2020 Settlement Construction Report – Download as PDF
Highlights – Settlement Construction In The West Bank, 2020
Peace Now’s count according to aerial photos (East Jerusalem excluded):
11 New settlement outposts (illegal agriculture farms) were established in 2020, all of them in areas that Israel will need to evict under a two-state solution (east of the Geneva Initiative proposed border).
2,433 new housing units began construction in 2020.
Yearly average of construction since Trump’s administration (2,308 units) is 28% higher than the yearly average under Obama’s administration (1,807 units).
Nearly 63% (1,534 housing units) of the new construction was in settlements east of the proposed Geneva Initiative border, i.e. settlements likely to be evacuated in a two-state agreement.
At least 13% (325 housing units) of the construction was illegal, in illegal outposts.
The vast majority of new construction, 92% (2,225 housing units), was for permanent structures, while that the remainder was mobile homes both in outposts and in settlements.
63 new public buildings (such as schools, synagogues etc.) started to be built, 7 of them in outposts, alongside 197 structures for industry or agriculture (58%! of them in illegal outposts).
46% of the construction was in national-religious settlements (1,130 units); 31% of the construction was in Ultra-Orthodox settlements (744 units), 21% of the construction was in mixed religious-secular settlements and only 2% of the construction was in secular settlements (49 units).
Construction starts were counted via aerial photographs, compared with images from the previous year. The photographs were typically taken in the middle of the year, such that the construction figures published herein are from the second half of 2019 until mid to late 2020.
To download the full list of construction starts per settlement – click here
Advancement of Plans and Tenders in 2020 (January-December)
12,159 Housing units were advanced through plans in 55 settlements (East Jerusalem excluded), including the depositing of plans for 3,401 units in E1 for public review.
91% (11,091 housing units) of the planned units were east of the proposed Geneva Initiative border.
Tenders were published for 3,512 housing units, 1,785 of them in settlements and 1,727 units in East Jerusalem Israeli neighborhoods, including 1,257 units in Givat Hamatos.
Additionally, plans for 780 housing units progressed in January of 2021, and tenders were published for 2,112 housing units in settlements (with an additional 460 housing units in East Jerusalem).
Outpost authorization – In 2020 plans were advanced to retroactively authorize four illegal outposts as “neighborhoods” of existing settlements: Mitzpe Dani, Karmei Doron, Kfar Tapuah Ma’arav, and Pnei Kedem. In January of 2021, authorization plans were also furthered for another two outposts: Havat Yair and Nofei Nehemia, as neighborhoods of the settlements of Yakir and Rehelim. All such developments are taking place alongside governmental and parliamentary initiatives to establish mechanisms for outpost authorization, through further land takeover, among other things.
According to Peace Now’s calculations, beyond an increase in plans and tenders, there has been a 28% average increase in construction starts since Trump took office.
Roads and Infrastructure in 2020 (see Appendix)
The Israeli government has been investing dramatic funds and resources in recent years in order to upgrade the roads system for the settlers in the West Bank. Such roads system will allow the doubling of the number of settlers in the coming decades. Year 2020 saw the beginning of many of those projects on the ground, while plans for additional roads were prepared and promoted.
The Tunnels Road – Intensive work continued to double the size of the Tunnels Road (which bypasses Bethlehem from the west).
Al-Aroub Bypass Road – construction commenced for the Al-Aroub Bypass Road.
Both projects are meant to turn the road from Jerusalem to Kiryat Arba and Hebron into a two-lane road in each direction.
Qalandiya Underpass – in December 2020, a tender was published for the construction of the Qalandiya Underpass. Works are expected to start next month (April 2021).
Hawara Bypass Road – On February 21, 2021, a ceremony was held to inaugurate work on paving the Hawara Bypass Road near Nablus and the construction of the road commenced.
Elazariya-A-Za’im Road – the Prime Minister decided to allocate NIS 14 million to complete planning, and even commence work on a road for Palestinians, that will enable the Government of Israel to close off thousands of dunams surrounding Ma’ale Adumim to Palestinians, and the construction in E1.
Eastern Ring Road – the southern part of the Eastern Ring Road (from Har Homa to Tsur Baher) was opened to traffic in 2020.
Ramat Shlomo Interchange was also opened to traffic this year.
Work commenced on the French Hill Tunnel (AKA French Hill underpass), which leads to Ma’ale Adumim settlement area.
Work has also commenced on Asher Weiner Tunnel, which leads to the Eastern Ring Road.
Plans for additional roads were promoted (see Appendix: the Roads Boom in 2020).
Rulings to Evict Palestinian Families in SIlwan and Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem
From early 2020 to date (March 2021), rulings have been handed down regarding 14 eviction claims submitted by settlers against Palestinian families in Batan Al-Hawa, Silwan, and Sheikh Jarrah. In the rulings, the court ordered the evictions of 165 people comprising 36 families, including dozens of children. Seven cases in Batan Al-Hawa call for the eviction of 107 people from 20 families; seven cases in Sheikh Jarrah evict 58 people from 13 families. All families have filed appeals and are in various stages of hearings in the district court, with some hearings even taking place in the Supreme Court.
Over 1,000 Palestinians are facing eviction from their homes in East Jerusalem, in favor of settlers, through a methodical government-aided campaign with legal backing. The campaign has come to fruition over the past year, and families may be evicted in the coming months if it’s not stopped. Read more here.
On January 2021, the Supreme Court, in an unusual move, requested the opinion of the Attorney General of Israel, to be filed by April 27, on the legal issues raised in the case of eight families from Batan al-Hawa whose case have reached the Supreme Court level. The government is now forced to take a stand and cannot claim anymore that it does not intervene in civil court matters. If the opinion of the AG will support the eviction, it will mean that the Israeli government in actively participating in the crime of unjust displacement.
This is a rare opportunity for the local and international actors to put pressure on the Israeli government, to make sure it knows that it is being watched and expected to prevent the injustice.
Further Details and Background
A. 11 New Settlements (Farm Outposts)
In 2020, 11 new outposts were established throughout the West Bank. In recent years, illegal outposts have again become a choice method, whereby settlers establish facts on the ground by building unauthorized settlements knowing fully well that the government will allow them to remain and to try to retroactively legalize them while tacitly encouraging their growth.
In recent years c. 40 agricultural farms outposts were established. The farms allow settlers to take over vast areas (pasture and agricultural cultivation) with only a small group of people—one family and several youngsters—who maintain the farm and take control of hundreds of acres. This control often involves them additionally driving off Palestinian farmers from the area. For more information on the return of the outpost phenomenon, see here.
List of Outposts established in 2020:
Amihai South – South of the settlement of Amihai
Mount Ebal Outpost – North of Nablus
Umm Zaytuna – South Hebron Hills between the settlements of Maon and Carmel
Asfar South – South of the settlement of Asfar (southeast of Bethlehem)
Micha’s New Farm – Western Jordan Valley (near the settlement of Kochav Hashachar)
Havat Nof Avi – West of the Palestinian city of Salfit and the settlement of Ariel
Beit Dajan Farm – Northern Jordan Valley
Moshe’s Farm – Northern Jordan Valley
Ma’ale Ahuviya – East of Ramallah near the settlement of Kochav Hashachar
East of Malachei Hashalom Farm – Western Jordan valley
Nachal Shilo Farm – Near the Palestinian village of Sinjil south of Nablus.
B. Most of the Construction is in Settlements that Israel will Need to Evict
Peace Now’s Settlement Watch annual construction report for 2020 reveals that the construction was largely focused in isolated settlements and in areas that are highly problematic in terms of a two-state solution. 63% (1,534 housing units) of the new housing starts were in areas that are east of the proposed Geneva Initiative border. 1,534 units are the potential for another 7,000 settlers to move in those houses when completed, which means Israel will need to evict many more settlers in order to implement a two-state conflict-ending resolution.
The Geneva Initiative is a model of an Israeli-Palestinian permanent agreement that has been informally agreed upon by both Israelis and Palestinians of significant status in a variety of professions and is currently the only document for which there is agreement, albeit informal.
According to the model, Israel will be able to annex a minor amount of Palestinian land encompassing most settlers in return for exchanging to the Palestinians land out of Israeli territory.
Consequently, the Israeli government is digging the pit where Israel is on track to fall. Every house built in the settlements and every family that moves to live there will cost Israel a painful and difficult evacuation. Even if one does not believe that peace can be reached in the near future, it makes no sense to build settlements and to make the conflict insoluble.
C. Settlements with the Most Construction
Modi’in Illit: In the ultra-orthodox settlement of Modi’in Illit alone, construction commenced on 460 housing units, which marks the peak of construction starts in 2020. This construction trend is also visible in other ultra-orthodox settlements: 70 units in Beitar Illit; 76 units in Tel Zion, which is formally considered part of the settlement of Kochav Ya’akov; and 70 units in the settlement of Immanuel. It is important to note that for years the settlement of Immanuel failed to attract new settlers (being a poor and isolated settlement) and the number of residents did not increase, yet in recent years large-scale construction has commenced. In January of 2021, a tender was published for 900 housing units in Immanuel. The government appears to be attempting to encourage the settlement, which failed to attract a population for many years.
Givat Ze’ev – In Givat Ze’ev, a suburb of Jerusalem, construction commenced for 180 housing units (some of which are towers). 30 of the units are located in ultra-orthodox neighborhood, Agan HaAyalot.
Beit El – Construction has commenced on the projects that the government promised the settlement of Beit El, following its eviction of five structures in the Ulpana neighborhood in 2012. In 2020, the construction of 136 housing units began in the settlement adjacent to Ramallah.
Avnei Hefetz – Construction continues in the settlement of Avnei Hefetz near Tulkarem, which is being marketed as a new settlement called “Kedem””, similar to ”Leshem”, which was formally considered part of the settlement of Alei Zahav, yet is marketed as a separate settlement with its own character.
Nokdim and Kfar Eldad – Construction commenced on a new neighborhood in the settlement of Nokdim east of Bethlehem (74 units), while construction continued at the neighborhood of Kfar Eldad which is considered a neighborhood of Nokdim, with 23 new housing units. This is part of an ongoing trend of construction and development in settlements east of Bethlehem (Nokdim, Tekoa, Asfar, and Ma’ale Amos), following the paving of the Za‘atara Bypass Road (known as the ”Lieberman Road”), which led to vast development in these settlements and a construction boom that continues to date.
Bruchin and Leshem – A vast construction boom continues in the settlement of Bruchin, which was established in the 1990s as an illegal outpost and was retroactively authorized by the government in 2012. Construction began on total of 56 housing units in 2020, in addition to the 171 units built from 2018-2019. Such a quantity is quite large for a small settlement.
The area in which Bruchin is located, near Salfit southeast of Qalqilya, is especially challenging for land swaps (Bruchin is located 10 kilometers from the Green Line), such that construction therein is particularly detrimental to a two-state solution. In light of this fact and in attempt to generate a critical mass of settlers who will connect to the settlement of Ariel, we have witnessed a major construction boom in the settlements in the area over the past decade. For instance, in recent years the settlement of Leshem was established alongside Bruchin. In 2020, 61 new housing units were built in Leshem (following 241 units built over the course of the three preceding years).
Appendix to the settlement construction report of Peace Now – Download as PDF
In recent years, the Israeli government has promoted a comprehensive plan to pave hundreds of kilometers of bypass roads in the West Bank. This plan is meant to provide the infrastructure required for doubling the settler population in the coming decades. The plan, which will cost billions of shekels, intends to enable faster safer travels from Israel to the settlements, without traffic lights and with minimal traffic jams, to encourage residents to move to the settlements. Past experience indicates that the moment a bypass road is opened to the public, significant growth commences in the surrounding settlements. For instance, this was the case under a decade after the Za‘atara Bypass Road (”The Lieberman Road“) opened, wherein the number of residents in the settlements along it doubled.
The Tunnels Road (No. 11 on the map)
In 2020 intensive work continued on doubling the size of the Tunnels Road (bypassing Bethlehem to the west). This is one of Israel’s largest and most expensive projects currently underway in the occupied Palestinian territories. The current Tunnels Road suffers from heavy traffic and daily traffic jams. Doubling its size will also enable doubling of the number of settlers who will move to the Bethlehem area in the settlements of “Gush Etzion.”
Al-Aroub Bypass Road (No. 13 on the map)
In late 2020, work commenced on the Al-Aroub Bypass Road. The road is meant to bypass the Al-Aroub Refugee Camp and the Palestinian town of Beit Ummar, to enable faster and safer travel for settlers traveling south toward Hebron and Kiryat Arba.
Both the Tunnels and Al-Aroub Bypass Roads, intend to turn the road from Jerusalem to Kiryat Arba and Hebron into a two-lane road in each direction, without passing through any Palestinian communities.
Hawara Bypass Road
Qalandiya Underpass (No. 1 on the map)
A tender was published in late 2020 for the execution of work on the “Qalandiya Underpass,” which is slated to commence in April of 2021. The Qalandiya Underpass is effectively a tunnel or underground passage beneath the Qalandiya checkpoint, which intends to enable settler traffic to pass through the West Bank into the Israeli road system without getting stuck in the traffic jams around Jerusalem neighborhoods. This will generate drastic spatial change in turning settlements near Ramallah northward, and in the Jordan Valley, into suburbs of Jerusalem. The road will allow a swift and convenient access into Israel, thus encouraging settlement expansion. A new bypass road called “The Quarries Road” is planned to connect the settlers to the Qalandiya Underpass without traveling along the Palestinian communities of Jaba’ and Ar-Ram. The plan for the “Quarries Road” was approved for depositing in 2020 (see below).
El-Azariya – a-Za’im Road (No. 6 on the map)
The prime minister decided to allocate NIS 14 million for the completion of planning and commencement of work on the Palestinian road between el-Azariya and a-Za’im (known as the “Fabric of Life Road” or “The Sovereignty Road”), intended to enable the annexation of Ma’ale Adumim and construction in E-1. The road is intended to divert Palestinian traffic, which currently passes along the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, onto a bypass road, so that Israel can close off to Palestinians approximately 2% of the West Bank area (approx. 25,000 acres) in the Ma’ale Adumim area at the heart of the West Bank. In February, Minister of Transportation Miri Regev announced that a contract had been signed for the detailed planning and management of the project, along with the paving of the road.
A statement issued just a few weeks ago by the mayor of Ma’ale Adumim on the progress of the road’s development, indicates its dramatic importance and impact on the center of the West Bank, and on Palestinians development potential. In the statement, the mayor of Ma’ale Adumim explicitly and callously articulates the policy of separation (not to say apartheid) behind the plan, and Israel’s genuine intention to detract central territory at the heart of the West Bank from Palestinian space.
Regarding changes in the area, the statement indicates that
“[…the road] will bring about the closure of the entrance to el-Azariya from the direction of the city [Ma’ale Adumim], advance the movement of the security fence between us and el-Azariya, and enable the shift of the a-Za’im checkpoint toward Mishor Adumim.”
That is, Ma’ale Adumim will be physically separated from Palestinian space by the fence, such that there will no longer be a need for the checkpoint currently located between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim, to prevent Palestinians from entering Israel. The checkpoint will be shifted eastward, so that residents of Ma’ale Adumim will not have to pass through the checkpoint daily on their way to Jerusalem, and Palestinians won’t have access to the area between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim eastward.
“This is a separate road for Palestinians in the E1 area, intended to separate the transportation flow between the Palestinian and Israel populations in the area, such that Palestinian vehicles may travel without passing through the Ma’ale Adumim bloc near Jewish localities.”
That is, the purpose of the road is to separate Palestinian traffic along Highway 1, from Israelis and “Jewish localities” who will use other roads in separate areas. Palestinians will not even be able to pass through what is known as the “Ma’ale Adumim bloc.”
The statement goes on to explain the political implications of the road:
“Politically speaking, the road will connect Jerusalem to Ma’ale Adumim and enable construction in Jewish localities in the E1 zone.”
Ramat Shlomo Interchange (No. 5 on the map) and French Hill Underpass (No. 4 on the map)
Within Jerusalem, the Ramat Shlomo Interchange was opened to traffic, and work commenced on an underpass beneath the French Hill Junction in East Jerusalem. Both roads form a broad axis connecting Ma’ale Adumim to the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv road, and their completion will enable travel along a highway without traffic lights from the settlements around Ma’ale Adumim to Tel Aviv.
The Eastern Ring Road (No. 9 on the map) and the Asher Wiener Underpass (No. 8 on the map)
The southern part of the Eastern Ring Road, called “The American Road,” opened to traffic this year and work on the massive bridge along it is nearing completion. Work has also commenced on the Asher Wiener underpass, beneath the Hebron Road in Jerusalem, intended to connect traffic from the settlements south of Jerusalem and in the Har Homa area to West Jerusalem via a highway along the new Eastern Ring Road.
The Eastern Ring Road essentially intends to bypass Jerusalem from the east, enabling settlers to travel from the Bethlehem area to the settlement around Ma’ale Adumim, and the settlements north of Jerusalem and east of Ramallah. The road will not be open to use by the Palestinian population (aside from Palestinian residents of Jerusalem) as it passes through an area within the separation barrier that has been annexed to Jerusalem, and may solely be accessed through checkpoints.
Completion of the Eastern Ring Road in the direction of Ma’ale Adumim (the central part of the road), involves the excavation of a long tunnel under the neighborhood of A-Tur through a lengthy and costly engineering project. Work on the central part of the road is yet to begin.
Road Plans Promoted in 2020
The Higher Planning Council of the Civil Administration approved the depositing of four plans for bypass roads to settlements:
Al-Walajeh Bypass Road (No. 10 on the map)
the upgrade and the regularization of the existing road from Jerusalem to the Har Gilo settlement, bypassing the Palestinian village of Al-Walajeh. This plan is required in order to approve the plan for “the Camel Neighborhood” intended to double the size of the settlement of Har Gilo.
Gvaot – Beitar Illit Road (No. 12 on the map)
A planned long road in the area between the settlements of Gvaot and Beitar Illit. The road aims to enable an increase in the volume of traffic in the area of Beitar Illit, and to serve future plans for the establishment of a new city near the settlement of Gvaot.
“Quarries Road” (Highway 45) (No. 2 on the map)
A new road planned to connect between the Ramallah Bypass Road near the settlement of Kochav Ya’akov and the Qalandiya area. Settlers will be able to use this road, bypassing the Palestinian villages of Jaba’ and Ar-Ram and to travel to Israel through the Qalandiya Underpass into Israel.
Road 437 (the Ramallah Bypass Road) (No. 3 on the map)
A plan for the expansion of road 437 between Hizma and Jaba’ to include two lanes in each direction and another public transportation lane. The plan was approved and recently a tender was published for the selection of a project manager to prepare the tender for the execution of work and the project at large, indicating that work may commence within the year. Another section of the road that runs through Jerusalem’s area of jurisdiction (on the Israeli side of the separation barrier) was also approved by the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee (plan no. 587618).
To read more on the infrastructural boom being furthered by the Israeli government in the occupied Palestinian territories, see Breaking the Silence’s report Highway to Annexation.