chronology of recent settlement-related developments in Jerusalem

Special note from Danny Seidemann: In this report we present a detailed chronology of recent settlement-related developments in Jerusalem. As will be clear to anyone reading this timeline (and already clear to anyone reading the news), the situation is grave. However, it is imperative to note that the latest development, Netanyahu’s last-minute decision to cancel a vote on the “Greater Jerusalem Law,” is worthy of special scrutiny.

This legislative initiative concerning Greater Jerusalem is likely deferred, not abandoned. In the absence of constant vigilance and continued engagement, the legislation will no doubt be back, sooner rather than later.  That said, the removal of the Greater Jerusalem bill from the October 29 agenda is one of the few occasions in recent memory when an increasingly defiant Netanyahu has backed down from such a controversial move. While we had warned of this bill for months, there were only four days warning about the bill coming to a vote – and only four days for concerned voices to engage on the issue. It may never be known what precisely were the factors that convinced Netanyahu to remove the bill from the agenda. What is clear is that during those four short days,  international engagement, from the US and others – and largely below the radar, without a public clash with Netanyahu – played a decisive role.

The lesson to be drawn from this is that engagement matters, and that focused, coherent efforts in this regard are not futile.

Setting the Scene
Timeline: 1 July – 30 Oct 2017
What Next

Setting the Scene

The intensity of the government initiatives in Jerusalem in the last four months is unprecedented, whether in regard to the scope and implications of the settlements announcements, to the nature of the legislative initiatives, or to the political assault against all those daring to challenge the occupation and the government narrative in Jerusalem.

We have reported on these developments as they emerged. Looking at all these initiatives together, along a timeline, sheds light on the coherence and determination of the governmental actions in Jerusalem. Understood together, it is clear that all aim at a single, shared goal: to irreversibly erase the ability to implement the two-state solution in Jerusalem and its environs. They all share, too, an additional, corollary goal: to delegitimize and quash those in Israel who are sounding the alert – both domestically and internationally – about these initiatives and the devastating implications they have for the future.

The past two weeks have seen this trend come to a head, with historic, dangerous developments related both to new settlement activity and plans, as well as with new and deeply worrying developments on the political front. To fully grasp what is happening, it is not enough to merely describe or sound the alarm about these latest developments. Rather, the importance of these developments can only be fully understood in the context of the developments of the past four months – as presented in the timeline below.

Timeline of East Jerusalem-Related Settlement Developments: 1 July – 30 October 2017
July 4: The Regional Planning committee approved 948 units in Pisgat Zeev (Town Plan 330530, for  250 units; Town Plan 330506, for 130 units; Town Plan 330498, for  210 units; Town Plan 317149, for 250 units; and Town Plan 330514, for 104 units. These plans provide for a nearly 2.5% increase in total units in this settlement, in the form of high-rise apartments. Details of the plans and explanation of their implications are here.

July 16: The Regional Planning Committee approved three settlement plans in Sheikh Jarrah (Town Plan 68858, to build a yeshiva; and Town Plans 14151 and 140249, involving the demolition of two Palestinian homes to be replaced by settler homes). These developments are unprecedented for this area, and are comparable – in terms of far-reaching implications and stark ramifications – to the moment when settlers first moved into Silwan in 1991. Details of the plans and explanation of their implications are here.

July 16: The Municipal Planning committee approved for public review (a final step in the approval process) another plan in Sheikh Jarrah (Town Plan 466699, for a multi-story, settler-controlled office bloc). Details of the plan and explanation of its implications are here.

July 17: The Regional Planning Committee approved 869 units in several large settlement neighborhoods, including: 270 units in Gilo (Town Plan 400812 – high-rise buildings), 244 in Ramot (Town Plans 291419 and 483354 – high-rise buildings), 214 in Neve Ya’acov (Town Plan 413658 – high-rise buildings), 116 additional unit in Pisgat Ze’ev (Town Plan 464859 – high-rise buildings), and 15 units in Har Homa (Town Plan 430848 ). Details of the plans and explanation of their implications are here.

July 31: The District Court awarded the title to three Old City properties belong to the Greek Orthodox Church (two hotels at Jaffa Gate and one property in Bab Hutta) to the Ateret Cohanim settlers. Details here.

September 4:  A Palestinian family (the Shamasnehs) was evicted from their home in Sheikh Jarrah, where they had been living since the mid-1960s. They were immediately replaced by settlers. The eviction was based on Israel’s law granting Jews a legal right of return to properties they owned in East Jerusalem before 1948 (no such right exists for Palestinians to properties in Israel). This is the first eviction of this nature in East Jerusalem in eight years. Details of the eviction and its implications for the Palestinian community living in the affected area of Sheikh Jarrah are .

August 29: Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu declared in a public address: “There will be no more uprooting of settlements in the land of Israel.”

September 7: A new major traffic interchange was opened in the East Jerusalem settlement of Gilo was opened. The huge infrastructure project links settlements in the Etzion bloc (south of Jerusalem) to Tel Aviv, via a multi-lane highway.

September 24: Israel’s State Attorney notified the High Court that the Bedouin village of Khan al Ahmar, located in the area between Jerusalem and the West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim, will be evacuated by mid-2018. The demolition (and forced transfer of the population) will make way for construction of the long-planned E-1. Details of the planned demolition/expulsion and its implications (including the fact that it will constitute a war crime) are.

Late September: Netanyahu green lighted construction at the planned new settlement of Givat Hamatos, with tenders expected early 2018. Givat Hamatos is located between the East Jerusalem settlement neighborhood of Gilo and the West Bank city of Bethlehem. It will be the first new Israeli settlement neighborhood since construction commenced at Har Homa in the late 1990s. Moreover, it will result – for the first time since 1967 – in a Palestinian neighborhood of East Jerusalem being completely surrounded by Israeli construction – making a two-state agreement based on the Clinton Parameters – or principles like them – impossible Further background/analysis on this development can be found here.

October 3: Appearing at an event from from Maale Adumim, at a site overlooking E-1, Netanyahu announced that thousands of settlement units will soon be built in Maale Adumim. Analyses of this statement and its implications is.

October 15:  Netanyahu announced plans for a parliamentary probe into foreign government funding of Israeli progressive civil society NGOs (i.e., those working on issues related to human rights and challenging the occupation/settlements).

October 16Netanyahu announced support for legislation banning Breaking the Silence and other “anti-IDF” Israeli NGOs.

October 16: The Israeli government announced that the sealed, “segregated’ road between Hizmeh and Anata – part of the “Eastern Ring Road” – was to be opened soon. The road is designed to provide access into Jerusalem from the east for Israeli settlers, while channeling Palestinian traffic around/away from Jerusalem. The road is part of a bigger infrastructure plan that dovetails with plans for E-1. For details, see the excellent Peace Now analysis and map, here.

Oct. 22: Netanyahu placed the Greater Jerusalem Law on the agenda of the 29 October Cabinet meeting, seeking its approval. This law would re-draw Jerusalem borders to annex settlements and adjacent lands reaching north to the outskirts of Ramallah, east nearly to Jericho, and south nearly to Hebron. It would also for all intents and purposes cut out Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem located east of the separation barrier. Analysis of the implications of this initiative is here.

October 24: The Jerusalem Municipality approved the construction of 176 new units in the East Jerusalem settlement enclave of Nof Tziyon, located in the Palestinian neighborhood of Jabel Mukkabir. For implications of this plan see.

October 24: Israel’s Jerusalem Affairs Minister, Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) barred the Israeli NGO Emek Shaveh from giving guided tour in the Mamilla cemetery. Emek Shaveh is an Israeli NGO comprised of professional, non-ideological archeologists and experts who reject the politicization and radicalization of archeology in Jerusalem and offer an alternative narrative to that of the government-backed groups (primarily Elad) increasingly dominating/monopolizing archeology and how it is presented in the city.

October 24: The Ministry of Construction allocated  millions of shekels to plan10,000 new settlement units at what would be a massive new settlement located at the site of the disused Atarot airport (in Qalandia). If implemented, this would be the first new government-backed settlement in East Jerusalem since the late 1990s (unless Givat Hamatos is built first). Analysis of the plan is here.

October  24: Netanyahu publicly promised 800 million NIS for settlement roads/infrastructure.

October 25: Israeli Police closed down a Palestinian conference about the selling of Jerusalem properties to Jewish settlers, on the grounds that it was sponsored by the Palestinian Authority. Minister of Public Security, Gilad Erdan, stated: “I will continue to act vigorously in order to prevent any political foothold for the Palestinians in Jerusalem”.

October 25: The Jerusalem Municipal Planning Committee put approval of plans for 500 new settlement units in Ramat Shlomo, and 200 in Ramot, on the agenda of its 1 November meeting. While the full details of these plans are not entirely clear, it appears likely that they refer to Town Plan 11094 on the northeastern flank of Ramat Shlomo (see our report on this plan), and Town Plan 483354, on Ramot’s eastern flank.

Oct 28: The proposed proposed Greater Jerusalem bill – due to be considered in the Cabinet’s Ministerial Legislation Committee on Oct 29 (discussed above – see October 22) was taken off of the Committee’s agenda, reportedly due to “diplomatic considerations.” It is widely understood that Prime Minister Netanyahu decided to take the proposed law off the agenda was due to US pressure (despite the fact that Trump advisor Jason Greenblatt denied that Trump had criticized Netanyahu over the bill). The Committee had been expected to approve the bill, setting it up to go directly to the Knesset for its First Reading. The fact that Netanyahu decided to remove the initiative from the agenda clearly indicates that quiet international engagement can still produce at least some degree of restraint from Netanyahu.

Oct 29: With the Greater Jerusalem Bill stalled (for now), Jerusalem Affairs Elkin (Likud) announced his intention to push another Jerusalem-related bill — one that would exclude from the municipality of Jerusalem Palestinian neighborhoods located beyond the separation wall  (like Kafr Aqab and the Shuafat Refugee Camp). Media report on the 29th indicated that Netanyahu would seek U.S. support for an approach like Elkin’s, if not specifically for Elkin’s bill. Analysis about this initiative can be found here.

What Next?

  • Legislation: While the vote on the Greater Jerusalem bill was cancelled, there is every reason to be concerned that future progress on this bill remains likely, Moreover, In addition to Elkin’s bill, there is at least one other piece of pending, extremely problematic Jerusalem-related legislation. This is the “Super-Majority,” which seeks to amend Israel’s Basic Law to require a special majority of 80 votes (out of 120) for the transfer of sovereignty of any part of Jerusalem to a foreign entity. Initially being advanced by the Jewish Home Party, the initiative now enjoys the support of almost all of the coalition, most prominently that of Netanyahu himself. The amendmentpassed a Knesset first reading on July 26. Analysis about this initiative can be found here.
  • Displacement: On the day that the Shamasneh family was evicted from Sheikh Jarrah,  East Jerusalem settler leader Aryeh King, the head of the settlement organization known as the Israel Lands Fund (and now also a city councilman), promisedmore of the same, stating: “I expect more evictions this year of residents who refuse to recognize the Jewish owners of the properties where they are living. With the opening of the new National Insurance Institute nearby, the Nahalat Shimon [Shimon Hatzaddik] neighborhood is going to see a significant expansion of Jewish settlement, which residents of Jerusalem have waited for years to see.” Many families in the area are vulnerable to these government-backed settler efforts.
  • New Settlement Activity: Current and anticipated approvals – discussed above – open the door for settlement construction in virtually every part of East Jerusalem. Moreover, as we noted in our July 5 report,the Netanyahu government, in its zeal to cement Israeli control in East Jerusalem, has adopted substantially new settlement planning/construction policies, based on problematic modalities that will allow for a significant increase in the Israeli population in East Jerusalem, through means rejected in the past. These new policies – related to the location and type of new construction – are both clearly driven not by objective or rational urban planning considerations but rather by the calculus of national struggle, i.e., moving as many Jewish Israelis into East Jerusalem as possible, including deep into Palestinian neighborhoods (i.e., Sheikh Jarrah; Nof Tziyon in Jabel Mukkabir). This means that there is every reason to believe that there will be additional announcements of new settlement construction in East Jerusalem – plans that would never have been proposed, or even conceived of, in the past.
  • E-1. E-1. E-1.: As noted at the start of this report, the intensity of the government initiatives in Jerusalem in the last four months is unprecedented, whether in regard to the scope and implications of the settlements announcements, to the nature of the legislative initiatives, or to the political assault against all those daring to challenge the occupation and the government narrative in Jerusalem. With this in mind, and taking note of continued Israeli targeting of the Bedouin located east of Jerusalem, it is not alarmist to suggest that E-1 is likely higher on Netanyahu’s list of things he believe he might be able to get away with doing than at any time in the past.