UPDATE FROM 18/08/2021: The hearings of the Higher Planning Council did not take place this week due to a strike declared by the workers of the Civil Administration.
Yesterday It was published that the Minister of Defense has approved the convening of the Higher Planning Council of the Civil Administration for approving thousands of housing units in the settlements, and for approving hundreds of housing units for Palestinians. The Higher Planning Council will convene next week on Tuesday (17/8/21) to discuss five plans for Palestinian villages, including 863 housing units, according to the IDF Spokesman’s announcement, and on Wednesday (18/8/21) to discuss 21 plans of 1,956 units in settlements. It should be noted that in 2020 alone, Israel approved plans for 12,159 new housing units in the settlements, while approving plans for only 253 housing units for Palestinians.
Peace Now: The approval of thousands of housing units in the settlements harms the Israeli interest and the chances of reaching peace. It seems that the approval of a handful of plans for the Palestinians is only intended to try to reduce criticism of the government and to please the US administration ahead of Prime Minister Bennett’s expected visit to Washington in the coming weeks. For years, Israel has pursued a policy of blatant discrimination that does not allow almost any construction for Palestinians in Area C, while in the settlements it encourages and promotes the construction of thousands of housing units each year for Israelis. The approval of a few hundred housing units for Palestinians can not cover up discrimination and does not change the fact that Israel maintains an illegal regime of occupation and discrimination in the territories.
The plans for the Palestinians
Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories is preventing almost all Palestinian construction and development in all territories subject to its planning authority in the West Bank. The result is that the Palestinians are prevented from building and developing about 60% of the West Bank (“Area C”). Along with preventing permits and plans, Israel pursues a tough enforcement policy and demolishes hundreds of Palestinian homes and structures each year. In recent years, almost no new plans have been approved for construction in Palestinian villages in Area C. International pressure (as well as pressure by officials in the Israeli Ministry of Justice who understood that such a blatant policy of discrimination against Palestinians could be considered a serious violation of international law), brought to some Israeli statements and declarations of intent to approve construction for the Palestinians, but in practice almost nothing was approved. This was the case in 2017 after the government decided to approve about 5,000 housing units in Qalqilya and under right-wing pressure the decision was revoked, and so it was in July 2019, after the cabinet decided to approve 700 housing units for Palestinians in Area C – in practice nothing was approved.
In October 2020 and January 2021, three plans for Palestinian villages were approved: A-Tuwani (210 housing units) and Zif (35 housing units) in the southern Hebron Hills, and Hizma (140 housing units) east of Jerusalem. Recall that in January 2021, Defense Minister Gantz announced the approval of several more plans for the Palestinians, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brought most of the plans off the agenda.
The Minister of Defense has now announced the convening of the Higher Planning Council of the Civil Administration next week to approve the following plans:
Plan No. 1629/1 for Al-Ma’assara village in the Bethlehem area – 150 housing units
Plan No. 1107/1 for the village of Bir Albasha in the Jenin area – 270 housing units
Plan No. 1130/1 for the village of Abba a-Sharqiya in the Jenin area – 160 housing units
Plan No. 1220/1 for the village of Almasqufa in the Tulkarm area – 233 housing units
Plan No. 1648 for Khirbet Zakaria in the Bethlehem area – 50 housing units.
It is important to note that almost all the plans have been on the planning council’s table for many years and are awaiting approval, along with many other plans for Palestinians. Some of the housing units in the plans have already been built and exist on the ground and the plan is intended to legalize them in retrospect, so that in the end it is a very small expansion of the Palestinian villages and a drop in the ocean in terms of real Palestinian development needs.
It should be noted that even permit applications for Palestinians under existing approved plans (usually according to the old British plans) are almost universally rejected. According to information received from the Civil Administration following requests under the Freedom of Information Law (mainly by the Bimkom organization), in the decade between 2009 and 2018:
The Plans for settlements
Next Wednesday, 18/8/21, the Higher Planning Council will convene to discuss 21 plans in the settlements, for the construction of 1,956 housing units, 84% of them are in settlements deep in the West Bank, which Israel will have to evacuate under a permanent agreement (according to the agreement model of the Geneva Initiative).
Among other things, the Planning Council intends to approve a massive expansion of isolated settlements, such as: 377 housing units in Kedumim (near Nablus), 286 housing units in Har Bracha (adjacent to Nablus), and a plan for 399 housing units in Revava in the Salfit area. 62% of the housing units will be brought for approval for deposit, which is the first step in the planning process; And the rest are brought for final approval for validity. For more on the planning procedures in the West Bank, click here.
The Defense Minister’s press release lists 2,200 housing units, while Peace Now’s count is of 1,956 units. This is because some of the plans are plans for adding additional units to already approved units. To avoid double counting of housing units Peace Now counts in each plan only the new and additional housing units that the plan adds.
It should be noted that in January 2021 the Higher Planning Council approved plans for 780 housing units in settlements, and then another 5 units were approved in very small plans, so if all plans are approved next week, the number of housing units approved in settlements in 2021 will be 2,741 housing units.
Map of the plans to be approved in settlements: