“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s settlement policy resembles his predecessors’ in many ways, but it is a march toward permanence in a time when prospects for peace are few.”
So wrote Jodi Pudoren and Jeremy Ashkenas in a NY Times piece called “Netanyahu and The Settlements” (March 12, 2015). (See link below for full article).
In the spirit of Pesach, I pose a series of questions and answers:
• What is the current status of settlement construction beyond the Green Line? Lior Amichai, Deputy Director at Jerusalem’s Shalom Achshav Settlement Watch Project, reported to the J Street National Conference in Washington, D.C. last week that between 2009 and 2014 Israel began construction beyond the Green Line a total of 10,858 housing units. In that time Israel also proposed 5711 tenders for future building, promised to submit 13,077 plans for future projects and changed the status of 20 illegal “outposts” to “legal settlements.”
• Since the Oslo process began in 1993, what is the Jewish population growth in the west bank? In 1993, 110,300 settlers lived on land over the Green Line. Today, the Jewish population totals 356,500 settlers. 12% of Israeli settlers control 60% of west bank land and the Palestinian Authority controls the other 40%.
• How are Palestinian Arabs and Israelis who live beyond the Green Line treated by Israel? Palestinian Arabs who live beyond the Green Line enjoy none of the rights of Israeli citizenship because those territories, taken by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War, have never been formally annexed or incorporated into the State of Israel. The legal status of west bank Palestinian Arabs is therefore different than Israeli Arab citizens who enjoy all the rights and privileges that Israeli Jewish citizens enjoy. West bank Palestinian Arabs are subject to the Israeli Military Authority without the same democratic rights and protections enjoyed by Israeli Arab citizens living within Israel itself. Israeli confiscation of privately owned Palestinian land in the west bank is the most serious inequity. It is estimated by Israeli human rights organizations B’tzelem and Shalom Achshav that one third of all land held by Jewish settlements in the west bank is built on Palestinian deeded land. Israeli settlers in the west bank, however, enjoy all the same rights of citizenship as do those Israeli citizens (Jewish and Arab) who live within the Green Line.
• What is Israel’s budget for settlement construction beyond the Green Line? Labor MK Stav Shafrir is now conducting an investigation as a member of the Knesset Budget Committee to determine exactly how much money has been allocated for settlement construction in the past and on an annual basis. She reported to the J Street National Conference last week that, in truth, there are two Israeli budgets – one public and one she called “secret.” MK Shafrir estimates that at least 1 billion NIS has been allocated in the last couple of years to build settlements and infrastructure (e.g. roads, electricity, water) with money that shows up nowhere in Israel’s official budget and has not been approved by the Knesset.
• What are the policies of the different American Jewish Federations regarding funding projects beyond the Green Line? J Street U (J Street’s college division) is investigating the policies of America’s largest Jewish Federations about funding projects in Israel beyond the Green Line, if it is done at all. That report will be published once information has been collected and analyzed.
• What is the future of the large settlement blocs in a two-state agreement? Israeli and Palestinian negotiators last year reached a consensus that the large Israeli settlement blocs and neighborhoods surrounding Jerusalem will be part of the state of Israel in any two-state agreement, with corresponding land swaps given by Israel to the future state of Palestine. This means that 75% of all Jewish settlers living now in the west bank beyond the Green Line will be absorbed inside the borders of the state of Israel. The remaining small Jewish “outposts” and settlements not inside the settlement blocs in the west bank where approximately 90,000 Israeli settlers now live will either be vacated or will come under the authority of the state of Palestine. Despite this consensus amongst the negotiators, PM Netanyahu recently declared (see NYT below): “I do not intend to evacuate any settlements.”
• Will the Palestinians file charges against Israel in the UN International Criminal Court? Martin Indyk, the chief American negotiator in last year’s failed talks and once a leader of AIPAC, has charged that PM Netanyahu’s “rampant settlement activity” has a “dramatically damaging impact,” so much so that next month the Palestinians may file a case in the UN International Criminal Court charging that Israeli settlements are an ongoing war crime.
• What ought to be the role that liberal American Zionists play? Our role ought to be to support our Israeli brothers and sisters who protest against continuing settlement construction except, perhaps, in the large settlement blocs that likely will remain in Israel once a two-state agreement is attained, and to continue to support all efforts to bring about an end-of-conflict agreement of two states for two peoples.
This NY Times piece “Netanyahu and the Settlements” includes maps showing exactly where the settlements and outposts are located beyond the Green Line as well as the history of settlement activity since the Oslo period began in 1993.