The Institute for Middle East Understanding has compiled a “Facts on the Ground Peace Index” to track Israeli actions on the ground since new talks were announced late last month.
New Settlement Announcements
After refusing to halt the expansion of Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land, all of which are illegal under international law, in order to facilitate the renewal of negotiations, Israeli officials have made a flurry of announcements for new settlement construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank since talks were announced in late July, including:
- On August 25, Jerusalem municipal officials approved plans to move ahead with construction of infrastructure for1500 new settlement units in occupied East Jerusalem.
- On August 12, Israel approved construction of 900 new settlement units in the East Jerusalem settlement of Mordot Gilo.
- On August 11, Israel announced tenders for nearly 1200 new settlement units; 793 in East Jerusalem, and 394 in the West Bank.
- On August 8, Israel reportedly approved the promotion of at least 878 new settlement units, many located in isolated West Bank settlements. This reportedly included the approval to promote plans for hundreds of new units in “illegal outposts” (nascent settlements built without official Israeli government authorization) that are in the process of being “laundered” by the Netanyahu government.
- On August 6, the approval of a “new” settlement in East Jerusalem, near the Palestinian neighborhood of Jebel Mukabber, was announced. This same project was announced and a public groundbreaking took place in 2009, leading Israeli settlement watchdog group Peace Now to conclude “that the approval was deliberately recycled to create a recycled news story, and to be a recycled provocation.”
- On August 4, the Israeli government approved a new list of Israeli localities eligible for special economic benefits as national “priority development areas.” The list designated 90 settlements, some of which are located deep inside the West Bank, as national priority development areas.
Deadly Military Raids
Israeli soldiers and paramilitary border police routinely conduct aggressive and provocative raids in Palestinian towns and refugee camps. Over the past two weeks, two of these raids resulted in the killing of four Palestinians and the wounding of more than 20 others:
- On August 26, Israeli border police shot and killed three Palestinians and injured 20 others during an early morning raid in the Qalandia refugee camp in the occupied West Bank. The dead included Rubin Zayed, a 34-year-old father of four who was employed by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), as well as 22-year-old Yunis Jahjouh and 20-year-old Jihad Aslan. In an editorial critical of the raid, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz wrote that “The argument about the timing or the claim that it was a localized operational failure cannot erase the impression that this time we’re talking about an effort to put a spoke in the wheel of the diplomatic process.”
- On August 20, Israeli soldiers shot and killed 22-year-old Majd Lahlouh and wounded two other Palestinians during a nighttime raid in the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank.
Evictions & Demolitions of Palestinian homes and structures
On August 27, the United Nations human rights office issued a statement expressing “concern over the forced eviction of Palestinians in the West Bank as a result of recent demolitions carried out by Israeli authorities,” noting “this could amount to a violation of international law.” Israel routinely destroys Palestinian homes and other structures in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank on the pretext that they were built without difficult to obtain permission from Israeli authorities. According to Human Rights Watch’s 2012 World Report: “Israel usually carries out demolitions on the grounds that the structures were built without permits, but in practice such permits are almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain in Israeli-controlled areas.” The following is a partial list of Palestinian homes and other structures destroyed by Israel since new talks were announced late last month.
- On August 26, Israeli authorities demolished several structures, including two homes, in occupied East Jerusalem, leaving two Palestinian families homeless. The homes were destroyed despite an Israeli court decision to suspend the demolition order until October.
- On August 25, Israeli authorities ordered the demolition of part of a Palestinian school in the village of Sharafat in occupied East Jerusalem.
- On August 20, Israeli forces destroyed 10 agricultural buildings belonging to Palestinians in the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank.
- On August 19, Israeli forces destroyed all of the structures in the Bedouin community of Tel al Adassa in occupied East Jerusalem, leaving 39 people homeless.
- During the week of August 19, Israeli bulldozers destroyed the home of Khaled Zir in the flashpoint neighborhood of Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem, forcing him and his family to seek shelter in a cave.
- On August 18, Israeli authorities forced 49-year-old convenience store-owner Ziad Ameira to destroy his own home in occupied East Jerusalem or be charged more than $20,000 (US) for Israel to do it, leaving Ziad and eight family members homeless.
- On July 31, the Israeli government filed papers with the Israeli Supreme Court urging it to reject two petitions submitted by Palestinians attempting to stop the eviction of approximately 1300 people from their homes in the south Hebron hills in the occupied West Bank in order to make way for an Israeli army training zone.
Provocative statements from senior Israeli officials
- On August 25, while at a ceremony for the laying of a cornerstone for a new settlement in the occupied West Bank,Housing Minister Uri Ariel of the Jewish Home party declared:
“Anyone here today understands that the vision of two states is unrealistic and will never happen.”
- Also on August 25, Deputy Speaker of the Israeli parliament Ofir Akunis, a senior member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and close Netanyahu associate, stated:
“the construction in Judea and Samaria [the occupied West Bank] will continue, so that no Palestinian state is founded here.”
On the same day, Akunis told a settler news outlet: “If we come to this, I will oppose any outline that includes two states and, G-d forbid, would entail giving up territory. I will vote against it. This is my ideological and historical position… I opposed a Palestinian state in the past and still oppose it.”
- On August 20, Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home party and Minister of the Economy and Minister of Religious Services, wrote on his Facebook page:
“I’m aware that the Israeli government is conducting negotiations with Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas]… I do not believe anything will come of [the talks] and that is why I remain in this government… That being said, it is my duty to present the nation of Israel with the truth. I will do everything in my power to prevent this disaster… The truth is that the idea of a Palestinian state within the State of Israel is dead.”
- On August 11, during the ceremonial laying of a cornerstone for a new settlement in occupied East Jerusalem,Housing Minister Ariel declared:
“With God’s help we will continue building all the land of Israel and Jerusalem the capital… It must be made clear that this is only the beginning. This melody can’t be stopped. … I can tell you that every single one of the leaders of [the] Yesh Atid [party] support construction in Jerusalem. … We can and will market thousands of apartments in Jerusalem and there are more than 10,000 apartments ready for marketing in Judea and Samaria [the occupied West Bank].”