– According to Peace Now´s Settlement Watch team, at least 6,000 housing units in the settlements will be advanced this week at the Higher Planning Council – more than the entire year of 2021 or 2022.
– Among the plans, five illegal outposts will be authorized. Although four out of the five will be officially considered as neighborhoods of existing settlements, in practice, the plans will establish new settlements on the ground. This is due to both the significant expansion to the outpost’s size and the considerable distance from the settlements they will officially be annexed to.
– The outposts that will be authorized are different from the ten that received approval for authorization at the beginning of last week from the Security and Political Cabinet. Thus, within a week, the Israeli government is promoting the establishment of 15 new settlements deep inside the occupied territories.
– Among the plans that will be advanced this week are many that are allocated for relatively small settlements in size, thus significantly expanding these settlements.
– About 80% of the plans are located deep in the West Bank, in areas that will make it very difficult to establish a future Palestinian state.
– As a response, Peace Now and a dozen other Israeli organizations wrote a letter to members of the UN Security Council calling it to act against these recent moves.
Peace Now: “The Israeli government is carrying out in full swing an act of annexation of the occupied territories. Just as the judicial coup that the government is advancing is an existential threat to Israeli democracy, so too is this annexation. Advancing the construction of thousands of housing units in the settlements and authorizing 15 outposts within a week are acts of de facto annexation. Building settlements in the occupied territories is a war crime, and annexation without granting citizenship to Palestinians is considered a crime of apartheid. These actions are directed first and foremost against the Palestinians and are with the intention to prevent the establishment of a future Palestinian state by means of taking control of Area C. This is thus not only a security threat to Israel but a real danger to its identity as a democracy.”
Promotion of thousands of housing units in the settlements – more than in 2022
The Higher Planning Council intends this week to meet for two days (February 22-23) to advance 30 plans for settlements and outposts in the West Bank. According to media reports, during the two-day discussion, about 7,000 housing units will be advanced.
However, in an analysis made by our Settlement Watch team, we noticed that the plan documents indicate that the committee will advance fewer housing units than what was reported in the media – around 6,006 housing units (including one plan for which we currently lack information, so the actual number will likely be higher).
Among the plans to be advanced, 4,039 housing units will be for deposit and 1,967 for final validation. According to aerial photography analysis, an estimated 1,000 housing units already exist, thus the plans retroactively legalize existing construction.
For comparison, in the entire year of 2022, a total of 4,427 housing units were advanced for deposit and final validation, while in 2021, 3,645 housing units were advanced accordingly.
Establishment of new settlements through final legalization of outposts:
Among all the plans, four plans for the outposts are for a final validation, and one plan is for deposit. The outposts are Mevo’ot Yericho, Nofei Nehemiah, Zayit Ra’anan, Derech Ha’avot, and Pnei Kedem. Likewise, four of the outposts will be officially annexed to existing settlements, while one will be recognized as a new settlement (Mitzpe Yericho).
Nevertheless, the authorization of the outposts should be regarded as the creation of new settlements on the ground, as the construction plans will significantly expand the outposts. Likewise, four of them are located considerably far from the settlement to which they will be officially part of.
While the Israeli government and the settlers’ representatives will argue that the illegal outposts have already been authorized in the past because plans for them have already been advanced in the past (four of them have been deposited, and Derech Ha’avot had a different plan deposited in the past), it is essential to remember that in settlements, any stage of the promotion process requires the approval and signature of the Minister of Defense.
Therefore, promoting these plans, as well as in this regard to any other plan for settlements, is not a matter of reality nor bureaucracy, but rather a political act taken by the government.
A brief explanation of the five outposts that will be authorized:
Validation for Plan 330 for the establishment of a new settlement with 181 housing units named Mevo’ot Yericho:
This plan aims to establish a new settlement by authorizing the Mevo’ot Yericho outpost, located near the city of Jericho, deep inside the West Bank and in an area almost devoid of Israeli settlers. Currently, there are about 60 housing units in the outpost, and the approval of the plan will triple its size.
Validation for Plan 171/1 for Nofei Nehemiah and Rechelim:
The plan authorizes the Nofei Nehemiah outpost as a neighborhood of Rachelim (which was also established as an outpost and retroactively authorized). This is despite the fact that the Nofei Nehemiah outpost is about 2 km away (aerial distance) from Rechelim. In addition, there is a highway, Road 60, between Nofei Nehemiah and Rachelim, and separate access roads to the outposts. The plan itself advances 212 housing units, a significant portion of which have already been built, so in practice, it is a whitewashing move of existing illegal construction.
Validation for Plan 235/7/1 for Zayit Ra’anan (Talmon):
This plan establishes a new settlement almost out of nowhere, on land held by the Zayit Ra’anan outpost. While currently, there are a small number of caravans in the outpost, the plan will advance 189 housing units. This means that, in practice, a new settlement will be established in an area that is almost uninhabited by settlers. Moreover, despite being considered part of the Talmon settlement, Zayit Ra’anan is about 2.5 km away (aerial distance) from the settlement.
Validation for Plan 414/3/1 for Pnei Kedem (Metzad/Asfar):
The plan will authorize the Pnei Kedem outpost as part of the Metzad (Asfar) settlement. The outpost, established in 2002, has about 40 housing units, and the approval of the plan will triple its size. Pnei Kedem is located in the depth of the West Bank, northeast of Hebron.
Plan for Deposit 404/2 for Nativ Ha’avot Outpost (Elazar):
The Nativ Ha’avot outpost was established on private land. As a result of a petition by the landowners to the High Court of Justice, a significant portion of the land was officially seized by declaring it as public land through a “declaration of state land” (for an explanation of the declaration of state land process, read here). Later, it was discovered that several buildings were situated on private land that could not be declared as state land, and the court ordered their demolition. The plan currently being submitted for deposit is the result of the Netanyahu government’s promise to “compensate” the illegal Israeli settlers who stole the land and established the settlement (for background on the Netiv Ha’avot outpost, read here).
Big plans in small settlements in the depth of the West Bank:
The list of plans includes very large plans in relatively small settlements that are located deep in the West Bank. A modest estimate of 5 individuals per household will dramatically affect the number of settlers in these settlements.
Metzad (Asfar) and Pnei Kedem – 126 housing units; a settlement and an outpost in the depths of the occupied territories, south of Bethlehem and east of Sa’ir (Hebron), which currently has about 1,100 residents. Approval of the plan will add at least 630 residents to the settlement and the outpost that will be legalized.
Ma’ale Amos – 485 housing units; a settlement deep inside the occupied territories, south of Bethlehem and east of Sa’ir (Hebron), which currently has about 800 residents. Approval of the plan will add at least 2,400 residents to the settlement. The plan also leaves many areas for future construction, so that in the future, this settlement will be expanding even more.
Nokdim – 308 housing units; a settlement in the depths of the occupied territories, southeast of Bethlehem. Currently, there are about 2,700 residents in the settlement, and the plan will allow for an addition of at least 1,500 residents.
Alon Moreh – 286 housing units; currently, there are about 2,000 residents in the settlement, and the addition of housing units will allow for at least 1,400 more residents.
Kfar Tapuach – 136 housing units; a settlement in the depth of the occupied territories. Currently, there are about 1,500 residents in the settlement, and the addition of housing units will allow for an increase of at least 680 residents.
Mitzpe Yericho – 345 housing units; a settlement in the Jordan Valley, east of Ma’ale Adumim and south of the city of Jericho. Currently, there are about 2,600 residents in the settlement, and the addition of the plans will allow for an increase of at least 1,700 residents.
Plans in the depth of the West Bank that hinder the establishment of a future Palestinian state
Approximately 79.4% of all housing units that the Higher Planning Council intends to promote (4,773 housing units) are being advanced in the West Bank in an area that, according to the Geneva Initiative, will be part of the future Palestinian state. The promotion and construction of these housing units will severely affect the chances for peace.