On May 28 2017, the head of the Central Command signed a military order defining the jurisdiction to a new Israeli settlement in the West Bank, the first to be established since 1992. The decision to establish the new settlement, which will go by the name “Amichai”, was made by the government on March 30th as compensation to the evacuees of the Amona outpost, which was built illegally on private Palestinian land and was evacuated in February this year following a verdict of the Supreme Court. Apart from cases of retroactive legalization of illegal outposts, this is the first settlement that the government of Israel is establishing since 1992.
Several publications have indicated that on June 7th the sub-committee for settlements of the Higher Planning Committee in the Civil Administration is expected to meet in order to advance plans for settlements. Due to vast pressure coming from settler lobby groups, it is possible that during this meeting, the plan for the settlement will be discussed for depositing. In addition, it is likely a plan to retroactively legalize the Kerem Reim outpost, and expand it to 255 housing units, will be discussed for validation (final approval) during the committee’s meeting.
Amichai is the second settlement that is being established as compensation for the Amona evacuation. In February this year a plan for new settlement called Shvut Rachel East, was approved for validation. The plan, number 205/3/1, enables the construction of the first 98 housing units in Shvut Rachel East, which is planned to eventually become a settlement of 300 housing units. While Shvut Rachel East should be referred to as a new settlement by all means, it is officially referred to as a neighborhood of Shilo settlement, despite being located far from any built up area of Shilo, creating a new and distant expansion to the settlement.
Remarkably, the government initially suggested to the Amona settlers to establish Shvut Rachel East as compensation for their lawful evacuation. However, although the settlers of Amona rejected the government offer, it went ahead with the approval of the new site. It is also worth noting that Shvut Rachel East is adjacent to Amichai, located just one hilltop west of it. Hence, under the disguise of “compensation” to the Amona settlers, two new settlements, located one next to the other, are now in the making.
This is not the first time that the government utilizes a lawful evacuation of an illegal outpost built on private Palestinian lands in order to approve 2 settlements as “compensation.” As part of the evacuation of the Migron outpost, the government established “New Migron” (located close to Kochav Yaakov settlement) as well as a plan for 184 housing units east of Adam settlement (aka Geva Binyamin). Just as in the case of Amona, the settlers of Migron rejected the offer to move to the site east of Adam, and yet the government approved the plan, which is currently under construction.
Amichai, alongside Shvut Rachel East, enhance the expansion of Shilo settlement eastbound towards the Jordan valley and route number 80 (known as the Alon road). 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 establishment of Amichai, as well as that of Shvut Rachel East, are a significant blow to the two-state solution. The settlements are located deep in the West Bank and east of route 60, the main highway in the occupied territories. Effectively, 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.