With much fanfare, the Netanyahu government recently announced a policy of “restrained” settlement building as a show of good will to the White House. Peace Now‘s analysis demonstrates it’s all smoke and mirrors and that, in practice, settlement can continue apace.
The policy states construction will be limited to the “built-up area” of a settlement, with use of adjacent or nearby lands supposedly only as a last resort. This makes it sound as if the growth will be fairly circumscribed.
However, many West Bank settlements tend to be amoeba-like. Definitions of “built-up areas” can be fuzzy. Many settlements have far-flung “neighbourhoods” that, if used as the basis for the “construction line,” would permit massive expansion, allowing the settlements to grow many times over. In effect, the policy enables settlers to build everywhere – inside, adjacent to or outside their settlements. The fact that the settler council has expressed satisfaction over the new policy shows it to be a bogus restraint.
The map below of the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim illustrates the problem. The yellow line indicates the built-up area. The black line shows the location of the security fence. The blue shading shows the jurisdictional area of the settlement. All this could potentially be used for new construction.
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Adding insult to injury
To add insult to injury, the Israeli cabinet recently gave the green light to three major settlement initiatives. These are: 1) the establishment of a new settlement, deep in the West Bank and for the first time since 1991; 2) the publication of tenders for nearly 2,000 housing units; 3) and the declaration of almost 1,000 dunams as “public lands,” otherwise termed “state lands,” that will enable the retroactive legalization of three outposts located north of Ramallah and deep in the West Bank. PeaceNow has vigorously protested these actions.
Secret mechanisms behind illegal outposts
Peace Now research reveals a whole system of dubious mechanisms that enable settlers to construct outposts and unauthorized buildings while the government winks and colludes. Since the mid-1990s settlers built nearly 100 illegal outposts and built dozens of neighbourhoods and illegal projects.Peace Now‘s data exposes a process parallel to official planning that bypasses the law. The Israeli government enables the illegal system to exist by cooperating directly with three settler bodies, by abstaining from law enforcement or prosecution and by retroactively legalizing illegal constructions.Through these mechanisms, Israeli governments have allowed a small group of settlers to set Israel’s settlement policy and thereby determine the future of Israel.
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