Netanyahu’s infamous growing Legacy of Housing Units construction in Israeli settlements in the occupied State of Palestine

Netanyahu’s infamous growing Legacy of Housing Units construction in Israeli settlements in the occupied State of Palestine


Settlement Expansion


The Israeli government encourages the settlements in the occupied West Bank and in the Jerusalem area in particular, by giving incentives to the settlers, including housing subsidies, income tax reductions, disproportionately generous budget allocations to the settlement areas, as well as business grants. In the past two decades, these policies, aided by the construction of bypass roads to link the settlements, and the excessive control of the Israeli Army, the area annexed by Israeli settlements’ has increased 182% (from 69 km² in 1990, to 194.7 km² in 2012) (ARIJ GIS database 2012). In return, the number of Israeli settlers went from 240,000 in 1990 to more than 656,000 in 2012, – an increase of 189% (ARIJ GIS Department, 2012).


The Expansion of the settlements is to meet the needs of natural growth.


Since Netanyahu came into power in March 2009, he has offered no viable alternatives to the status-quo in the occupied Palestinian territory, nor has he ever addressed the Palestinians as equal partners in the peace process. He actively spurns peace by continuing and expanding construction activities in the Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, especially focusing on Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, a part of the city which Israel annexed illegally and unilaterally after the Six Day War.


The Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian Territory are one of the foremost obstacles to ever achieving any real progress in the peace process. Furthermore, they block agreement on the other important final status issues of Jerusalem, borders, water, refugees and Israeli security concerns. As more Palestinian land is taken for settlement expansion, less land is available for future Palestinian development. Additionally, as settlement building and expansion continues, there is growing concern that the increasing fragmentation of the West Bank territory will endanger the possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state in the future.


During his first four-year term, Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu failed to make concessions in return for true peace with the Palestinians, while at the same time stalling the peace talks, and blaming the internal conflicts between Fateh and Hamas for precluding Palestine from being a credible peace partner. Further, he has claimed that the Palestinian National Authority is nearing collapse, and is no longer able to carry out its internal and external obligations towards the peace process.


While it is true that Netanyahu has repeatedly offered the Palestinians peace negotiations, he has simultaneously supported and encouraged the continuing construction of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory even though international law and UN resolutions clearly define the Israeli settlements as illegal.


The 10-month settlement freeze


On November 27, 2009, Prime Minister Netanyahu, declared a 10-month settlement freeze in the West Bank, beginning in December 2009 and ending in September 2010, claiming that it would give the peace process a chance to move forward. However, he excluded ongoing settlement projects initiated prior to December 2009, and also exempted from the freeze new building as part of the natural growth in existing settlements. Moreover, East Jerusalem was excluded from the moratorium and settlement expansion continued there, even though the Road Map peace plan of 2003, called for Israel to freeze all settlement activities in the West Bank including East Jerusalem.

During the time of the settlement freeze various Israeli ministries and bodies published plans for building approximately 25,000 housing units in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Virtually 99% of the plans were issued for Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and settlements located in the Western Segregation Zone, (the area Israel seeks to annex through the construction of the Segregation Wall), as well as for Israeli settlements located in existing major settlements blocs.  See Map 1





The settlement moratorium had no meaningful effect on the ground because:


In September 2010, following the expiration of the 10-month settlement freeze, Israel restarted construction in the settlements and announced that it would build 18,000 settlement units in 2011 and more than 26,000 units in 2012. With these announcements, Israel rendered the entire settlement freeze meaningless and insignificant by applying its own conditions to the conflict.


This cynical expansion and development cannot be construed as a good faith effort by Israel to resume serious peace negotiations with the Palestinians when prior to the  announcement of the moratorium, the Israeli authorities issued plans for more than 30,000 units to be built in settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, including settlements in East Jerusalem. Therefore, during the so-called 2010 settlement freeze the pace of building in settlements was mainly unaffected.


Not only did Israel exclude East Jerusalem settlements from the freeze, but it also continued to issue housing plans for targeted settlements with high strategic importance, as well as locations in East Jerusalem, in the Western Segregation zone and inside existing settlement blocs. Notably, Israel has repeatedly asserted it doesn’t consider Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem to be “settlements” since Israel contends that any construction in Jerusalem is part of their own ‘eternal and undivided capital of Jerusalem‘, even though it lies within the occupied territory, that has never been recognized by the international community .


By forcing facts on the ground and manipulating the geographic and demographic balance of the occupied territory, particularly in occupied East Jerusalem, Israel is destroying any possibility of fruitful negotiations to reach a peace agreement based on a two-state solution, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states.

By continuing construction in settlement blocs surrounding Jerusalem, Israel is aiming to cut off the city from the rest of the Palestinian West Bank Governorates. To that end, Israel wants to maintain control over the five major Israeli settlement blocs in the West Bank to ensure that it remains a predominantly Jewish state, irrespective of the cost to the Palestinians.  See Map 2





During the 10-month freeze, the resumption of work in the ongoing West Bank settlement projects, initiated prior to the enforcement of the freeze, filled in the geographical gaps with plans for new housing units and additions to neighborhoods settlements establishing the eastern belt around Jerusalem. That belt is designed to isolate the city from the rest of the West Bank Governorates, and curtail Palestine’s natural expansion so that in the future it would be unable strengthen ties between East Jerusalem and the West Bank Governorates.


The settlement expansion contradicts the April 14, 2004 letter from former U.S. President, George Bush to former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon which stresses on the Palestinians’ Right to a viable State:


‘The United States supports the establishment of a Palestinian state that is viable, contiguous, sovereign, and independent, so that the Palestinian people can build their own future in accordance with my vision set forth in June 2002 and with the path set forth in the roadmap.’


Additionally, the settlement expansion is in conflict with the performance-based Roadmap which states:


“Creation of an independent Palestinian state with provisional borders through a process of Israeli-Palestinian engagement, launched by the international conference. As part of this process, implementation of prior agreements, to enhance maximum territorial contiguity, includes further action on settlements in conjunction with establishment of a Palestinian state with provisional borders.”


Netanyahu’s legacy of settlement construction in the oPt


Israel has always claimed that building new housing units in Israeli settlements is necessary to meet natural growth. However, while the Israeli settler population has increased between 4.7% and 4.9% each year since 2000, the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) states that the natural population growth of Israel is 1.7. According to CBS, that growth rate would mean that the 656,000 settlers in the occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem) would be in need of 2,655 housing units based on an average of 4.2 people per household. However, an analysis conducted by the Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ), using high precision aerial photos, revealed that during the freeze of 2010, construction actually comprised 1,819 structures (representing 7,276 housing units) in 133 Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem (274% increase).


After the expiration of the freeze, an additional 11,516 settlement units were constructed in 2011 (a 433% increase) and 14,699 units in 2012 (a 554% increase). Figure 1 indicates that settlement expansion exceeds the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics figures. See Figure 1





Therefore it seems that growth is exceeding what would be “naturally expected” and rather than being spontaneous, the growth appears to be in the service of Israel’s political objective of colonizing the West Bank and Jerusalem.


Israeli “Outposts”, merely another tool to annex land


In 1996, following the signing of the Oslo Peace Accords in 1995, the Israeli settlers initiated a new phenomenon known as ”outposts”. An Outpost is created when a group of Israeli settlers takes control of a Palestinian hilltop located in close proximity to existing Israeli settlement which is known as the ” mother settlement”. The outposts often consisting of a few caravans of Israeli settlers are now spreading throughout the occupied Palestinian territory (opt).


Typically, Israeli uses four different methods to confiscate Palestinian lands for the establishment of outposts. All are illegal as they are inconsistent with international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which would seem to make the outposts nothing more than a pretext for seizing land. . In the first method, the outposts are frequently built on areas proclaimed by the Israeli Army to be ‘‘security areas”. The so-called “security areas’ are conveyed to settlers control as soon as the Israeli army evacuates the military installations on the particular site. Israel engages in a second method whereby outposts are erected along confiscated lands, or on the buffer zones of bypass roads constructed for the sole use of nearby Israeli settlements. Another method involves confiscating massive tracts of land and proclaiming them to be ‘‘state lands’’. Additionally there are private purchases of land, but in many cases these “purchases: are considered to be the result of fraud, and in all cases are illegal under international law.


Consecutive Israeli governments, regardless of the party in power, have not officially sanctioned the outposts’ sites, but certainly they have encouraged them by providing military protection and infrastructure services, in addition to occasional financial support. Many existing outposts have grown so large that they are in reality settlements. The number of outposts grew to a record high in 2013 of 232 outposts, not counting the dismantled outposts in various areas of the West Bank. Because the construction and expansion of the outposts have re-enforced the contiguity between the outposts and the mother settlements they contribute to the expansion of the territory illegally annexed by Israeli settlements.


At the request of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Talia Sasson, former head of the Israeli State Prosecution Criminal Department, prepared, on March 10, 2005, a report on the status of established Israeli outposts in the occupied West Bank. The report acknowledged more than 125 outposts in the West Bank. The outposts were classified as one third illegal, one third as uncertain status, and the remaining third as governmentally supported to connect the outpost’s homes (caravans, mobile homes, etc.) to the water and electricity networks. Sasson also noted in her report;


“… All outposts are illegal. It is important to emphasize that it’s not merely to evacuate the outposts but to cease the entire procedure of budgeting and transferring state funds to the outposts. The very heart of the report is about the enforcement of the law, which is not a political issue, but a legal one, of tremendous importance for a democratic state.”


In the eight years since the Sasson report, Israel is still equivocating by failing to dismantle the outposts in the West Bank. A few attempts were made, but Israeli settlers dismantled and relocated the outposts, or simply reestablished them on the original sites.


Therefore, by creating what they believe to be ‘irreversible facts on the ground‘, it is clear   that through its use of settlements and outposts Israel intends to put an end any prospect of a viable Palestinian state. These hardly seem the actions of a willing “partner for peace”. See Map 3







Categories: Settlements