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NGO: Israeli army issues order advancing new illegal West Bank settlement

May 30, 2017 6:43 P.M. (Updated: May 31, 2017 10:57 P.M.)
Palestinians walking near the Israeli settlement of Beit El, in the occupied West Bank, on April 7, 2015 (AFP/Abbas Momani, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Israeli army has issued a military order confirming the jurisdiction of the illegal Amichai settlement, the first Israeli settlement to be constructed in occupied Palestinian territory in 25 years, providing a green light for further illegal settlement expansion on Palestinian lands across the occupied West Bank, according to a statement released Tuesday by Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now.

The military order was issued on Sunday, Peace Now reported, corroborating earlier reports in Israeli media that the Israeli Civil Administration had approved jurisdiction for the settlement's location.

The military order would allow Israeli authorities to proceed with developing a construction plan for the settlement, which was advanced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as compensation for residents of the illegal settlement outpost of Amona, demolished in February due to it being built on private Palestinian lands.

According to Peace Now, the sub-committee for settlements of the Higher Planning Committee in the Israeli Civil Administration is set to meet on June 7 to discuss the advancement of settlement plans in the West Bank, which could include plans for the settlement being “deposited” -- the planning phase prior to final approval -- and also for the retroactive legalization and expansion of Kerem Reim -- one of dozens of Israeli settler outposts established on Palestinian land considered illegal by the Israeli government.

Despite Israeli outposts being considered illegal even under Israeli domestic law, earlier this year, Israel passed the outpost Regularization law, which would pave the way for the retroactive legalization of dozens of Israeli settler outposts.

Meanwhile, the estimated 196 government recognized Israeli settlements scattered across the Palestinian territory are all considered illegal under international law.

Shvut Rachel East, another illegal Israeli settlement, was also approved in February, Peace Now pointed out, also under the pretext of compensating residents of the Amona outpost. Despite the residents refusing the plan to relocate to Shvut Rachel East, the Israeli government continued with its settlement plans.

However, the settlement has been referred to as a “neighborhood of Shilo settlement,” by Israeli authorities and not an entirely new settlement, “despite being located far from any built up area of Shilo, creating a new and distant expansion to the settlement,” Peace Now said.

Shvut Rachel East is located on lands of the Palestinian village of Jalud in the northern West Bank district of Nablus. Palestinian residents of Jalud reported in April that Israeli authorities delivered notices to the village alerting them that 5,000 dunams (1,250 acres) of private land were slated for confiscation.

The Amichai settlement, Peace Now reported, would be located near Shvut Rachel East on adjacent hilltops. “Under the disguise of ‘compensation’ to the Amona settlers, two new settlements, located one next to the other, are now in the making,” the group said.

(Credit: Peace Now)

The two new settlements are aimed at expanding the Shilo settlements to the east towards the Jordan Valley, according to Peace Now. “The new settlements are located between Shilo and Shvut Rachel (located to their west) and several illegal outposts: Achiya, Esh Kodesh, Kida, and Adei Ad.”

“Hence, the two new settlements are located in a region that serves as focal point of settler land takeover and settler violence, preventing Palestinians from reaching their lands,” the group added.

The same argument was explained in detail by Israeli human rights group B’Tselem in a December report. The group described the ways settlers acted as “envoys” of Israel in pushing land grabs in the occupied Palestinian territory, allowing the government to officially detach themselves from the settlers’ violent and illegal actions, while avoiding or blocking any legal penalties that could be imposed on the settlers, except in the most extreme of cases.

"The state helps settlers operate as a mechanism for dispossession in Palestinian space -- settlers serving as a means purportedly not under state control, and settlers also use serious violence against Palestinian residents,” the group explained.
Peace Now emphasized that the development of Amichai and Shvut Rachel East was not the first time Israeli authorities have pushed for settlement expansion under the guise of “compensating” Israeli settlers evicted from their residences constructed on private Palestinian land in the West Bank.

Like Amona, the Migron Israeli outpost was also evacuated in 2012 owing to an Israeli Supreme Court ruling. During the time leading up to the outpost’s demolition, the Israeli government offered the settlers alternative housing in what they called the “New Migron,” which would be located next to the Kochav Yaakov settlement in the central West Bank, and 184 housing units located east of the Geva Binyamin settlement, according to Peace Now.

The settlers refused the offer, but, nevertheless, the Israeli government went ahead with the plans.

The advancements of Amichai and Shvut Rachel East are “a significant blow to the two-state solution,” the group said, adding that the settlements will be located “deep in the West Bank.”

“It is impossible to reach a two-state solution without the evacuation of these settlements. Hence, the message that is being conveyed by the government of Israel is that it seeks to heighten its control over the West Bank and that it has whatsoever no intentions of ever evacuating the territories and achieving a political agreement with the Palestinians.”
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