Hundreds of Settlement Units to be Advanced ahead of Biden Presidency

On 12 January 2021, the agenda was published for an upcoming session on 17 January of the Civil Administration’s Higher Planning Council, summarizing ten settlement plans to be promoted. Peace Now can confirm that these plans include a combined 684 units at the very least, with an unknown number of units to be advanced in a plan to retroactively legalize the outpost of Havat Yair. This agenda’s publication follows a report from earlier in the week that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has approved the promotion of some 800 settlement housing units throughout the West Bank.

Three of the plans identified by Peace Now are set to be approved for deposit (the first of 2-3 approval stages before construction can begin) and the other seven to be approved for validation (second and often final stage). One plan is designed to retroactively authorize the illegal outpost of Nofei Nehemia, south of Nablus along Route 60. Another plan will legalize the farm outpost of Havat Yair, although the units for that plan have not been ascertained. Yet another plan would dramatically increase the size of the Tal Menashe neighborhood and legalized outpost of Hinanit, a move apparently in response to the murder of a woman there by a Palestinian.

The reasoning over this last plan is a disingenuous and ineffective policy that even some settler leaders have expressed concern. The argument that the response to terror must be more settlement building, in order to create a deterrent, would mean that in periods of no terrorism there shouldn’t be any building. And yet settlement activity continues at a constant pace, so this “deterrence” policy is nullified by the very people clamoring to always keep building. Moreover, settlement building can just as likely increase Palestinian hostility, as experience has time and again shown. Rather, this revenge policy is yet another cynical excuse to prop-up the settlement enterprise, which even after decades of right-wing rule still fails to be seen by the Israeli public as a vital interest (if not a national burden).

This upcoming round of advancements represents the first in 2021, following a record year for units in plans advanced, in 2020. It also will come just four days before US President-Elect Joe Biden replaces outgoing President Donald Trump. In the past few months Israel has promoted a slew of major settlement plans, from issuing the first construction permit for a plan in Hebron since 2002, to opening the tender (bid) for the Givat HaMatos doomsday Jerusalem settlement plan, also set to close just days before President-Elect Biden enters office.

Peace Now: “By promoting hundreds of settlement units, Prime Minister Netanyahu is once again putting his personal political interests over those of the country. Not only will this settlement activity erode the possibility for a conflict-ending resolution with the Palestinians in the long-term, but in the short-term it needlessly sets Israel on a collision course with the incoming Biden administration. For eight years as vice president, Biden and the rest of the Obama administration gradually became more irritated and willing to spar with Israel over settlements, and for the past four years Biden has watched Netanyahu stroke Trump’s ego to promote policies meant to undermine the very foundations for a two-state solution. Although supporting more settlement activity may be a shrewd way to attract votes over the increasing number of rivals to his right, Netanyahu is gambling with Israel’s all-important relationship with its US ally.”

The plans and their units identified by Peace Now include:

Oranit – 66 units

Karnei Shomron – 24 units

Barkan Industrial Area – Expansion

Shavei Shomron – 152 units

Itamar – 123 units

Tal Menashe (Hinanit) – 107 units

Havat Yair (Yair Farm) – Legalization of the outpost by advancing an unknown number of units

Nofei Nehemia – Legalization of an illegal outpost by advancing 212 units

The full details can be found in the table below: