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 over the summer. For Volume I see here. For Volume II see here. For Volume III, click here. For Volume IV, see here.
Covering Period: December 1, 2013 to January 1, 2014
NEW SETTLEMENT CONSTRUCTION & ANNEXATION OF PALESTINIAN LAND
- On December 29, 2013, the Israeli Ministerial Legislative Committee approved a bill that calls for the annexation of the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank, which runs along the only border that the West Bank heartland of a future Palestinian state would have with any country other than Israel. Due to political and diplomatic considerations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to block the bill’s passage.
- On December 2, 2013, Haaretz newspaper reported that Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who is responsible for approving settlement construction, had given the green light for 3000 new settlement units during the first four months of his term in office. According to Lior Amihai of settlement watchdog group Peace Now, “the defense minister has become a rubber stamp of the Yesha Council of Settlements and the settlers. Despite attempts to conceal most of the information, we were able to uncover a wave of construction authorizations by means of the Freedom of Information Law, as well as plans for 9000 housing units in nine months.” Despite assurances given to the United States, much of the approved construction was for isolated settlements far outside of so-called settlement “blocs” that Israeli officials have said they intend to keep under any peace agreement.
PROVOCATIVE MILITARY RAIDS & KILLINGS OF PALESTINIANS
- On January 1, 2014, 85-year-old Said Jasser Ali died after Israeli forces fired tear gas into his home in the town of Kafr Kadum near Nablus in the north of the occupied West Bank.
- On December 20, 2013, Israeli forces shot and killed 27-year-old Oudeh Hamad in Gaza. The Israeli army claimed Hamad was attempting to damage the Israeli fence that walls Gaza in, however his family said Hamad was searching for scrap metal in a junkyard near the fence when he was shot unprovoked.
- On December 18, 2013, Israeli soldiers shot and killed 28-year-old Saleh Samir Abd al-Rahman Yasin during a raid in Qalqilya in the occupied West Bank. The Israeli army claimed that Yasin was attempting to ambush the invading Israeli soldiers, however local eyewitnesses reported that Yasin was shot in cold blood and left to bleed to death in the street.
- Also on December 18, 2013, Israeli forces shot and killed 23-year-old Nafaa al-Saedi, a member of Islamic Jihad, and wounded six others, including one gravely, during a raid in Jenin in the northern occupied West Bank.
- On December 14, 2013, Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian man in Gaza. The Israeli army claimed that the man was acting suspiciously near the Israeli fence that walls in Gaza, and that soldiers shot and killed him after firing warning shots.
- On December 9, 2013, Israeli soldiers shot and killed 15-year-old Wajih al-Ramahi in the Jalazone refugee camp near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. According to an investigation by Human Rights Watch: “No evidence has been presented by the Israeli authorities” that al-Ramahi, who was shot in the back, “posed any threat to life that would justify such a killing.” HRW’s deputy Middle East and North Africa director, Joe Stork, added:“Twice this year, Israeli soldiers hiding near schools, apparently to make arrests, have killed children who posed no apparent threat. If the past is any guide, these boys’ families can look forward to a prolonged, opaque, and fruitless process that does not hold perpetrators to account or deliver justice.”
- On December 31, 2013, Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem reported that Israeli forces had killed 36 Palestinians during 2013. Of the 36, only eight were confirmed to have been armed combatants, and at least four were children. During the same period, a total of six Israelis were killed by Palestinians.
EVICTIONS & DEMOLITIONS OF PALESTINIAN HOMES & STRUCTURES
Note: Israel usually destroys Palestinian homes, both within Israel’s pre-1967 borders and inside the occupied territories, on the pretext that the structures were built without permission from Israeli authorities. However, as documented by the United Nations and human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch, it’s nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain construction permits in areas under Israeli control. Meanwhile, the expansion of Jewish communities is encouraged in all parts of Israel and in occupied East Jerusalem and much of the West Bank.
- On December 25, 2013, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNWRA) condemned a recent wave of Israeli demolitions, including ones carried out on Christmas Eve, which displaced 68 Palestinians, including 32 children, one of them a five-year-old paralyzed girl. The demolitions were carried out in the town of Ein Ayoub near Ramallah and Fasayil al-Wusta near Jericho in the occupied West Bank. The UN statement noted that 1103 Palestinians were displaced by Israeli demolitions in 2013, with 663 Palestinian structures, including 259 residential units destroyed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In condemning the destruction, UNRWA Spokesman Chris Gunness observed: “These demolitions are a common trigger of forced displacement and may amount to a forcible transfer and forced eviction under international humanitarian law and human rights law.”
- On December 23, 2013, Israeli authorities handed out demolition orders against two residential buildings in the highly-sensitive Silwan neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem, where extremist Israeli settlers have been implanting themselves into the heart of the historically Palestinian neighborhood. The orders threaten to displace 19 Palestinians.
- On December 17, 2013, Israeli authorities distributed evacuation orders to 10 Palestinian families from the town of Bartaa al-Sharqiyya in the north of the occupied West Bank, ordering them to abandon currently inhabited and recently built homes.
- On December 13, 2013, Israeli authorities confiscated 10 dunams (approximately 2.5 acres) of privately-owned Palestinian farmland and restricted Palestinian access to another 500 dunams (approximately 123 acres) in the town of Qusra near Nablus in the north of the occupied West Bank. The land in question is located between Qusra and the settlement “outpost” of Esh Kodes.
- On December 11, 2013, UN Humanitarian Coordinator James Rawley condemned a recent wave of Israeli demolitions that resulted in the destruction of some 30 Palestinian structures in the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank. Rawley’s statement noted:”The demolitions resulted in the displacement of 41 people, including 24 children, and affected another 20. Both refugee and non-refugee families were affected… Some of the families were displaced for the second time this month and a number of donor-funded structures were among those demolished.”
- On December 10, 2013, Israeli forces destroyed a home and several other structures in the town of al-Jiftlik in the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank.
- On December 4, 2013, 36 international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, Oxfam and Save the Children, issued a statement calling for an end to Israel’s policy of destroying Palestinian homes. The statement noted:”Since the resumption of the peace process in July, Israel has destroyed 207 Palestinian homes and property in the occupied West Bank, displacing 311 Palestinians, over half of whom are children… These demolitions, in areas under Israeli control, have driven Palestinian families from their communities and their land, increasing poverty and the need for humanitarian assistance.”
- On December 3, 2013, Israeli forces destroyed two water wells and a number of tents in the Bedouin villages of Barza, al-Bqaia and al-Adasa, in the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank.
- On December 2, 2013, Israeli forces destroyed four homes and eight agricultural structures in the town of al-Auja in the southern Jordan Valley, leaving at least 50 Palestinians homeless.
PROVOCATIVE STATEMENTS FROM SENIOR ISRAELI OFFICIALS
- On December 29, 2013, in an interview expressing his opposition to same-sex marriage and marriage between Jews and non-Jews, Israel’s Deputy Minister for Religious Services, Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan of the far-right Jewish Home party, declared: “a Jew always has a much higher soul than a gentile, even if he’s gay.”
- During the final week of December 2013, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told a group of Israeli business leaders involved in an initiative to promote peace that Israel has no Palestinian partner for peace, stating: “Don’t delude yourselves. We don’t have a partner on the Palestinian side for a two-state solution.” Ya’alon added that he didn’t think it was possible to reach a peace agreement “in the foreseeable future.”
- On December 25, 2013, Defense Minister Ya’alon accused the Palestinian Authority of being responsible for recent incidents of violence carried out against Israelis, despite having no evidence to support the claim, and blamed the escalation in violence on the peace process, declaring: “It’s linked to the diplomatic process.”
- On December 19, 2013, Prime Minister Netanyahu promised members of his Likud party that he wouldn’t stop building settlements on occupied Palestinian land,declaring: “We will not stop, even for a moment, building our country and becoming stronger, and developing … the settlement enterprise.”
- On December 8, 2013, Economy Minister and leader of the far-right Jewish Home party, Naftali Bennett, once again proposed annexing the approximately 60% of the occupied West Bank designated as Area C under the Oslo Accords, where Israel has full security and civil control, and where most Jewish settlers live, stating: “I favor implementation of Israeli sovereignty over the zone where 400,000 (settlers) live and only 70,000 Arabs.” Bennett also ridiculed current US-led negotiations, declaring it’s “all a joke.”
- On December 7, 2013, Defense Minister Ya’alon repeated his claim that Israel has no Palestinian partner for peace, stating: “There is no partner on the Palestinian side to reach a two-state solution for two peoples.”
- On December 6, 2013, Foreign Minister and leader of the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, Avigdor Lieberman, told a conference in Washington, DC, that there was no possibility for a peace agreement in the next year and that Israel needed to “manage” the conflict instead of ending it. He also denied that the West Bank and East Jerusalem were under Israeli military occupation, stating: ”To speak of occupation is not to understand the history of this region and the facts.”
- On December 5, 2013, Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon, a senior member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, told Israel’s army radio that under any peace agreement Palestinians would not be allowed to control the West Bank’s border with Jordan, the only access to the outside world apart from crossings through Israel, stating: “From the Israeli point of view, there will not be any Palestinian presence at the crossing points.”