Monday, September 25, 2017

Construction plans for new settlements fly in the face of a two-state solution


By Ayesha Khan - June 18, 2017
TAGS:
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [settlement construction] [Settlement Expansion] [settlements] [settler violence] [Settlers] [Settlers attacks] [Nablus] [Ramallah]

The upcoming construction plans for two new settlements are to put the two-state solution at risk, also, marking 2017 as the year during which Israeli authorities approved the highest amount of settlement related projects, since the past 25 years.

On June 11th, Avigdor Lieberman, Israeli Defense Minister, revealed that plans for the construction of 3,651 settler homes had been approved, out of which 671 will be built immediately. The numbers amount to a total of 8,345 settler homes that have been approved since January, according to Lieberman.
These plans further the inequitable agenda of designating two new construction sites for settler homes, both facing the direction of the Jordan Valley, in the middle of Shvut Rachel and Shilo settlements that are located deep within the occupied West Bank territory.
"I am aware more than anyone else of the construction needs in the settlements, and I am also well aware of the restrictions and the pressure that come from the international political community," Lieberman said, "[t]his is why we took action, the prime minister and I, in a transparent and responsible manner.”
Israeli settlements force its citizens on occupied territory and displace local residents, which is a violation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 446. Furthermore, Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention clearly states: “individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive.”
“Compensating” settlers at what cost?
The first settlement project is called Amichai. According to Peace Now, on May 28th the Israeli head of Central Command signed a decision to construct the Amichai settlement, which will be “compensating” settlers who were forced out of the Amona settlement in February due to an Israeli Supreme Court’s decision that classified the settlement as built on private Palestinian land.
The statement added, “[a]part from cases of retroactive legalization of illegal outposts, this is the first settlement that the government of Israel is establishing since 1992.”
Shvut Rachel East, is the second settlement, where a plan for the construction of 98 settler homes was approved in February. The aim is to ultimately expand the number of housing units within the settlement to 300. Despite being significantly farther in distance from the Shilo settlement, on a separate hilltop, Shvut Rachel East is technically considered a part of the extended Shilo settlement neighborhood.
It is important to note that Shvut Rachel East was initially offered to the Amona settlers as a location to compensate them for their earlier evacuation, although they refused to accept the offer - which resulted in the construction of Amichai, which happens to be just adjacent to Shvut Rachel East, on a hilltop west of it.
"The Israeli government has already served notices to villages about the new settlement construction, which will be taking place in the area between Nablus and Ramallah,” Ghassan Daghlas, a PA official in charge of settlement files in northern West Bank, told Palestine Monitor. Last April, following the approval of Shvut Rachel East in February, Palestinians residing in the village of Jalud were served notices informing them that “5,000 dunams (1,250 acres) of private land were slated for confiscation.

According to Daghlas, ”even after the Oslo agreement, Israeli leaders, especially Netanyahu, only cared about building more and more settlements rather than achieving peace.” He added, “Israel continues to take Palestinian land, and it makes you wonder why Israelis get access to the Dead Sea and Jaffa, and I do not. I am 44 years-old, but I have only seen the sea once in my life.”
shilo amichai
New settlement projects - Map from Peace Now
 
No accountability for settler violence
One factor that has remained of concern is the possibility of increased settler-violence as a causal result of the expansion and construction of these settlements. Settler-violence is described by B’Tselem, “a type of privatization of force which serves to further entrench Israel’s control without official action on the part of the state [towards settlers].”
This past April, settlers from Tapuah and neighboring settlements attacked Palestinians in the outskirts of the town of Huwarah.
A victim of this attack, Badi’a 'Odeh, 68, who was watching her sheep graze in the evening on her sister’s land, told B’Tselem, “I saw my son-in-law Muhammad approaching, and suddenly I saw seven or eight masked settlers a few meters away from me. Some of them ran toward me, and before I knew what was going on, they had surrounded me on all sides. I didn’t know what to do. I covered my head with my arms and just succumbed to my fate. They picked up stones and threw them at me. I felt a hard blow next to my right ear, and then I lost consciousness.”
No arrests of the settlers were made upon the arrival of the Israeli forces following the incident. The lack of accountability for settlers when engaging in acts of violence against Palestinians seems simply representative of Israeli policies jeopardizing Palestinian lives through illegally taking over their land.
Duma, a village located in the south of Nablus, was subject to an arson attack in July 2015 that resulted in the death of an 18 month-old Palestinian infant. “It was horrifying to witness the aftermath, settlers had wanted to burn the house down with people inside. On top of that, when I was at the burned down house later that night, I was told by Israeli soldiers at the scene not to speak to the media,” said Daghlas.
In addition to the aforementioned incidents, Jalud has been subject to settler-violence previously, where settlers were not held responsible by authorities for smashing a Palestinian’s car.
This lack of accountability for settlers was reiterated by Daghlas, as he proclaimed, “the Israeli soldiers protect the settlers after the attacks, so there is no hope for justice in the future as long as they keep building settlements and outposts, because violence from settlers will continue.”
Two-state solution at risk
In comparison to 2,699 housing units constructed in 2016, this year boasts 7,721, which is almost triple the amount of last year. Currently, there is a total of 196 Israeli settlements, along with a pro-Israeli government in power in the United States, therefore reaching a two-state solution or even some form of accountability for Israel and its settlers’ violent actions seems dull.
As previously reported by Palestine Monitor, during Netanyahu’s visit in February to the White House, Donald J. Trump had suggested to him to “hold back on the settlements for a little bit.” But this recent chain of events has undermined the authenticity of the efforts by Trump to strike an  “ultimate deal” between the Israeli and Palestinian authorities.
“There are 64 Area C sites in the West Bank, where families cannot build houses or roads that makes it difficult for them to feed their families. On the other side, you see settlements being built on agricultural land with good sanitation and social facilities. It is the opposite of how they [Israel] treat Palestinians, leaving them with poor infrastructure and violating environmental regulations,” said Daghlas.
More than 500,00 settlers living alongside 2.8 million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem has trivialized hopes of Palestinian statehood due to the illegal expansion of settlements in territories slated to be part of a future Palestinian state, and bears violent outcomes. 
 

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