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UK architects, planners and other construction industry professionals campaigning for a just peace in Israel/Palestine.


Figures show: Peace talks and settlement construction go hand in hand

by Noam Sheizaf       7 March 2014        +972

Successive Israeli governments have argued for years that settlements are not an obstacle to peace. The data tells a different story.

Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics revealed earlier this week that 2013 was a record year in settlement construction, while 2014 has seen the beginning of construction of 2,534 housing projects - a rise of 123 percent from 2013.

Settlement construction took place all over the West Bank – in the so-called settlement blocs, which could be annexed to Israel in a two-state framework; in isolated settlements that are slated to be evacuated under such an agreement; on the western side of Israel’s separation barrier (which was built inside the West Bank, rather than on the internationally-recognized border), as well as on its eastern side.

Those numbers do not include, however, significant “unofficial” construction taking place in “illegal” outposts, or construction in annexed East Jerusalem, which is not measured separately by the CBS.

Construction of illegal settlement units at 'Elkana,' on the lands of the West Bank village of Masha, near Salfit, July 06, 2013. (Photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz/

Construction of housing units in the settlement of ‘Elkana,’ on the lands of the West Bank village of Masha, near Salfit, July 06, 2013. (Photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz/

When last year’s figures were published in Israel, there was a considerable pushback from the right, which claimed that the rise in construction projects for Jews in the occupied territories was meant to compensate for an unofficial settlement freeze in 2012. However, the rise in construction last year is just as high when compared to 2011 or 2010. In fact, 2013′s figure is the highest since the CBS started publishing this data in 2001.

Most of the construction (1,710 projects) is government-sponsored, a figure that says a lot the Netanyahu’s government’s effort at changing the reality on the ground.

The only other years in which the number of building projects surpassed 2,000 structures were 2003, 2005 and 2008. The interesting thing is that aside from 2003, these were all years in which there was so-called “progress” made between Israel and the Palestinian Authority vis-a-vis peace negotiations. For example, 2005 was the year of the disengagement, while 2008 saw direct negotiations between Mahmoud Abbas and Ehud Olmert (the Annapolis summit, which began the process, took place in November 2007).

And while there is no earlier data on construction in the occupied territories, it is worth noting that during the Oslo process (from the signing of the first agreement in 1993 to the Taba summit in 2001) the number of settlers almost doubled – from 116,300 to 208,300, not including the Jewish neighborhoods in annexed East Jerusalem. Just during the short time Ehud Barak spent as prime minister, the number of Jews in the West Bank rose by 35,000, with settlers making up 3.2 percent of the Jewish population, as opposed to 1.7 percent when Oslo kicked off [1].

Click here for +972 Magazine’s full coverage of the diplomatic process

Successive Israeli governments have argued for years that settlements are not an obstacle to peace. However, those same prime ministers who directly negotiated with the Palestinians (or, in Sharon’s case, took unilateral action that was presented as an effort to end the occupation) were the ones who, at the very same time, strengthened Israel’s grip over occupied territory and transferred more Jews to what was supposed to be the heart of the future Palestinian State.

Periods in which talks didn’t take place and international attention was aimed at the reality on the ground (rather than diplomacy), were those in which Israel was relatively restrained in its colonization of the West Bank. According to CBS, the year with the lowest figures was 2010 (737 projects) - the year of the confrontation between the Obama administration and Netanyahu’s previous government, and the partial settlement freeze that followed.

[1] These figures are cited by Shaul Arieli in “A Border Between Us and You,” Yedioth Ahronoth Books, 2013, Hebrew.


Some more articles connected with discrimination and violence aganist Palestinians in building and planning:

2) In the West Bank, rise in settlement housing starts and demolition orders of Palestinian homes 

LUBBAN AL-SHARKIYEH, West Bank (AP) 5 March 2014 by Karin Laub —

Ahmed Awais is desperate to get out of his parents’ cramped home where he, his wife and three preschool children share one room, sleeping on mattresses on the floor. Six months ago, the Palestinian laborer began building a small house on land owned by his family. But last week his dream of a more comfortable life came to a halt. An Israeli army jeep pulled up at his construction site on the outskirts of Lubban al-Sharkiyeh and officials handed him a stop-work order with a date for a demolition hearing. Awais, 30, like others in his village, hadn’t bothered to ask for a building permit since Israel rarely grants them to Palestinians.

On a nearby hilltop, on the other side of a main West Bank highway, the Israeli settlement of Eli continues to grow, with about 20 apartments currently under construction. Eli was built over the last 30 years without legal planning and permits, according to an Israel defense official, and the government is only now promoting a master plan for 620 homes to legalize building retroactively.

… “The settlers are building homes. Each of their boys and girls has a room and even the dog has a room,” Awais said. But if the hearing goes against him, the modest structure on his own small plot will likely be bulldozed. “This is my land and I am not allowed to build in it,” he said, taking a break from mixing concrete.

Lubban al-Sharkiyeh and Eli illustrate what critics say is an accelerating Israeli policy to suppress Palestinian development while tightening Israel's hold over the more than 60 percent of the West Bank that remains under sole Israeli control.

The land, known as "Area C" under interim peace accords, is home to some 350,000 Jewish settlers. It also is a key point of contention in U.S.-led peace talks.

Israel denies it's trying to restrict Palestinian growth there. But critics say Israel's policies in Area C suggest it wants as few Palestinians as possible on lands whose ultimate fate is still under dispute.

Israel seeks to keep large chunks of Area C, while the Palestinians demand a near-total Israeli pullout so they can establish a state in the West Bank along with two other territories Israel captured in 1967, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem.

The talks have entered a decisive phase, with the U.S. pressing both sides to reach agreement on the contours of a final deal by the end of April. However, gaps remain wide.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he supports the establishment of a viable Palestinian state, but never submitted a proposal for drawing a border.

A former Netanyahu aide, Yoaz Hendel, said the prime minister wants a partition deal that allows Israel to keep "maximum land and minimum" Palestinians in the West Bank.

Israel's policies in Area C contradict Netanyahu's peace pledges, said Lior Amihai of the Israeli anti-settlement group Peace Now. "A government that intends to find a solution to the conflict would certainly not enhance its hold in the heart of the West Bank," he said.

Maj. Guy Inbar, an Israeli Defense Ministry official, denied Israel applies different planning rules for settlers and Palestinians in Area C.

Still, Israel has issued a record number of demolition orders for Palestinian properties since 2010, while settlement housing starts more than doubled last year, compared to the year before, according to official Israeli figures.

The international community has urged Israel to freeze settlement activity and lift restrictions on Palestinian development in Area C. The World Bank has said that if Palestinians could build and develop there, they would be able to expand their struggling economy by one-third.

A U.N. survey published Wednesday said close to 90 percent of Palestinians in Area C feel their livelihood is being harmed by Israeli planning restrictions. The survey, based on information from 532 Palestinian communities, also indicated that the total Palestinian population is close to 300,000, nearly double a previous estimate.

"By understanding the gravity and extent of the problem, we hope at least some of the (Israeli) measures can be lifted," said Ramesh Rajasingham, head of the area's U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Defense official Inbar said the Civil Administration, the branch of the military dealing with civilian affairs in the West Bank, tries to enforce the law equally against settlers and Palestinians who build illegally.

However, the Civil Administration has failed to remove dozens of settlement outposts established without formal government approval. Inbar said some outposts have been removed and that many Palestinian homes built without permits have not been demolished.

The Israeli group Bimkom, which calls for equal planning rights for Palestinians, said it's virtually impossible for Palestinians in Area C to receive Israeli building permits.

In 2010, Palestinians submitted 444 requests for permits and only four were granted, according to Bimkom, citing data obtained through freedom of information requests.

At the same time, Israel issued more than 4,000 demolition orders against Palestinian homes and structures in the past four years, or roughly a third of the 25-year-total of 12,500, Bimkom said. Of these, 2,450 orders were carried out, including 787 since 2010.

By contrast, no houses were ever demolished in Eli. Inbar said the government had sanctioned the establishment of the settlement in the 1980s, but never approved a building plan there. A master plan is still going through the approval process, Inbar said.

Amiad Cohen, an Eli resident, said the Civil Administration is turning a blind eye to illegal Palestinian construction while dragging its feet on approving building in his community. "The Palestinians are doing whatever they want," he said.

In Lubban al-Sharkiyeh, 16 houses have demolition orders pending, including eight issued recently and four dating back 10 years, said Mayor Abdel Hadi Awais, a member of a large clan that many village residents belong to. In 2000, four houses and a cattle shack were demolished, he said.

The village has lost land to Eli and another settlement, Maale Levona, he said. About 60 percent of the village is in Area C, and the rest, including most of the built-up area, belongs to areas under Palestinian self-rule. Almost all hilltops around the village have been taken by settlers.

In areas where the Palestinian Authority is in charge — about 38 percent of the West Bank — building permits are relatively easy to obtain. Still, expanding families, including in Lubban al-Sharkiyeh, often have no place to go since many can't afford to buy land in the self-rule areas.

Another village resident, 53-year-old Mohammed Awais, said his only choice was to build on his own land, in Area C, and take the risk of doing so without a permit. The demolition order came in 2003, three years after he began building, and he's been engaged in legal battles since then.

When army jeeps enter the village, as they did last week to distribute new demolition orders, he said his heart skips because he fears his house will be razed.

"They (the settlers) became the owners of the land and we became the settlers," he said.

3) Israeli forces level private Palestinian land in Jordan Valley
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 6 Mar –

Israeli forces started a far-reaching campaign leveling private Palestinian lands in the northern Jordan Valley, local residents told Ma‘an. A member of a local tribal committee Abdul-Latif Ishtayya said that more than 40 military vehicles escorted dozens of settlers who brought bulldozers and started to level private Palestinian lands in Beit Hassan neighborhood. The assaulted area, he added, includes more than 700 acres of private land belonging to the al-Masri family.  Ishtayya said settlers are likely to occupy the area and establish a new settlement. <>

4) Israeli forces demolish Bedouin homes in Negev

NEGEV (Ma‘an) 5 Mar —

Bulldozers escorted by a large contingent of Israeli forces demolished homes belonging to Bedouin citizens of Israel in al-Zaarura village in the Negev on Wednesday morning. Eyewitness Muhammad Abu Judah told Ma‘an that Israeli forces and police officers accompanied bulldozers as they approached al-Zaarura village from the west. Locals told Ma‘an that bulldozers demolished houses belonging to the al-Farawnah family. Al-Zaarura is one of dozens of Bedouin villages in Negev which are unrecognized by Israeli authorities.

5) Gentrification leaves one Jaffa family caged in their own home <>

972blog 5 mar by Yudit Ilany —

Ismail Shawa never expected that a new luxury apartment building would have such an immediate and dramatic effect on his family’s life — that was until contractors sealed off the entrance to their home with a concrete wall, effectively trapping them inside — To exit or enter his Jaffa home, Ismail Shawa, 62, has to remove the bars from his bedroom window and climb out and over the neighbor’s water pipes. He still has to cross a yard that doesn’t belong to him but for the time being, no has told him not to. The other option is to exit over another neighbor’s flimsy and crumbling asbestos roof.hen his wife, Itidal Shawa, 67, fell ill a week and a half ago, paramedics had to call in the fire brigade to extract her because there is no longer any other way out but to climb through the small window — or over the neighbor’s roof. A judge from the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court described the arrangement as “not easy,” but asserted that the family “can still enter and exit their home.” Perhaps the judge wouldn’t mind entering his courtroom through a small, high-placed window. <>

6) Israeli forces hand out stop-work orders in Hebron village
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 7 Mar — Israeli forces on Friday handed stop-work orders to two families for homes in Ithna village west of Hebron. The orders to stop work on construction were received for a house owned by Wisam Jibril Hittawi, which was built four years ago and is home to six people, as well as a house under construction owned by Sayel Mahfouth Islemiyya. The notices follow a number of stop-work orders handed out in late February in the village by Israeli forces. The head of Ithna municipality Hashim al-Tumeizi said that more than 100 buildings, some of them over 10 years old, have received similar notices as part of a larger Israeli strategy to displace village inhabitants.

7) Nablus farmers capture tree-chopping Israeli settler

NABLUS (Ma‘an) 5 Mar — Palestinian farmers on Wednesday detained an Israeli settler after they caught him chopping down olive trees in their fields in the northern West Bank, an official said. Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian Authority official who monitors settlement activities in the northern West Bank, told Ma‘an that the settler was caught destroying olive trees near the Nablus-district village of Talfit. The farmers notified the Palestinian liaison department, who contacted their Israeli counterparts to arrange for the settler’s release, Daghlas said.

8) Israeli forces arrest [Palestinian] man for planting trees outside Qalqiliya

QALQILIYA (Ma‘an) 7 Mar — Israeli forces on Friday afternoon detained a young man while he was planting an olive sapling east of Qalqiliya in the northern West Bank, locals said. Alaa Issa al-Dweiri, 20, was detained and taken to an unknown destination while he was participating in a campaign to plant olive saplings on Palestinian lands in Izbet at-Tabib under threat of confiscation by Israeli authorities. Head of the village’s local council Bayan al-Tabib demanded the release of al-Dweiri and called upon international organization to help secure his release … At the time of his detention, al-Dweiri was participating in an olive sapling planting campaign alongside activists from the Palestinian People party and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Campaigns to plant olive trees and saplings come as a response to frequent attacks by Israeli settlers on trees in the region as well as the threat of land confiscation by authorities to expand nearby Israeli settlements. <>

9) Israel cuts off water supply to 45,000 Palestinians
Middle East Monitor 6 Mar — Some 45,000 Palestinians living in the Shu‘afat refugee camp and the suburbs of Ras Shehadeh, Ras Khamis, As-Salam and Anata in Jerusalem have had their water cut off for nearly three days. The residents said Israel’s water company Gihon started by gradually reducing the water supply nearly two weeks ago until it stopped entirely. A member of Shu‘afat’s popular committee; Khaled Al-Khalidi said on Wednesday that 23,000 refugees had no access to water for three days while the residents of Ras Shehadeh; Ras Khamis, As-Salam and ‘Anata have been without water for 20 days. Al-Khalidi demanded “UNRWA, the camp’s service provider, to fulfil its obligations towards the refugees and prosecute the Jerusalem municipality and Gihon to oblige them to return the water supply.” Al-Khalidi pointed out that “UNRWA and Jordan signed an agreement in 1956 to provide water service to the Palestinian refugees without charge and in 1967 the Israeli Civil administration joined the Convention…”