The Higher Planning Council of the Israeli Civil Administration approved 4,948 settlement units in a couple dozen plans on 14 and 15 October 2020. These approvals make 2020 the highest year on record in terms of units in settlement plans promoted since Peace Now began recording in 2012.
Among these 4,948 units, 2,260 were approved for deposit (first major stage) and 2,688 were approved for validation (second and often final major stage). Virtually all units (except 2) will be in areas Israel may have to evacuate in the context of a two-state solution (calculation based on the Geneva Initiative lines).
These approvals official make 2020 the highest year on record in terms of units in settlement plans promoted since Peace Now began recording in 2012. The count so far is 12,159 units approved in 2020, with the possibility for another HPC meeting for another round of approvals before year’s end. Likewise, it represents a spike in approvals during the Trump Era, when Israeli settlement activity has dramatically increased since the US Administration has shown less pressure on settlement expansion and Israeli domestic politics have correspondingly pushed for more activity.
In calculating units approved per year, Peace Now subtracts units already approved in earlier stages earlier in the year. This practice avoids double counting and provides a more accurate reading of the total amount of units advanced per year. Thus, Peace Now’s count for these October approvals is slightly lower than those released by the Civil Administration.
This was the first round of approvals in eight months and since Benny Gantz became Defense Minister, as well as since the Abraham Accords when Israel officially tabled annexation. While de jure annexation may be suspended, the de facto annexation of settlement expansion is clearly continuing. These recent approvals put to rest any speculation about a de facto settlement freeze.
See here for the list of the 4,948 settlement units to be advanced.
Peace Now: “While Israel reels from its second lockdown and economic distress, Netanyahu is promoting construction in isolated settlements that Israel will have to evacuate. Instead of taking advantage of the agreements with the Gulf states and promoting peace with the Palestinians, he is distorting Israel’s priorities and catering to a fringe minority for these settlement unit approvals that will continue to harm future prospects for peace. The move is the first major demonstration of Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s bowing to the ‘Greater Israel’ settlement agenda that would in reality bring about a permanent undemocratic one-state reality. By doing so, Israel is signaling to the world its bi-partisan support for the end to the concept of a two-state solution and a Palestinian state – the paradigm that until now has largely shielded Israel from formal pressure over its 53-year occupation. The settlement enterprise is not in Israel’s national or security interest, and is a strategic mistake at the national and international level.”
Some noteworthy plans:
- Retroactive legalization of the Tapuach West outpost (133 units) near Kfar Tapuach settlement south of Nablus, and Pnei Kedem outpost (120 units) near Metzad settlement northeast of Hebron.
- 629 units approved in Eli, including retroactive legalization of 61 illegally constructed units
- 560 units approved in Har Gilo – For essentially a new settlement west of and disconnected from the main inter-city highway.
- Many other relatively large approvals for relatively small settlements
Har Gilo is a settlement lying beyond both the Geneva Initiative line and the West Bank territory Israel annexed to Jerusalem. It lies along an incomplete continuum settlement proponents have long worked toward to connect Jerusalem to the Gush Etzion settlements along Route 60. For Palestinians, Har Gilo has already all but severed the territorial connection between Bethlehem and the village of al-Walaja to its northwest, now solidified by the Israel West Bank barrier.
The current plan of 560 housing units will create a brand new neighborhood that will be larger than the existing settlement, and will exploit the land cut off by the West Bank barrier to further break up the western Bethlehem metropolitan area, including the land connecting al-Walaja and the town of Battir, as well as Battir and Bethlehem. This land also constitutes some of the only uninhabited fertile land reserves for Bethlehem, which currently is cut off by the West Bank barrier to its immediate north and west.
List of approved plans today, 15 October:
- Einav – 179 units
- Barkan – 10 units (added to the 14 approved – total 24 units)
- Peduel – 7 units (added to the 13 approved – total 20 units)
- Yakir – 74 units
- Maale Shomron – 106 units
- Yizhar – 211 units
- Eli – 629 units
- Kfar Adumim – 52 units
- Maale Michmash – 14 units
- Geva Binyamin (Adam) – 357 units
- Shilo – 213 units (in two plans)
- Nili – 354 units
- Kochav Yaacov – 160 units
- Psagot – 18 units
- Pnei Kedem – 120 units (legalization of an illegal outpost)
- Bracha – 286 units
- Tapuah West – 133 units (legalization of an illegal outpost)
- Rimonim – 148 units
Yesterday’s hearing on 14 October:
- Plan for the expansion of Mishor Adumim Industrial Area
- Karnei Shomron – 82 units.
- Efrat – 37 units (adding 37 units to the 156 units that were already approved – total of 193 units).
- Shimaa – 75 units in two plans (adding 75 units to the 29 approved – total of 104 units)
- Patzael Motor Park
- Maale Efrayim – no additional plan (total of 11 units)
- Beit El – 382 units in two plans
- Har Gilo – 560 units
- Kfar Eldad – 205 units in two plans
- Asfar – 215 units
- Kfar Adumim – 132 units
- Kerem Reim – 140 units
- New Givon – 2 units
- Kochav Yaacov – shops and services
- Telem – 64 units (adding 64 units to the 93 approved – total 157 units).