn't make the news there is discussion and there's even international criticism toward them. But the sort of the bird's eye view, a broader picture, something that altogether I think is missing in the analysis. And I think the first one is what you said. And that's the extent of the the amount of settlements and housing units that they're establishing in half a year. They've surpassed any other year in recent history. Maybe since 1967. Peace Now settlement watching is systematically collecting this data of, you know, the amount of housing units in plans since 2012. Of course, it hasn't been a lot of other information systematically from before. And it's the most than any other year. And we sort of started comparing it to two other various data. And we believe that it's the most in any other year since 1967, that they have events in half a year in less than or in about half a year. Now, and this is spread out in all over the West Bank. And the second thing in regards to this is, of course, the policy towards outposts. And I think they're, I think two things to say about that, or three. One is that they're the policy is to retroactively legalize all the outposts, are roughly 150 outposts in the other in the occupied territories. Now to retroactively legalize an outpost, it has two main implications. One, it's a recognition of a new settlement, something that Israel in the past didn't want to do there for the outposts. The Outpost is a way to establish a settlement without recognizing it. So in order not to receive international criticism, this doesn't matter anymore for the State of Israel. And the second is a forest marsh in actuality. An outpost is relatively small, it's maybe 20, mobile homes, etc. Once you make it in a settlement, it becomes much larger, it's much more infrastructure roads, you know, just one example, you have one a couple of outputs or maybe 20 mobile homes or just a few. And they have plans for about roughly 200 housing units for them. So 200 housing units, you know, that's 1000, 1200 settlers, this, it's a small town 20 mobile homes, it's much smaller. So it is very significant. Now, so the Israeli government intends to retroactively legalize all of them. So far, it's retroactive. And again in half a year had already retroactively legalized 18. Again, this is I don't think that in any other, so I've never done so in such extent that this is something very significant is never done. Now, the other thing that they're doing is that all these outposts that they haven't retroactively legalized, there are many of them, they've started to connect them to roads, or infrastructure, etc. In fact, they made a decision a government decision that says that they're comprising the list of all of these outposts that they intend to legalize, we believe the figures about 70 or 80, and they're saying, Look, we're well aware, we can't just start the activity we got involved, that will be too much, you know, criticism. However, whichever outposts will be in the list will already started receiving infrastructure, electricity, water, etc. So you know, they're starting the legalization, the de facto legalization. But if you want, that's of course significant, because an outpost, you know, that's not connected to normal electricity, and once it is connected to a electricity, or once it's connected to a much improved road will make access to it and much more attractive to people to move there. And that's also the idea for now. Now, it's, you know, we have settlers were living in outposts for many years, and they're starting to complain. And once you make it a settlement, then of course, life improves dramatically. Now, I'll say two other trends, and maybe I won't focus too much of them. One of them is, of course, roads, generally in the occupied territories. You know, there's something that's been there for quite some time, so the government isn't new on this. However, we did look at the budget for this year, and 25% of the budget of transportation ministry is on roads in the occupied territories for settlers. Now, this is absurd, because some of the settlements are close to the green line. This is that road for them. This is roads for settlements that are deep in the occupied territories. So for a very small population, so about 5% of the Israeli public lives in the West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem. Most of them live close to the green line. In many ways. Those who are leaving deep in the West Bank are almost often the more radical one the most difficult one for solution, so, these are the ones that are going to get these new improved roads, again, from political purposes, because once you shorten the gap deep in the West Bank from the State of Israel, it becomes a much more attractive settlement, you know, you can start driving there and becomes a suburb of the State of Israel, and what's the problem, etc. And the other thing I'll say is about industrial areas, just there's one industrial area that they're balancing, this is going to be the largest industrial area in the occupied territories, for settlements, of course. And, again, it has no sense whatsoever. People are opposing it from all from non political sort of points of view, to other industrial areas in the area within Israel are saying, we don't want this and because it's its competition, and you don't need it, it has no economic logic to it whatsoever. There's only one logic to it. And that's to normalize the settlements, because okay, we'll bring Israel's to shop there will will make businesses open there, and will sort of blur the green line completely. And in order to bring Israelis the Israeli economy to the occupied territories. And that's the idea behind it. That's also happening. Okay, number six. Two more points that I should say, and I missed one is the north part of the West Bank, which is, I should have said, that's like one of the most significant ones. Again, I mentioned before, so I won't repeat that, again, the north part of the West Bank is a place that's there's passing continuity, there aren't any settlements there. And this is going to change. This is already changing. So if you close your eyes and imagine the only region in the occupied territories that doesn't have any settlements in half a year time to two year time in four years time, I don't know. But soon enough, it will be an area with settlements and outposts. And just like any other area in the occupied territories, this will affect first and foremost, Palestinians, because their livelihood will change dramatically. But it will also change, you know, the life of soldiers that will have to defend small outposts in around Jenin. And of course, anyone who believes in two state solution, this will make it much more problematic. And Israel make three strategic decisions about this one of those four issues we mentioned. The other is it canceled the disengagement law from 2005, which prevented Israelis to enter that area now Israelis are enabling or unable to enter that area. And the other thing is that they're making touristic site and archaeological site, they're investing about slightly less than $10 million in a touristic archaeological site in a Palestinian village, in order to make it a Jewish heritage site, the Israelis will come there and visit there and attract company to come there. So these sort of things is already changed in order to change the north part of the West Bank and to make it a very, very tandem, you know, there's a lot of settlements and outposts and Israeli presence there. And maybe in the last one, I'll say, and I'll stop there is, of course, the one in Maale Adumim, which is, you know, was never in the business following knows that this area is very sensitive from a political point of view. And I'll say two things about that. One is that it cuts the West Bank, it's problematic from the heart of the West Bank, you know, it's a center it distracts Ramallah, East Jerusalem and Bethlehem. And the other thing is, is that there's Palestinian communities living there. And what Israel is doing now the government of Israel, what it's doing now is it's creating a Palestinian road that will mobilize all Palestinian traffic out of the one Maale Adumim area, in order that it will be de facto annexing so it's not saying oh, we're annexing this area. It's creating the reality that there won't be any Palestinians there. And then it's de facto annex. And, and then they will be able to say, Oh, look, what's the problem, we can annex this area, it's not preventing anything another there are no Palestinians there. And there's a road that could connect Ramallah and Bethlehem we will establish it for them. But in essence, it means that this area will be without Palestinians, and will enable the annexation of the Maale Adumim. And I know this is very detailed and if it's not clear, I'll be able to spend more or less movement aside the take from it is that without fully annexing Maale Adumim, one, Israel is making the Government of Israel is making the physical changes on the ground to make a de facto annex a very large territory without Palestinians that will be almost, in essence part of the State of Israel.
Ori Nir 44:20
And if people were you know, watching this or interested in more details about E-1 or about any other of the issues that we just spoke about there, you can find them on peace now's website. Lior, before we continue, there are two clarification questions regarding the protest to Friday. One of them is did the march ever reach permission? No, it did not, right?
Lior Amihai 44:47
It did not. But I must say and this is an insider that we our main purpose. We wanted to watch as much we knew that the military will document and our goal was then we'll have a joint Israeli Palestinian march. That was our goal. We wanted the Israeli people to meet the Palestinian people and join together. And we succeeded to a certain degree to do that. So how did it go from us? We knew that we'd be prevented, but in our sort of discussions beforehand, we knew that that's unrealistic to do under the current circumstances, let's try to maneuver and just get the march together.
Ori Nir 45:22
Yeah. And, you know, I follow closely the coverage in both the Israeli media, the international media, the coverage was very, very extensive. There's a lot of coverage. So that image of Israelis and Palestinians marching together was definitely out there. The other clarification question is, who set fires and why? We discussed it, the fires were not intentionally set, they were a result of the, you know, the very dry weather and the stun grenades that were thrown by the IDF, correct?
Lior Amihai 46:02
I don't know, if they were intentionally set, but They were, because the first fire that started, the military started, it started to try to stop at the standard stop, prevent the fire from happening. That was the first fire, there were dozens of fires that started opening up. So even if they didn't intentionally think of it in advance, the they realized immediately that this is happening, and they continue to do so. And he stopped preventing the fires from happening. We had Palestinian firefighters coming and starting to get the fire off. So the military knew what they were doing. And it really created this mess. So yes, it was a soldier who was doing the sunrise, they created the fire. And they knew that it would happen. And it happened in in many, many locations in the field of understanding.
Ori Nir 46:52
So we discussed several ways in which new government policies are advancing de facto annexation. Another one, and he just issued a report on that is the is a bureaucratic one. And that is the settlement administration under a minister of Betzalel Smotrich within the Ministry of Defense. Let's talk a little bit about that. We don't have much time left. But what is it the settlement administration? And how does it advance the process of West Bank annexation?
Lior Amihai 47:28
Okay, so this is a very important question. And I'll try to be very simple about as much as possible, because it is very complicated. And again, when we say trends, this is probably I didn't mention, but this is probably the most important trend that's happening. And the trend is that Israel does not officially annexing the occupied territories, it realized that it can't, or probably because of international pressure, it wants to but it just it knows that it will do that it will be a step too much. The Government of Israel is very clever, doing exactly an inch below chaos, which is like it's doing whatever it can just an inch below to prevent. So but but it is de facto and it's creating, it's doing taking policies and actions that are defective, the Euro annex territories. And the most, the biggest step is what's happening with Smotrich, and the authority that he's been given. Now, I'll just say that Smotrich is one of the most radical ministers, somebody who has been the director of one of the most awful organizations that its purpose is to demolish houses, in the occupied territories. And somebody that's very knowledgeable, that is entire ideology is to build settlements, build outposts, and to transfer Palestinians away from their lands. That's the only purpose for him. And because of this government, he has been received. He's been covering the finance minister, and also Minister within the Ministry of Defense. But he's very clever, and knowing me that the tenure was very weak. And at this government, we won't get into that. But anyway, he took the political opportunity given to him and being the finance minister has enabled to allocate the funding and also as maneuver over the minister of defense because that also needs money. So a very pivotal and strong person within the government, and also minister in the Ministry of Defense that he took upon himself, various authorities have never given to anyone else. And he forced or he signed an agreement with with the Minister of Defense that sort of gave him authorities that were never given to anyone else that we're from whether we're at the minister of defense. And as part of that, he has also established what they call the settlement administration. And the idea is to manage all aspects of life of the settlers in the settlements. Now, this is very complicated for Palestinians. Really, what's the point to get here is that the West End is not annexed to Israel. This means that it's ruled governed by the military. This means that the mandate is from international law. And that, in theory, the manager of the military is supposed to take the considerations of Palestinians. First and foremost. obviously, this doesn't happen. But nevertheless, it's still run by military. And that's the obligation. And that's what it's supposed to, it's been held to account to. Now what settlers are frustrated with is that they don't want this. They want to be just like another region within the State of Israel. And what he's basically practically doing is creating a ministry that will be responsible for the settlers. And he's putting civilians there that are reporting to him, and that their obligation is to the Israeli citizens. Now, again, again, this is very complicated, but because it's it's complicated, because we know how the Israeli policy is, and we know that it's already pro settlers and pro settlements, and against Palestinians. But this is taking it a structural level much further. And enabling the civilians will be will report to Smotrich that they will have no, you know, whatsoever any obligations enshrined in the law or to the Palestinian, they won't be under consideration at all. And they will only have to take care of you know, their obligation to the settlers. And they're going to run the life of the settlers pretty much. So this is in, in essence, what it is. And structurally, this is dramatic, because first of all, it really makes no sense. There is no difference anymore for settlements, or are going to become just like there's gonna be like, like a ministry of settlements. And they're reported to the Israeli government. So the Israeli government is, in essence directly running the show, and they're not the military anymore. There and and, of course, the the authority that this administration took on itself and the fact that Palestinians are being not considered at all makes it a direct annexation.
Ori Nir 52:37
Lior, we'd have to start wrapping up and we'll do that soon with, with the help of our chair of the board. Jim, classical join us soon. Before we do that, just a quick question, because I know that people are always interested in the American angle. President Biden yesterday said a few critical things about this government and about its settlement policy. Today, Minister Smotrich already had a comeback, where he said Israelis are allowed to build wherever they want in the land of Israel. Is this government attuned at all? Does it care at all about what the American administration is saying about about US policy regarding settlements and things of that sort?
Lior Amihai 53:20
I think that the Israeli government considers three things when it makes decisions when they, when they, if they could do whatever they want, there are only three sort of elements that could stop them. One of them is the military. And therefore, the fact that we have now, you know, under the protest, we have people from the reserves are saying we will not serve anymore, that threatens the Israeli government. The second is the economy, that if you had businessmen, and you have the high tech industry saying we will not invest, we will take our funding out, that's a threat to the Israeli policy. And the third is the international community. And I must say, this is the weakest link here, because it's not serving to its end. And if, you know, we feel here, that if the international community and first and First Americans, we'd be more strict with the Government of Israel with in regards its policies, first and foremost, the occupied territories also, of course, the digital the attempt to digital change it but of course, also to the occupied territories, which is international, you know, it's between it's not an internal Israeli thing, it's a matter of between Palestinian Israelis and if the Americans would be more strict there. I think it will make a much bigger impact. But yes, they are definitely attuned to the fact that Smotrich is not being met by anyone in the States is not being met with anyone in France or anywhere else around the world like we've been through your that means a lot it characterizes them to this village Republicans strengthened the point of they see them as radical, you know, lunatics that know that have no sense in mind. It's very important. And I must say that our hope is that, you know, what more do we need? Right? Because for many years, we had this practice on the ground that was against a two state solution. But the Israeli government had the service of saying, Oh, no, you know, we can evacuate them we left the peninsula with South Lebanon, with the Gaza Strip, you know, we can do it under a political agreement that the Palestinians are not partners. Now, the Israeli government is saying, you know, we will never have a Palestinian state, that the, you know, the Palestinian, you know, future will always be under occupation. There's no other alternative for them. And that's the official policy and the official practice. So what more do we need to have? The Americans take a stronger role? And yes, and has a very big impact on the Israeli government and also in the Israeli public that's watching and, and not doing is also meeting because that shows that, you know, that's fine. That's, that's maybe it's up. So that's a big problem. Anyway, it's Americans don't care about it.
Ori Nir 56:12
That was, of course, a leading question. In order to lead me after your comments, obviously, to tell anyone who's listening to this, that it really is our role to put pressure on our administration, to in turn, put pressure on the Israeli government to reverse its course, or at least to stop. And, in that vein, I'd like to invite Jim Klutznuck, Chair of our Board, to say a few words in closing,
Jim Klutznick 56:51
Thank you Ori and thank you Lior, and your colleagues, and the fellow Israeli organizations and all the participants of this March, in spite of all the odds against it, I think it's, it's encouraging not only in and of itself, and for the reasons that you stated, for the work, you, as our colleagues do on the ground there and Ori noted what we try to do over here and are encouraged to do even more so in light of what you're doing. I think what you guys did, hopefully shows the major demonstrators who've been now added for over, It's about seven months now, They've been at this, I think our seven No, I'm sorry, is 27. For about a half. Yeah, it is over a half a year they've been doing this. And I hope they're listening and seeing what you've done, because they need to incorporate the Palestinians into what they're doing. And you noted that in in your talk. And you guys are on the front line there. And I encourage everybody who's listening to this, and who heard you today to join us and you in helping enable our government to understand and I think our president the other day, they you know, a matter of fact, it was yesterday was Fareed Zakaria made the point about the Israeli government at this point. And so I applaud you. We salute you, a and we join with you, and we will back you up here in the United States, and we need to help our own fellow Jews in America, understand that after all these years of propaganda, they better start joining the right side here and allow for a two state solution. And most importantly, sovereignty for the Palestinian people. You won't have peace there until there is. So thank you. Goodbye. Regards to everybody. In Israel, at Shalom Achshav. It's good to see you.
Ori Nir 59:14
Thank you, Jim. Just a reminder before we say goodbye, that the recording the audio recording of this webinar will be available on our podcast podcast sometime later today and on our YouTube channel sometime tomorrow. Lior, thank you very, very much for joining us.
Lior Amihai 59:34
Thank you Ori. Thank you, Jim, for this kind of work and words. And of course, none of this could have happened without your support through a year long support for us. So it means the world to us. And so thank you, Jim, and thank you Ori for everything and for enabling me to be here.