Settlement Expansion in the Run-up to the Biden Inauguration:

Connecting the dots between recent announcements In the run-up to Joe Biden’s inauguration, Netanyahu has approved a large number of settlements and settlement-related schemes. A number of these schemes have emerged over the last 24 hours and have not been widely reported. It is difficult to imagine that these announcements and the ascendancy of a new administration are unrelated. None of these schemes could have taken place without Netanyahu’s knowledge and active consent. Inventory of recent announcements
  1. Plans for new US embassy building On January 13, and upon the instructions of Netanyahu, the Jerusalem Local Planning Committee convened and reportedly approved construction at two alternate sites in Jerusalem: the site of the current consular facility at the Diplomat Hotel in Arnona, and the second, in the Allenby Compound along the Hebron Road (which in the past belonged to the Khalidi family waqf).
  2. 830 units in West Bank settlements On January 17, the Higher Planning Council of the Civil Administration in the West Bank will convene to approve 830 units in the following settlements:
    1. Final approval for 500 units in Itamar, Shavei Shomron, and Oranit.
    2. 250 units in the illegal outpost of Nofei Nehama will be “legalized” (bearing in mind that all settlements beyond the Green Line are inherently illegal, and thus cannot be legalized in this manner).
    3. 100 units in Tal Menashe (not a final approval).
    4. “Legalization” of the illegal outpost of the Havat Yair farm.
For a detailed description of the plans to be approved, see Peace Now report.
  1. Expansion of Gilo and Har Shlomo In addition, in recent days the Jerusalem Regional Planning Committee approved expansion of the following Jerusalem settlement neighborhoods:
    1. 400 units in Gilo, on lands located beyond the existing built up area, on the border with Bethlehem. The construction reportedly goes beyond the existing footprint of the settlement neighborhood of Gilo, stretching southwards along the “tunnel road” towards the separation wall with Bethlehem. Consequently, this construction will contribute to the buffer being created between East Jerusalem and Bethlehem (we have yet to locate a map of the site).
    2. 130 units in the settlement neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo. This settlement has special “sentimental” value to both Netanyahu and Biden: it was approval of plans in Ramat Shlomo that triggered a major confrontation between the two, during the Vice President’s visit to Jerusalem in March 2010.
  1. Har Gilo and Har Homa In October, prior to the US elections, the planning committees deposited two plans on Jerusalem’s southern flank:
    1. 560 units in Har Gilo West.
    2. 280 units in Har Homa West (Har Homa E).
  1. Givat Hamatos – Most importantly of all is the opening of the tenders for construction in Givat Hamatos scheduled on January 18 (deadline for the submission of bids). As we covered at length in our last report, construction of the Givat Hamatos settlement can still be avoided. However, once the tenders are awarded, the construction of the Givat Hamatos settlement will be virtually inevitable.
Connecting the dots: disconnecting East Jerusalem from Bethlehem Enclosed is a map displaying the cumulative impact of Givat Hamatos, Har Gilo West and Har Homa East. As noted, the Gilo expansion approved in recent days does not appear on this map, but will only exacerbate matters. This cumulative impact will de facto “connect the dots” – that is, it will trace the continuous string of settlements along Jerusalem’s southern flank and border with Bethlehem, revealing a buffer that will detach East Jerusalem from its sister city of Bethlehem. This buffer will run through Har Gilo West (and the concomitant seal of Walajeh), the existing settlement of Har Hilo, Gilo and the planned expansion of Gilo to the south, Givat Hamatos (and its seal of Beit Safafa), up to the expansion of existing Har Homa to the west. Altogether, it will cumulatively create an urban wall cutting off East Jerusalem from its environs in the West Bank and fragmenting East Jerusalem and its environs. The move of the US embassy to Jerusalem and the provisions of the Trump Plan purported to “take Jerusalem off the table”. The current flurry of settlement activity is sending a clear message to President Biden: these settlement expansions will make sure that what was done cannot be undone.