The plan establishes a new settlement almost out of nowhere, on land seized by the outpost of Zayit Raanan. While currently, there is a small number of caravans in the outpost, the plan promotes 189 housing units. Furthermore, although the plan is considered a neighborhood of the Talmon settlement, the distance between Zayit Raanan and the settlement is about 2.5 kilometers in aerial distance. The establishment of the settlement is part of expanding Israeli presence in the West Bank area west of Ramallah and creates many implications for Palestinian villages in the area.
In February, the Israeli government announced the promotion of thousands of housing units for settlements in the West Bank. Subsequently, the subcommittee for settlements within the Higher Planning Committee of the Civil Administration initially approved the promotion of 7,157 units. However, we learned that following the approval of the plans, a subsequent closed session agreed to promote Plan 1/7/235 for 189 units in the outpost of Zayit Raanan. With the approval of the plan, the number of approved units by the Planning Committee reached 7,346 units. For additional information on all of the plans that were approved, click here.
The plan for Zayit Raanan is officially defined as a neighborhood of the Talmon settlement. However, in practice, the outpost is located far from the center of the settlement. The establishment of new settlements as neighborhoods of existing settlements is a familiar method of the government and is done in order to reduce criticism, both international and local, towards the move.
Indeed, the Talmon settlement officially consists of several outposts, officially defined as neighborhoods of the settlement. In addition to Zayit Raanan, over the years, Neriya, Horesh Yaron, and Kerem Re’im outposts have been “legalized” as neighborhoods of Talmon, despite the fact that the aerial distance between the outposts and the settlement reaches 3 km. Essentially, the Zayit Raanan outpost is closer to the Palestinian villages of Beitillu and Deir Ammar than to Talmon.
Effectively, the implication of the approval is the establishment of a new settlement. The plan will establish 189 housing units on lands that are currently almost uninhabited by settlers and consist of only a few mobile homes. The approved plan is for 203 dunams of land defined as state land, following its declaration as abandoned property by the custodian of government property. Most of the surrounding lands belong to the residents of nearby villages, Ras Karkar and Deir Ammar, and are used for agriculture.
Located near the outpost of Zayit Raanan is Nabi Aner, which served in the past as a site for pilgrimage, prayer, and gatherings for special events for the Palestinian residents of the surrounding villages, especially from the villages of Ras Karkar and Deir Ammar. The site is abundant with springs and is privately owned by Palestinian villagers. This did not bother settlers from the area to establish on it a public park and a recreational area in 2014. They renovated the springs, built paths, erected shaded pergolas, seating areas, and more. Since then, Palestinians are largely being prevented from accessing the site. Therefore, in 2017, residents of the neighboring Palestinian villages, Ras Karkar and Deir Ammar, along with the organizations Emek Shaveh and Yesh Din, appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court of Justice to demand the removal of the illegal construction on private land. As a result, the settlers decided to dismantle some of the buildings and facilities to comply with the Supreme Court’s demand. However, the legal battle has not been resolved yet, and the site is still mostly accessible to the settlers of the settlement.
From a political perspective, the establishment of the settlement of Zayit Raanan is part of a plan to create a “settlement bloc”, in an area adjacent to Ramallah from the west, with the aim of impeding the expansion of the Palestinian city and other Palestinian villages and towns around the area. Virtually, the bloc creates Palestinian enclaves surrounded by settlements from almost every direction, which negatively impacts Palestinian development and access to their lands. Another goal is to create a “finger” of settlements from Modi’in Illit settlement, through the Nili settlements, all the way to the depth of the West Bank. The settlement bloc is composed of the settlements of Talmon, Dolev, and Nahliel, as well as numerous outposts, many of which have been legalized or are in the process of legalization (Harasha, Horesh Yaron, Kerem Re’im, Neriya), and through the seizure of additional lands along various roads, including agricultural farms (Eretz Zvi, Sde Ephraim), and tourist sites (Nabi Aner). The establishment of Zayit Raanan as an independent settlement adds to these efforts.