The Israeli Higher Planning Council (HPC) of the Civil Administration, an arm of the Israeli military government in the occupied Palestinian territories, is set to convene to advance at least 4,430 settlement units in the West Bank in two consecutive meetings on 14 and 15 October amid the corona pandemic and economic crisis, the Israeli Peace Now movement said in a statement.
This will be the first time the HPC will have held such a hearing in eight months, or since promoting normalization deals with several Arab Gulf states, and follows a declaration by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on 1 October that he has instructed it to approve 5,400 units, said Peace Now. It is set to make 2020 the highest year on record in units in settlement plans promoted since Peace Now began recording in 2012.
Peace Now said not all of the information has been published, therefore more housing units may be added to the docket by next week. The current announcement of housing units include:
- Around 1000 housing units to be advanced will create a brand new settlement to the west of the illegal Har Gilo settlement built on Bethlehem land in the south of the West Bank and located south of Jerusalem that will be larger than the existing settlement and will exploit the land cut off by the West Bank barrier to further break up the western Bethlehem metropolitan area, including the land connecting al-Walaja and the town of Battir, as well as Battir and Bethlehem. This land also constitutes some of the only uninhabited fertile land reserves for Bethlehem, which currently is cut off by the West Bank barrier to its immediate north and west.
- A massive plan for the settlement of Eli in the north of the West Bank, including extensive retroactive legalization of illegal construction in the settlement.
- A host of other relatively large plans for smaller settlements. In addition to the above settlements, plans will be promotedֿ in the settlements of Karnei Shomron, Einav, Peduel, Yakir, Ma’ale Shomron, Yitzhar, Efrat, Ma’ale Mikhmas, Nili, Psagot, Beit El, and Kerem Reim, Shim’a, Telem and others.
“While Israel reels from its second lockdown and economic distress, Netanyahu is promoting construction in isolated settlements that Israel will have to evacuate,” said Peace Now. “Instead of taking advantage of the agreements with the Gulf states and promoting peace with the Palestinians, he is distorting Israel’s priorities and catering to a fringe minority for these settlement unit approvals that will continue to harm future prospects for peace,” it added, calling on top Israeli ministers to veto these plans.
“Far from a ‘settlement freeze’ the right has been complaining about, the expected settlement approvals announcement next week prove that the settlement enterprise under Netanyahu is moving ahead at full steam toward solidifying the de facto annexation of the West Bank,” said Peace Now.
“By doing so, Israel will be signaling to the world its bi-partisan support for the end to the concept of a two-state solution and a Palestinian state – the paradigm that until now has largely shielded Israel from formal pressure over its 53-year occupation. The settlement enterprise is not in Israel’s national or security interest, and is a strategic mistake at the international level.”