More than 700,000 Israeli settlers have taken up residence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since the 1967 war. Both areas are historic Palestinian territories currently under Israeli military occupation.
By Karen DeYoung, Steve Hendrix and John Hudson | The Washington Post | Nov 18, 2019
‘The timing of this was not tied to anything that had to do with domestic politics anywhere. We conducted our review, and this was the appropriate time to bring it forward.’ — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that the Trump administration had determined that Israel’s West Bank settlements do not violate international law, a decision he said had “increased the likelihood” of a Middle East peace settlement.
Pompeo said the Trump administration, as it did with recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and Israel’s sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights, had simply “recognized the reality on the ground.”
The move upends more than 40 years of U.S. policy that has declared Israeli expansion into territories occupied since the 1967 war a major obstacle to settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
This decision could cause the collapse of these two respected hospitals [Augusta Victoria Hospital and St. John Eye Hospital] serving the Palestinian community. — Dave Harden, former head of USAID in the West Bank and Gaza
The director of an East Jerusalem hospital said Sunday that a US decision to cut funding to hospitals serving the Palestinians will have a “severe effect.”
Bassem Abu Libdeh, of the Makassed hospital, said that the US currently covers 40 percent of costs in six East Jerusalem hospitals that provide care for Palestinians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The Trump administration announced on Saturday it was cutting $25 million funding from the East Jerusalem Hospital Network, saying it would redirect the money toward “high-priority projects elsewhere.”
Despite Israel’s claims that occupied East Jerusalem is part of its “eternal, undivided” capital, the Palestinians who are born and live there do not hold Israeli citizenship, unlike their Jewish counterparts.
The Israeli parliament has passed a law that allows the minister of interior to revoke the residency rights of any Palestinian in Jerusalem on grounds of a “breach of loyalty” to Israel.
The bill, ratified on Wednesday, will also apply in cases where residency status was obtained on the basis of false information, and in cases where “an individual committed a criminal act” in the view of the interior ministry.
Under the new measure, Israel’s Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, leader of the ultra-Orthodox political party Shas, will be able to strip the residency documents of any Palestinian whom he deems a threat.
“Much more important than what the State Department says, it is what their actions say. You don’t build an embassy in territory that is not sovereign to Israel.”
— Eugene Kontorovich, director of international law at the conservative Kohelet Policy Forum in Jerusalem
In two months, the United States plans to open a new embassy to fulfill President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
There’s just one problem: The embassy may be in Jerusalem, but it may not be fully in Israel.
The diplomatic compound that will serve as the American Embassy until a permanent site is found lies partly in a contested zone known as No Man’s Land.
No Man’s Land encompasses the area between the armistice lines drawn at the end of the 1948–49 war and was claimed by Jordan and Israel. Israel won full control of it in the 1967 war, so the United Nations and much of the world consider it occupied territory.
[Jerusalem officials] are concerned that the influx of Palestinians . . . has substantially changed the demographic balance between Jews and Palestinians in Jerusalem. Some demographic projections indicate that in time Palestinians might even constitute a majority in the city.
In one of the impetuous acts he was known for, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon approved the building of a wall — the separation barrier — within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, Israel’s capital, separating the Shoafat refugee camp and the Kafr Aqab neighborhood from the rest of Jerusalem. Like the infamous Berlin Wall, it divided one part of the city from the other.
The result causes great inconvenience to the local people, who must go through checkpoints to enter Jerusalem’s other areas. This includes not only those who work in Jerusalem’s other areas but also children attending schools away from where their families reside.
But that wall brought about another regrettable result. Whereas East Jerusalem’s residential areas have suffered criminal neglect for 50 years, with the wall Shoafat and Kafr Aqab have been completely abandoned by the municipality and the police. They in effect have become a no-man’s-land where drug trafficking and other crime flourish, and anarchy prevails. Neither the government nor the municipality seemed to care about the fate that befell the residents, most of whom are by law recognized as permanent residents of Jerusalem and thereby of Israel, and continue to have the option of applying for Israeli citizenship.
“These are not equal forces competing in the bidding. On one side is a simple Palestinian family of limited means, while on the other is a strong settler group with an annual budget of tens of millions of shekels assisted by unknown but wealthy foreign groups focusing on land acquisition, for which money poses almost no limits.”
Settlers and Palestinians are bidding for a property in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan that could decide the whole area’s character, local people say. The contestants: the settler group Elad and the man considered the Palestinian leader in Silwan, Jawad Siyam.
An invitation for bids was published by the Finance Ministry’s Custodian of Absentee Property and the Israel Land Authority, offering for sale a one-quarter stake in a building of four apartments. The invitation expires in less than three weeks. Siyam says the custodian is doing everything possible to help the settlers take over his home.
“Since 1994 we have been in the courts facing the settlers,” Siyam says. “If we lose now we’ll have only one quarter of the building and it will be much easier for them to evict us. But I won’t leave; they’ll have to kill me first.”
Both Elad and the finance minister say they are doing everything according to the law.
Tufagji is considered the foremost Palestinian expert on Israeli settlement activity in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas claimed by the Palestinians for a future state. . . . More than 200,000 Israelis now live in East Jerusalem, along with a similar number of Palestinians. Israel considers its developments to be neighborhoods of its capital, but the Palestinians and most of the international community label them as illegal settlements.
Israeli police on Tuesday burst into the offices of a Palestinian cartographer who tracks Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and detained him for several hours, accusing him of illegally working for the Palestinian Authority.
It was believed to be the first arrest of its kind since Israel banned the Palestinian Authority from carrying out official business in East Jerusalem in 2001. It also illustrated the deep sensitivities over East Jerusalem, an area with deep religious and strategic significance claimed by both Israel and the Palestinians.
Khalil Tufagji, a former Palestinian negotiator, said police entered his office early Tuesday and confiscated computers and files before taking him away. He was released after several hours. Tufagji denied working for the Palestinian Authority.
The camp is, according to Israeli law, inside Israel, and the people who live there are Jerusalem residents, but they are refugees in their own city. Residents pay taxes to Israel, but the camp is barely serviced. There is very little legally supplied water, a scarcely functioning sewage system, essentially no garbage pickup, no road building, no mail service (the streets don’t even have names, much less addresses), virtually no infrastructure of any kind. There is no adequate school system. Israeli emergency fire and medical services do not enter the camp. The Israeli police enter only to make arrests; they provide no security for camp residents. There is chaotic land registration. While no one knows how many people really live in the Shuafat camp and its three surrounding neighborhoods, which is roughly one square kilometer, it’s estimated that the population is around 80,000. They live surrounded by a 25-foot concrete wall, a wall interspersed by guard towers and trapdoors that swing open when Israeli forces raid the camp, with reinforcements in the hundreds, or even, as in December 2015, over a thousand troops.
Standing at an intersection in Shuafat Refugee Camp, in East Jerusalem, I watched as a boy, sunk down behind the steering wheel of a beat-up sedan, zoomed through an intersection with his arm out the driver’s-side window, signaling like a Nascar driver pulling in for a pit stop. I was amazed. He looked about 12.
“No one cares here,” my host, Baha Nababta, said, laughing at my astonishment. “Anyone can do anything they want.”
As Baha and I walked around Shuafat this spring, teenagers fell in behind us, forming a kind of retinue. Among them were cool kids who looked like cool kids the world over, tuned in to that teenage frequency, a dog whistle with global reach. I noticed that white was a popular color. White slouchy, pegged jeans, white polo shirts, white high-tops. Maybe white has extra status in a place where many roads are unpaved and turn to mud, where garbage is everywhere, literally, and where water shortages make it exceedingly difficult to keep people and clothing clean.
“Today, the Israeli Knesset shifted from a path to establish a Palestinian state to a path of extending sovereignty to Judea and Samaria [as Israel calls the occupied Palestinian territories]. Let there be no doubt: the regulation bill is what will spearhead the extension of [Israeli] sovereignty.” — Naftali Bennett, Israeli Minister of Education and Minister of Diaspora Affairs
“[The legislation] has the objective of protecting illegal settlements built on private Palestinian property in the West Bank. It is a very worrying initiative. I encourage Israeli legislators to reconsider such a move, which would have far-reaching legal consequences across the occupied West Bank.” — Nickolay Mladenov, U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process
Israel’s parliament has voted to retroactively legalize thousands of illegitimate settler homes in outposts built on private Palestinian land, in a highly controversial move described by critics as a “land grab.” The measure, which passed in a stormy Knesset session late on Monday, has been met with international condemnation, and has already strained relations within Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing rightwing coalition.
It comes in sharp defiance of a call on Sunday by the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, who urged Israel again to rein in the construction of settlements on West Bank land.
Israeli critics and Palestinians have described the legislation as a land grab that would further distance prospects for a two-state solution to end the long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some high-profile political supporters, echoing that view, celebrated the vote by saying it opened the way to annexation of the West Bank and the end of any prospect of a Palestinian state.
According to estimates by opponents — including the prominent anti-occupation group Peace Now — the new law, if finally approved, would effectively annex 55 illegal outposts and approximately 4,000 housing units in settlements and illegal outposts.