The Israeli plans to expand illegal settlements in strategic locations will cut the West Bank in two and separate Jerusalem from the rest of Palestine. These settlement expansion plans are designed to disrupt Palestinian territorial continuity and bury hopes of a two-state solution.
Since 1967, Israel, the Occupying Power, has systematically and unlawfully appropriated Palestinian public and privately owned land, exploiting Palestinian natural resources, while forcing the transfer of the protected Palestinian population. Such measures have enabled and enhanced the Israeli colonial enterprise, at the expense of the Palestinian economy and the rights of Palestinians.
In east Jerusalem, Israel, the occupying power, continues its systematic policies to alter the status quo of the city as well as its legal status. The “Land registration procedure” is the most recent illegal policy that is preparing the ground for confiscation of Palestinian Lands and properties in East Jerusalem. With less than 5% of the properties and lands in Occupied east Jerusalem registered, the Land registration procedure supplants existing domestic property laws and will lead to the eventual dispossession of our people in East Jerusalem, en masse, and at an alarming magnitude. If Palestinians refrain from commencing Israeli laws that are being illegally imposed on them, their properties and lands are automatically confiscated and transferred to Jewish settlers and settlements organizations. Yet, if they attempt to register their lands, the occupying power relies on its discriminatory “absentee Property Law” to allege that the ancestor or relative is considered absentee and therefore their properties and land must be confiscated.
Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan represented a microcosm of the wider Israeli policy of dispossession.
Settlement plans have advanced with full force, accelerating steps towards de-facto annexation and creating a new reality on the ground that will sabotage any remaining prospect of the two-state solution.
On Wednesday 13th October, a local planning committee in Jerusalem approved the expropriation of public land for the Givat Hamatos settlement, which would largely cut Palestinian parts of East Jerusalem off from the southern West Bank.
The same committee advanced plans for the construction of 470 homes in the existing East Jerusalem settlement of Pisgat Zeev
A military body has scheduled two meetings in the coming weeks to discuss a planned settlement of 3,400 homes on a hillside outside Jerusalem known as E1. The E1 settlement will largely bisect the West Bank, making it impossible to establish a viable Palestinian state along the 1967 borders.
540 new housing units were approved in Har Homa, a settlement near the Palestinian neighbourhood of Sur Baher and the West Bank city of Bethlehem. The area — known as Har Homa East — would greatly extend the boundaries of the Jewish settlement and will create a continuous strip of illegal settlements from Jerusalem into Palestinian territory.
The Atarot industrial settlement, constructed on confiscated land of the Palestinian villages of Beit Hanina, Al-Ram and Qalandia, flanks the illegal separation wall and cuts off the villages whose lands were pillaged to build it. Plans will be discussed in December to build 9,000 housing units as well as hotels, commercial areas etc. on an area of 1,243 dunams.
Together, these settlement plans threaten to fragment the West Bank and sever it from East Jerusalem in all directions: Givat Hamatos and Har Homa E in the south; E1 in the east; and Atarot in the north – thwarting the possibility of the integrity of a Palestinian State and a future Palestinian capital in Jerusalem. All the while, plans continue to ethnically cleanse East Jerusalem of its Palestinian population.
The EU has consistently insisted that it will not recognize any changes to the 1967 borders unless agreed to by the two parties.
In July 2014, all EU foreign ministers jointly called on Israeli occupation forces to halt settlement expansion “especially in sensitive areas such as Har Homa, Givat Hamatos and E1”. These are precisely the 3 areas where Netanyahu made new settlement announcements in 2020 and which are being expedited by the Bennett – Lapid government now.
The EU foreign ministers said at that time
“The preservation of the viability of the two-state solution must remain a priority. The developments on the ground make the prospect of a two-state solution increasingly unattainable…the EU calls on Israel to halt continued settlement expansion, including East Jerusalem, especially in sensitive areas such as Har Homa, Givat Hamatos and E1, which severely threatens the two-state solution; to put an end to settler violence, to the worsening of living conditions for Palestinians in Area C, to demolitions – including of EU funded projects -, evictions and forced transfers, and to increasing tensions and challenges to the status quo on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. A fundamental change of policy on these negative developments is necessary to prevent the irreversible loss of the two-state solution.”
The last EU report on settlements, published on 12/03/2021, stated “settlements are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible
“The EU has reiterated its strong opposition to Israel’s settlement policy and actions taken in this context, such as building the separation barrier beyond the 1967 line, demolitions and confiscation – including of EU funded projects – evictions, forced transfers including of Bedouins, illegal outposts and restrictions of movement and access.
“The EU has also urged Israel to end all settlement activity and to dismantle the outposts, in line with prior obligations, and maintains that settlement activity in East Jerusalem seriously jeopardizes the possibility of Jerusalem serving as the future capital of both States.”
Tor Wennesland, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, briefed the UN Security Council this week, saying
“I am concerned that Israeli authorities continue to consider plans for construction in E1. If constructed, these units would sever the connection between the northern and southern West Bank, significantly undermining the chances for establishing a viable and contiguous Palestinian State as part of a negotiated two-state solution.”
These settlement plans, demolitions and evictions of Palestinians amount to an ongoing colonial enterprise which is piece by piece, destroying hopes of a two-state solution and with it a contiguous, sovereign Palestinian state. Action is needed by the international community to halt this illegality and ensure the fruition of a peaceful solution. The protection of the Palestinian people must be ensured, particularly as they face ongoing and intensified forced displacement attempts by Israel, the occupying power, and its settlers. Israel’s prolonged occupation is illegal and must end.
Now is the time to consider applying concrete measures which will bring about accountability, halt and reverse settlement expansion and end the occupation.