NOW AVAILABLE: APN's groundbreaking settlements map app

Israel's 51-year-old occupation of the West Bank – which denies Palestinians their rights, corrodes Israeli society and democracy, and continually damages prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace – is fundamentally anchored in the Israeli settlement enterprise in the West Bank. Settlements stand in the way of a two-state solution by preventing a viable, contiguous, independent state of Palestine, a purpose for which they were explicitly designed.

That’s why Americans for Peace Now is today releasing Facts on the Ground, a new, completely revamped and upgraded version of the groundbreaking settlements map app, available for free on iPhone and Android.

Download APN’s Facts on the Ground for iPhone or Android.

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The Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics today published data on construction starts in Israel and the West Bank, indicating that in the second quarter of 2018, 794 new apartments were built in the settlements, compared with only 279 in the first quarter. In the first half of 2018, construction began on 1,073 settlement housing units, compared to 870 in the first half of 2017. Peace Now: The Netanyahu government continues to destroy the chances for peace. Further construction in the settlements undermines Israel's interest in reaching a two-state solution, as such a solution will not be stable without a viable Palestinian state, which settlements increasingly threaten. Unfortunately, since Trump's election, we have seen a sharp increase in the approval of the plans and tenders, and now we are beginning to see the consequences of these approvals on the ground.
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Peace Now's Settlement Watch: Plans approved for 1004 settlement housing units

The Higher Planning Committee of the Civil Administration approved today (August 22, 2018) plans for 1,004 housing units in the settlements, 96% of which are in isolated settlements that Israel will likely need to evacuate within the framework of a two-state agreement (according to the Geneva Initiative model). In addition to the approval of the plans, and according to media reports, the government intends to promote hundreds more housing units by issuing tenders, as well as promoting a future plan for some 300 units in Beit El.

Two plans for the legalization of illegal outposts, which were supposed to be discussed today, were removed from the agenda following the instruction of the Ministry of Defense. One of them, "Haro'e Ha'ivri (Nofei Prat South)," which was established illegally in 2015, is located just 1.5 km away from the Bedouin community of Khan Al-Ahmar that the Israeli government plans to demolish.

Since President Trump was elected the government promoted plans for 10,536 units and tenders for 5,679 units in West Bank settlements.

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Peace Now's Settlement Watch: Land Allocation in the West Bank – For Israelis Only

Land Allocation in the West Bank – For Israelis Only

A New Settlement Watch Report

Following a request under the Freedom of Information Act submitted by Peace Now and the Movement for Freedom of Information (and after refusing to give the information and a two-and-a-half year delay), the Civil Administration's response was received:

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Information obtained by Peace Now indicates that the Binyamin Regional Council concealed tens of millions of shekels in funding for Amana, an organization that stands behind the establishment of most of the illegal outposts in the West Bank and is involved wide scale illegal construction in settlements. Many more millions were granted to political organizations, striving to affect public opinion and government bodies to support the settlements and to help the right-wing ideas.
 
Every local authority in Israel, including those in the West Bank, is allowed to allocate funds to non-government organizations for the benefit of its residence, in the framework of transparent criteria, and to limited list of causes regulated by the Israeli Ministry of Interior. The funding for all of the West Bank local authorities is coming from the Israeli government in addition to local taxation, collected by the localities from their residence.
 
Following a Peace Now petition under the Freedom of Information Act, the Binyamin Regional Council was forced to disclose detailed information about the funds it provides to non-governmental organizations. The information shows that between 2013 and 2015, the Council distributed over NIS 65 million to various organizations. 85% of the support funds (more than NIS 55 million) were transferred to political NGOs striving to affect public opinion and government bodies to support the settlements, and to Amana, which engages in illegal activity. Only 15% of the funds were transferred to other non-profit organizations that deal with welfare, education, sports, etc., in accordance with the regulations of the Ministry of Interior.
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Peace Now: Hearing on Sunday, 10 June on the petition of Palestinians against the settlement in Batan al-Hawa (Silwan)

On Sunday, June 10th, the High Court of Justice is expected to hear a petition filed by 104 residents of Batan al-Hawa (Silwan) against the Custodian General demanding the cancellation of the transfer of their land to radical settlers. The petitioners are all representatives of Palestinian families against whom there are pending eviction lawsuits, based on a discriminatory law that permits Jews to reclaim properties in East Jerusalem that they lost in the war in 1948. The petitioners' main arguments are related to the question of ownership of the 19th century Jewish trust that the settlers are claiming to represent today.  

The evacuation claims against the Palestinians in Batan al-Hawa are part of a campaign of eviction lawsuits against entire neighborhoods in East Jerusalem (Batan al-Hawa, Umm Haroun and Karem Ja'ouni in Sheikh Jarrah).  

See Background here, or read below:

The Systematic dispossession of Palestinian neighborhoods in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan

For many years, there has been an organized governmental effort to take properties in East Jerusalem from Palestinians and to transfer them to settlers. In the past it was mainly through the Absentee Properties Law, but today the efforts are done mainly by the use of the Legal and Administrative Matters Law of 1970. Until recently, this effort was disastrous for individual families who lost their homes, but now the aim is entire neighborhoods (in Batan al-Hawa and Sheikh Jarrah). Since the horrifying expulsion of the Mughrabi neighborhood from the Old City in 1967 there has been no such move in Jerusalem.  
 
In recent years there has been an increase in the threat of expulsion hovering over the communities of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan in East Jerusalem. A wave of eviction lawsuits is being conducted before the courts, with well-organized and well-funded settler groups equipped with direct or indirect assistance from government agencies and the Israeli General Custodian. 

  • Sheikh Jarrah - Umm Haroun (west of Nablus Road) - approximately 45 Palestinian families under threat of evacuation; At least nine of them are in the process of eviction in the courts and at least five others received warning letters in preparation for an evacuation claim. Two families have already been evacuated and replaced by settlers. See map
  • Sheikh Jarrah - Kerem Alja'oni (east of Nablus Road) – c. 30 Palestinian families under threat of evacuation, at least 11 of which are in the process of eviction in the courts, and 9 families have been evicted and replaced by settlers. See map
  • Batan al-Hawa (Silwan) - about 100 Palestinian families under threat of evacuation; 84 of them are in the process of eviction in the courts; 14 families were evacuated and replaced by settlers. See map 

The basis for all claims is the same: the Legal and Administrative Matters Law enacted in 1970 by the Knesset determined that owners of properties in East Jerusalem that in 1948 were transferred to the control of the Jordanians, can receive it back from the Israeli General Custodian. The law was not applied to Palestinian land owners who lost properties in the same war and in the same circumstances in West Jerusalem, thus only Jews can reclaim their properties while Palestinians cannot.   
 
Examination of the protocols of the legislative process indicates that the legislators viewed a situation in which Jews would be able to return vacant assets, while in cases where the assets were occupied, they would receive financial compensation. The legislators took into account the personal connection of an individual to his property, but in practice, the law is being used by settlers who have nothing to do with the original owners. In the end, a mechanism was created by the government and the Custodian General to exploit the law in order to take control of Palestinian populated areas and to transfer them exclusively to settlers. This is a government move, and an attempt to present it as a personal conflict of property restitution is nothing more than feigning innocence. It is important to note that the Jewish owners of the properties received double compensation: through alternative housing received from the state in 1948, and financial compensation received from the settlers in recent years, aimed at serving the settlers' ideological agenda. This contradicts that legislators' original purpose. The individual right that the law sought to protect was made by the settlers and with the assistance of the General Custodian to the right of one (Jewish) collective at the expense of another (the Palestinian) collective.

1. The court hearings: When the field is crooked, the result is crooked
After the decision to annex some 70 square kilometers to Jerusalem in 1967, the Israeli government was required to deal with the anomalous situation of the residents of East Jerusalem, who found themselves under Israeli rule. This anomaly brought to some legal fictions that in practice are detached from reality.
 
For example, the status of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem as permanent residents of Israel was regulated by the Entry into Israel Law, as if they had recently come to Israel and had not lived here for years, and Israel was the one to “come” to them; or the Absentee Property Law applied to assets in East Jerusalem whose owners live in the West Bank, sometimes only a few meters from the property they own.
 
The same applies to tenants living in properties that were owned by Jews prior to 1948: the ruling in courts determined for many of them that they enjoy the rights of protected tenants, and the proceedings before the court are conducted as if an ordinary civil dispute is taking place between a landlord and a tenant. There is nothing far from this, since this is an organized governmental effort that does not have any connection to the purpose of the Tenant Protection Law. Only by turning a blind eye can one ignore the real context of the proceedings.
 
 
A discriminatory law: The circumstances of the legislation of the Legal and Administrative Matters Law (1970)
The Legal and Administrative Matters Law of 1970 was legislated in order to deal with many different issues concerning the areas and people annexed to Jerusalem in 1967. One of those issues was the status of properties owned by Jews before 1948.
 
In the 1948 war some 20,000 Palestinians fled or were forced to leave their homes in West Jerusalem, and about 2,000 Jews fled or were forced to leave East Jerusalem, mainly from the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. The Law and Administrative Matters Law was intended to correct what it considered to be a historical injustice by restoring the property to its original Jewish owners. However the law was not applied to Palestinian properties, and it turned out that in one city, as a result of one war, two populations lost property, yet only one national group is entitled to repair the historical injustice and return its property, while the second population cannot, even if some individuals live just a few hundred meters from their properties in the western part of the city. This is the original sin of the law and of the settlements in Batan al-Hawa and Sheikh Jarrah.
 
The law was not meant to be applied to inhabited properties
Examination of the protocols of the legislative process indicates that the legislators viewed a situation in which Jews would be able to return vacant assets, while in cases where the assets were occupied, they would receive financial compensation.
 
In the words of Acting Knesset Constitution Committee Chairman MK Haim Tzadok (5/8/1968):

  • “If at the time the Israel Defense Forces entered Jerusalem these assets were already in the hands of an individual who purchased them directly or indirectly from the Custodian of Enemy Property, we will not intervene in that ‘Title.’” 

Attorney General Moshe Ben-Ze'ev detailed:

  • “Properties for whom there are those who claim to have acquired it in good faith - we did not include him under this section and we left it to the possible litigation in court.”

In the first reading of the bill on July 29, 1968, the Minister of Justice concluded:

  • “We discussed the return of an asset that was found and remains in Jordanian hands, but if the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property in East Jerusalem sold a house to someone and received money, this house will not be returned.”

2. The policy of the government and the General Custodian at the service of the dispossession
The Custodian General plays a central role in the systematic evacuation of Palestinians from their homes and their replacement by settlers. The Custodian General assists the settlers in a variety of ways, and also issues lawsuits to evict Palestinian tenants from their property. The basic and longstanding policy of the Custodian General is to take first and foremost the rights of the original owners. The Palestinians who live in the property more than 50 years are viewed as having a conditional right, at best.
 
Assistance of the Custodian General - In Um Haroun (Sheikh Jarrah) for example, in past years the representatives of the Custodian General (CG) made tenants sign contracts claiming they are no longer protected tenants. The CG interprets the Protection of Tenants Law in a strict way using every opportunity to take the protected status from the tenants. In the last two years the CG issued several eviction lawsuits and sent letters threatening to evict Palestinian tenants.
 
In Batan Al-Hawa, the Custodian General issued a certificate of release to the settlers who took over the management of the Jewish trust in 2001. In 2014 the settlers lost an eviction lawsuit against the Abu Nab family, because they failed to prove the borders of their property. At the time between the verdict and the appeal's hearing, the General Custodian issued a revised release certificate detailing the precise boundaries of the plot. Thanks to the new paper given by the Custodian, the settlers managed to win the appeal and the family was evicted from the house. Since the amended release certificate was issued in 2015, the settlers have filed another 9 claims against dozens of families.
 
In addition, it turns out that in December 2005, the Custodian General sold to the representatives of the Jewish trust four additional plots that were owned by other Jews in Batan Al-Hawa, without a tender and at a low price. If the Custodian was indeed interested in selling the assets in good faith, he would have had to make a tender and offer the Palestinian residents of these properties the right to purchase them. But instead the custodian transferred under the cover of darkness four plots on which dozens or even hundreds of Palestinians live in the Batan Al-Hawah neighborhood to settlers who seek to evict the Palestinian residents and settle Jews there.
 
The government has several ways to prevent the evictions and the injustice:
 

  • Immediately: instruct the police not to secure the eviction - the police are entitled, for reasons of public safety, to refrain from sending police to carry out the evacuation, thereby preventing it. In the past, the police postponed many evictions of Palestinian families for reasons of public peace, and this was approved more than once by the attorney general. 
  • Change in the General Custodian's policy - The Attorney-General may instruct the General Custodian to act differently, in view of his role as responsible not only for the original owners but also for the tenants living in the properties:
    • Assist tenants to continue to be protected tenants - For example, to ensure proper renovations of the properties, not to raise rental rates disproportionately, to stop eviction activities and to grant the status of protected tenants to tenants.
    • Transfer rights when there is no owner - When no owners or heirs are found, the General Custodian can act to enable the Palestinian residents to purchase the rights of the property (this could be tricky if the General Custodian sells it to third parties).
    • Stop assisting the settlers, either indirectly or directly, not in locating the properties, not in releasing them, nor in assisting in evacuation lawsuits. Stop using the settlers' services as lawyers or land-locating experts.
    • Condition the release of the property on the undertaking of the heirs to reside in it for at least five years, In accordance with the legislator's intention to allow the return of assets and to prevent the exploitation of the law for the purpose of deporting Palestinian residents and replacing them with Jews.
    • Defend justice - The Attorney General can instruct the State Attorney's Office to join as a party in any proceeding initiated by the Custodian General and to defend justice in favor of the residents. The legal advisor must express his opinion on the abuse of tenant protection laws which are completely alien to the real circumstances of the cases before us, and anchor the rights of the residents with remedies of justice.
    • Establish an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the General Custodian conduct in recent years and its cooperation with the settlers. 
  • Expropriation - since 1967 the government of Israel expropriated about one-third of the annexed areas in Jerusalem (24 square kilometers) in order to build housing on which 55,000 housing units have been built for Israelis. The expropriation of a few dozen dunams for Palestinian housing needs can be justified. 
  • Change of legislation - the Knesset can change or cancel the sections of the law that allow the return of assets. 

(The last two options are unlikely under the current government and Knesset.)

 

APN at J Street panel -Setting Settlements In Stone: Formalizing Annexation

Debra DeLee, Debra Shushan, MK Merav Michaeli, Nidal Fuqaha, and Lara Friedman discuss the formalization of annexation.  Americans for Peace Now's panel discussion at J Street's National Conference April 15, 2018.

 

 

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Peace Now's annual report on settlement construction in 2017 in the West Bank (excluding Jerusalem) reveals 17% more building than the yearly average over the better part of the past decade. Of the new construction, 78% took place in isolated settlements beyond the Geneva Initiative border, a slight increase from 2016. Tenders published in 2017 reached a two-decade record high, while the new settlement of Amihai (for the Amona evictees) and three outposts were founded.

The steady pace of construction and building deep in the West Bank attest to Prime Minister Netanyahu's steadfast abetting of the settlement enterprise. It is also apparent that the new U.S. presidency in 2017 had no marginal deterrent effect on these Israeli unilateral moves, which continue to inflict severe damage on Palestinians' way of life and on prospects for a two-state solution.

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From Peace Now's Settlement Watch:

Today, 12 February, the Settlement Subcommittee of the Higher Planning Committee of the Civil Administration convened to discuss a series of new plans in the settlements. Among other things, the committee approved the establishment of a new, “temporary” settlement for the evacuees of Nativ Ha’Avot. The committee also  approved 68 new housing units in the settlement of Elazar, the construction of a hotel in the Jordan Valley with 120 rooms next to a motor park and Tourist Area, and the construction of a cemetery near an industrial zone planned for the construction south of Qalqiliya. A further plan for an educational campus in the illegal outpost of Mitzpe Danny was discussed but the subcommittee has postponed its decision to a later date.

Peace Now: “The government is building new settlement areas under the guise of “insignificant” plans that will not include housing units. This is an old trick used to establish new settlements without calling them that by name. All of these plans—the construction of a hotel and tourist complex in the Jordan Valley, an educational campus in an illegal outpost, and even a cemetery as the first stage in the construction of a new industrial zone—in actuality create new settlements. The Netanyahu government has lost all the brakes on the road to de facto annexation of the West Bank, and it continues to distance Israel from the prospects for peace and the two-state solution.”
 
Details:
Some of the programs that appear on the committee’s agenda are plans for small changes in old plans without the addition of housing units; however, there are other politically significant plans that will create new settlement areas, as enumerated below. These additional plans blatantly contradict the declared policy of the Netanyahu government itself, which committed to limiting construction to the “built-up area” within settlements, and to holding hearings on plans for new housing units only four times per year (the previous hearing was just last month, on 10 January 2018):
 
1. Plan No. 404/1/6/5 (approved for validation) – a plan for the construction of 68 new housing units in the Elazar settlement near Bethlehem. The plan was approved for deposit on 17 January and was today approved for validation. It should be noted that the land concerning this plan was once privately owned by Palestinians but was seized for military use in the 1970s and now is being used for civilian settlement.
 
2. Plan No. 405/11 (Part 91) (approved for validation) – the establishment of a new, “temporary” settlement for the families whose homes are slated to be demolished in the Nativ Ha’Avot outpost according to the High Court of Justice’s 2016 ruling. The plan was approved for deposit on 17 October 2017 and was deposited for objections one month later. Last week, the subcommittee for objections within the Higher Planning Committee discussed the objections that had been submitted by Palestinian landowners from Al-Khader and Peace Now. Following these objections, the subcommittee decided to reduce the number of housing units from 17 to 15, but chose to reject the objections and to recommend approval of the plan. In the hearing today, the committee approved the establishment of the settlement, even though the subcommittee for objections admits that the plan is not appropriate, as it explains: “Although the professional authorities do not dispute that from a planning point of view, this is an unusual plan.”

To read the Peace Now objection, click here.

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New report from Peace Now: "The Truth about the Nativ Ha’Avot Outpost"

On September 1st, 2016, the Supreme Court ordered that 13 illegal houses the were built on private Palestinian land in the outpost of Nativ Ha’avot will be dismantled by March 6th, 2018. Since this ruling, the settlers have imposed tremendous pressure on the government to resist the implementation of the ruling. They issued a public campaign full of misleading information, inaccuracies and downright lies, in order to raise public support for their struggle.

Peace Now, which petitioned the court together with the Palestinian landowners, sets the record straight in the following “Nativ Ha’Avot File” – replete with all the facts and proof regarding the land grab and the illegality of the outpost.

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