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Israel advances plans for new settlement for Amona outpost evacuees

Oct. 2, 2016 1:52 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 7, 2016 2:00 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Israeli Civil Administration has advanced plans to construct a new illegal Israeli settlement in the northern occupied West Bank, likely to be used to relocate settlers residing in the Amona outpost, according to Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now, following an Israeli Supreme Court decision to demolish the outpost by the end of this year.

Peace Now said in a press release on Saturday that two plans were promoted by the Higher Planning Committee (HPC) of the Civil Administration on Wednesday, including the new settlement for the Amona evacuees, as well as for a new industrial zone west of Ramallah in the central occupied West Bank.

The HPC approved for “depositing” -- the planning phase prior to final approval -- a plan for 98 housing units for the new settlement to be located east of the already established settlement of Shiloh, on lands of the Palestinian village of Jalud in the northern West Bank district of Nablus. It is part of a larger plan for 300 units yet to be promoted.

Meanwhile in April, Palestinian residents of Jalud reported that Israeli authorities delivered notices to the alerting them that 5,000 dunams (1,250 acres) of private land were slated for confiscation.

Peace Now predicted that Israel would argue the plan is “only” for the expansion of Shiloh, despite the fact that the land is located one kilometer from Shiloh, and also one kilometer from the recently retroactively legalized outpost of Shvut Rachel.

“Both the new plan and Shvut Rachel are officially considered ‘neighborhoods’ of Shiloh, but in fact are independent settlements,” the watchdog explained.

Peace Now determined the new settlement would likely be used for the evacuees of the Amona outpost, who according to an Israeli Supreme Court ruling are to be evicted from the outpost -- located on privately-owned Palestinian land -- by Dec. 26.

“It is likely that this will be a part of the ‘compensation deal’ for the settlers -- who lost Amona but we given a whole new settlement with a potential for 300 units,” the statement said.

Now that the plan has been deposited, HPC will hear objections, after which the plan could then be approved for “validation” -- final approval -- after the objections are heard.

The watchdog warned that the process would likely not be completed by December, in which case the Israeli government would either request to the Supreme Court to postpone the order to evict Amona’s residents or build them a temporary site through ‘fast track’ approvals.

The building of the new settlement has been seen as direct resistance to the Israeli Supreme Court ruling in 2008 which ordered Amona's demolition after Palestinians from neighboring villages -- with the support of Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din -- successfully petitioned the court to remove the outpost on grounds that the construction was carried out on privately held Palestinian land.

"While world leaders are gathering to commemorate Shimon Peres and his path to peace, the Israeli government is creating another obstacle for the two-state solution by establishing a new settlement in the heart of the West Bank. The government's decision to reward settlers who stole private Palestinian lands will make the rest of Israel's law-abiding citizens pay a heavy political price," Peace Now said.

Plan promoted for a new settlement near Shiloh (Peace Now)

Meanwhile, a new industrial area west of Ramallah, near to Israel’s separation wall and the Green Line that divides the occupied West Bank from Israel, was given final approval by HPC on Wednesday. After the bureaucratic procedures are completed, the plan will be published as valid and two weeks later construction permits can be issued.

“The new industrial zone can be considered as another kind of settlement as the Israeli government will be encouraging investors to build their factories in this area, which is potentially highly attractive for industries because of its close proximity to both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem,” said Peace Now.

Plan promoted for a industrial zone west of Ramallah (Peace Now)

The watchdog warned last month of an inevitable “one-state reality,” after data released by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS) showed that Israeli authorities increased settlement building by 40 percent in the first half of 2016.

Construction inside of Israel, however, experienced a 3 percent decrease from previous months, according to the data.

"Netanyahu is the prime minister of one sector only -- the settler sector, which comprises of less than 5 percent of the Israeli population,” Peace Now said at the time, adding that “[Netanyahu]’s investments in the settlements do not only come on the expense of the Negev, the Galilee and the rest of Israel but also lead towards a one-state reality.”

There are an estimated 500,000 to 600,000 Israeli settlers residing in 196 illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, and a further 232 settler outposts considered illegal both by international law and Israeli domestic law, according to the Applied Research Institute - Jerusalem (ARIJ).

Human rights groups and international leaders have strongly condemned Israel’s settlement construction, claiming it is a strategic maneuver to prevent the establishment of a contiguous, independent Palestinian state by changing the facts on the ground, while members of Israel's parliament, the Knesset, have publicly announced their support for plans aimed to annex the entirety of Area C.

While members of the international community rested the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the discontinuation of illegal Israeli settlements and the establishment of a two-state solution, Israeli leaders have instead shifted further to the right.

A number of Palestinian activists have criticized the two-state solution as unsustainable and unlikely to bring durable peace, proposing instead a binational state with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians.

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