The Municipality Spreads Demolition Alerts in Silwan

September 10, 2012

The Municipality of Jerusalem distributed today demolition alerts to Palestinians in Wadi Hilweh, threatening to issue administrative demolition orders unless alleged illegal construction stops. A municipality inspector handed the alerts to several families accompanied by the police.

The Municipality, together with the National Parks Authority, put a lot of pressure on the Palestinian residents of Silwan by issuing many demolition orders (which usually leads to long legal procedures and hi fines) and by implementing some of the orders.

I’m sure that the Municipality is also taking care of the massive construction done at settlers houses in Wadi Hilweh, not far from the spring (although past experience shows that settlers’ illegal construction is hardly touched), or they probably issued a special permit to do such works.

construction done these days at a settlers’ house at the heart of Silwan


Settlers are to Occupy a Room in a Palestinian Home in Ras El-Amud

September 1, 2012

For the settlers of Ras El-Amud in East Jerusalem, even 15 sq.m. room in an inhabited Palestinian apartment is enough in order to create facts on the ground. According to the court’s ruling, starting from tomorrow, September 2, the settlers are allowed to occupy one room at the Hamdallah family house in East Jerusalem. One who doesn’t know the story of the settlement in East Jerusalem may ask why would the settlers insist on entering such a small room in a Palestinian house and spend thousands of Shekels in many years of legal struggle. However, in East Jerusalem, this is how it works: This way, the life of the Hamdallah’s will become even more miserable, and with time, so hope the settlers, they will give up and leave the house. As soon as they leave, the settlers may replace the house with 20 new housing units.

The Hamdallah house and the settlement in Ras El-Amud

The Hamdallah house is a strategic spot for the settlers, it is adjacent to Ma’ale Zeitim A, a settlement of 50 units, that was completed in 2003, and Ma’ale Zeitim B of another 60 units that was completed last year. The third phase of the settlement, Ma’ale Zeitim C, of another 20 units, is planned to replace the Palestinian home. As long as the Hamdallah family stays at home, this plan cannot be implemented.

Tomorrow, The war of attrition against the Hamdallah’s, is about to enter another very hard period for the family. Starting from tomorrow, there are going to be settlers in their house, coming in and out, bringing guards, maybe arranging events or provocations, and the family will need to digest and try to live normal life.

Implementing the “Right of Return” for Jews
The settlers base their claim on the fact the land was owned by Jews before 1948, and now should return to the original Jewish owners. The Palestinian family managed to convince the judge that they have full rights in the house due to the long time that passed since the settlers got the ownership and the date when they first started the eviction procedures in court. However, few years ago, the settlers claimed that one room of the house was built after the limitation time and therefore, should pass to their hands. Two weeks ago the court ruled that the 15 sq.m room and a few meters of the backyard, belongs to the settlers and starting of tomorrow, they are allowed to move in.

To me, it is another example of how the occupation affects our moral judgment and even threatens the very legitimacy of our basic claims. Israel has been rightfully claiming that the solution for the Palestinian refugees issue will not be solved by implementation of the full right of return to the properties they lost in the 1948 war, because this would undermine the right of the Jews for self determination. However, the settlers, with their messianic fight to take over Palestinian properties, are ready to use the “right of return” argument for Jewish properties that were lost during the 1948 war, while prevent such a right from the Palestinians.


Peace Now’s plan to save billions by reducing some benefits of settlements

July 31, 2012

Instead of tax hikes – stop indulging the settlements

Netanyahu’s new austerity plan aims to reduce the deficit through an across-the-board budget cut of NIS 800 million. All Israelis will feel the new VAT tax hikes, but one group remains insulated from the majority of the austerity measures: the settlers.

This proposal aims at reducing the settlers’ benefits to the same level of the average Israeli citizen in proportion to their numbers in society, not eliminating essential services in the settlements.

Peace Now has noted a few line items that would save the state at least NIS 1.6 billion if eliminated.

Download the full plan

Highlights of the Peace Now plan:

 

Contribution of various government ministries to local authority budgets: savings of NIS 310 million

Various government ministries contribute to the local authority budgets in order to provide education, welfare and other services. According to Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) figures, the various ministries (Ministries of Education and Interior excluded) gave NIS 606,701,000 to settlements localities, out of NIS 7.4 billion granted to all localities (i.e. 8% of the budget). Had the settlements received funding in accordance to their proportion of the population (i.e. 4% of Israeli citizens), the Government would have saved NIS 310,658,440.
The contribution of all ministries to the settlements is NIS 4,862 per capita; in Israel it is NIS 2,312.

The Ministry of Education – Savings of NIS 298 million

The Ministry of Education grants more to settlements than to Israeli localities, both in the regular budget and in the development and construction budget. According to the CBS, in 2010, the settlements received from the MOEd NIS 401 million out of NIS 7.5 billion granted to all localities as regular budget (i.e. 5.4%). Had the settlements received the funding in accordance to their proportion (i.e. 4% of Israeli citizens), the Ministry would have saved NIS 102,923,880.

In addition, according to the data reported by the Ministry of Finance to the US Administration (see below), the construction and development budget of schools in settlements was NIS 145.2 million in 2011.

The Higher Education Council of the OccupiedTerritories, which is funded by the MOEd at NIS 115,668, recently approved the declaration of the college in Ariel as a university. The Minister of Finance promised to allocate NIS 50 million for that. College officials estimate that it will take another NIS 160 million to complete the process of establishing the university.

Per pupil, the funding of the MOEd to settlements (in regular budget) was NIS 8,034, whereas in Israel it was only NIS 4,915 (the ultra-orthodox settlements of Beitar Illit and Modi’in Illit excluded). It is worth mentioning that this is only the budget transferred through the localities. There are many other funds that go to the settlements, directly from the MOEd to the schools, especially to religious schools.

 

Ministries of Industry, Agriculture, Water and Settlement Division – Savings of NIS 109 million

In an agreement with the American administration of the early ’90s, the Israeli government promised to report the amount in the budget transmitted each year to the settlements, so the administration can offset this sum provided by the U.S. in loan guarantees to Israel. Following that stipulation, the Finance Ministry has provided the Americans with a calculation of unique government expenditures on the settlements every few months, and the administration deducts an amount from the guarantees granted to Israel based on assessments and amendments they make themselves.

Peace Now received those figures and found that the investment in settlements by the ministries of Trade and Industry, Agriculture, Water and the Settlements Division in 2011 was NIS 108,854,813.

  

Transportation Ministry and the National Roads Company: Savings of NIS 342 million

The figures transferred to the US Administration show that in 2011 the investment of the Ministry of Transportation in settlements was NIS 306.8 million. An additional NIS 35 million was allocated for bus discounts for “special population” (i.e. settlers and ultra-orthodox). The figures reported to the US Administration do not include construction of intercity roads to the settlements because it is considered an investment for the Palestinians too, not just for Israeli settlers.

Housing Ministry: Savings of NIS 175 million

The figures reported to the US Administration show that in 2011 the investment of the Ministry of Housing in development and construction in settlements was NIS 87.8 million.

In addition, the Israeli Government decided to invest over NIS 65 million in building two alternative settlements for the relocation of the Migron outpost (in Adam and in Winery Hill). The cost of caravillas for the Ulpana settlers was estimated to be at least NIS 7.8 million. The proposal to saw the buildings into 108 pieces and rebuild them someplace else was estimated by the Prime Minister would cost NIS 14 million.

Tourism Ministry: Savings of NIS 18 million

The Tourism Ministry contributes at least NIS 785,000 to publicity campaigns to encourage tourism in the OccupiedTerritories.

In addition, as part of the Heritage Plan, the government decided to allocate NIS 17 million to the development of sites in the Occupied Territories.

 

Finance Ministry: Savings of NIS 10.8 million

Following the decision by the EU to implement the free trade agreement with Israel only for goods produced in Israel and not in the settlements, the Finance Ministry compensates exporters who manufacture in the settlements for the loss of tax benefits in the EU in the amount of NIS 10.8 million every year.

 

The Ministry of Energy: Savings of NIS 6.45 million

The Israel Electric Corporation allows private parties to generate solar electricity and buys the electricity from them at a rate set by the Ministry of Energy. While the price the IEC pays for a single kWh manufactured in Israel is NIS 1.61, the price in the settlements is NIS 2.04. At a minimum estimate of of 15 million kWh a year generated in the settlements, the Israeli government is paying an additional NIS 6,450,000 for the special rate.

 

The Interior Ministry: Savings of NIS 371 million

In addition to the funds that are transferred to the settlements localities by the different ministries, the Ministry of Interior grants the localities an additional NIS 3.5 billion for balancing their budgets and for development.

In 2011, the MOIN gave NIS 369 million out of the NIS 3.5 billion to the settlements (i.e. 10%) which is 2.5 times their proportion in society. Had the settlements received the funding in accordance to their proportion, (4% of Israeli citizens), the Government would have saved NIS 224,296,088.

In addition the MOIN gave another NIS 12,470,000 as part of “Minister Grants” which allows the Minister discretion to increase funding to localities without specific criteria.

Through the years the MOIN has amassed a list of unique grants that are given only to settlements:

Reduction of public money devoted to political campaigning – Savings of at least NIS 10 million

The settlement local authorities transfer millions of taxpayers’ Shekels every year to controversial political activity.

Some of the organizations funded by the settlements’ localities:


The court postponed the eviction of Migron till after Ramadan

July 27, 2012

Today, 27/7/12, the Supreme Court partially accepted the request of the State to postpone the eviction of Migron. The court instructed that all preparation for the eviction continue as planned, and set the time for another hearing after Ramadan.

Peace Now: “the Government surrenders to the settlers’ threats of use of violence and uses them as an excuse to postpone the eviction. We believe that the police investigation will soon show that the papers of the alleged land deal were forged.” 

The court had to rule in two different requests, one by the State and another by the settlers. On Sunday, 22/7/12, the State requested to postpone the eviction of Migron till the end of August, using two excuses: 1. security concerns of possible violence by settlers during Ramadan and 2. logistical problems according to which the alternative site for the settlers (the Winery Hill) will not be ready on time.
The Court ruled today that there should be another hearing on the 21st of August, and that till then the preparation for the eviction must continue.

The new settlement for the Migron settlers, July 2012

The second request was a new petition by the settlers asking to prevent the eviction of 17 of the houses in Migron based on a claim that some lands were bought by the settlers. The State did not give an answer to the settlers’ request, and asked to postpone their answer till August 20th. Meanwhile, the State declared in court that the police was investigating whether the land deal was based on forged documents.

The reason for the State’s indecisiveness became clear during the hearing in court. The Ministerial Committee for Settlements decided to accept the settlers’ request and to consider the possibility to approve their settlement on the 3 parcels that were allegedly bought. However, the State Attorney argued that such a decision cannot be legal because there was a final ruling of the court ordering the government to dismantle all of Migron by August 1st, and the government had no authority to change this decision.

As a result of this dispute, the State Attorney asked the court to postpone the State’s answer till August 20th.

The bottom line is that the settlers got a postponement of three weeks but Migron still should be evicted. In addition, the police are investigating the alleged land deal, and for now, the request of the settlers to exclude 17 houses from the eviction is not accepted neither by the State nor by the Court.


How Many Settlers Are There?

July 24, 2012

In Netanyahu’s speech to the US Congress in January, he quoted that 650,000 Israelis live beyond the 1967 lines. This probably refers to Israelis in East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights in addition to the West Bank. But where did this figure come from?

Recently a member of the Knesset published the updated number of settlers in the West Bank as 350,000 – “not including the 330,000 Israelis in East Jerusalem”. However, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), the number of settlers is no higher than 330,000 in the West Bank and 200,000 in East Jerusalem.

The two main bodies that publish the number of settlers are the Israeli CBS and the Ministry of Interior. The CBS arrives at this figure through a census every several years. For every non-census year, they estimate the number of people in settlements using statistical indicators. The Ministry of Interior neither conducts a census nor estimates using statistics. They arrive at their figure using the registration of Israeli citizens based upon their stated address, regardless of where they presently reside.

People who are able to claim residence in the settlements have strong incentives to do so regardless of their actual place of residence. For this reason, Peace Now believes that the CBS figure more accurately reflects the number of Israelis actually living in settlements.

In East Jerusalem the figures are even less clear because the official data usually reflects the number of Israelis in Jerusalem as a whole (West and East Jerusalem) and the numbers of people living in neighborhoods that were built beyond the Green Line are harder to parse out from the Central Bureau of Statistics data. Based upon data available from the CBS, Peace Now estimates that there are between 190,000-200,000 Israelis living in East Jerusalem. The previously mentioned 330,000 figure from the member of the Knesset is unlikely to be from either the Ministry of Interior or the CBS.

The Central Bureau of Statistics expects to release its data on the population of each settlement through the end of 2011 by mid-September.



Military College at a Sensitive Spot in East Jerusalem

July 2, 2012

2/7/12

The Regional Committee for Planning approved today the depositing of plan no. 51870 for the construction of the Israeli Military College at one of the most sensitive places in East Jerusalem: Mount of Olives. Following this approval, the plan will be deposited for public review and the public will be granted 60 days to file objections. After hearing the objections, the plan can be approved and validated.

The plan is located near the Beit Orot Settlement and the Palestinian neighborhood of A-Suwane, at the hilltop of Mt. of Olives. The plans call for an 8 story structure, 5 stories of which will be built into the ridge, with 41,480 sq. m. of built up space.

I believe that one can’t think of Mount of Olives as real estate. It is important for the three monotheistic religions: the 3,000 years old Jewish cemetery, is on Mt. of Olives, where the resurrection of the dead should begin when the Messiah comes; A thin bridge will connect the Haram A-Sharif and the Mt. of Olives at the end of the days, according to the Islam; and for the Christians, the Mt. of Olives is a site that connected with the life and the death of Christ, where he spent his last days before the crucifixion, and where he ascended.

On top of all this holiness, Mt. of Olives is under dispute between us and the Palestinians, and we will have to solve this dispute only through an agreement. Bringing the Military Academy to this spot is quite insensitive and if I may add, not so smart, of our Government.


The Ugly Parade of Jerusalem Day

May 20, 2012

Today is “Jerusalem Day”, the day Israelis celebrate the unification of the city of Jerusalem in 1967 . It is one of the lowest rating holidays in Israel attracting minimum public participation and attention. I believe that for most Jewish Israelis the importance of the Jerusalem day, if at all, is to celebrate our return to the Old City, the holy sites and the Western Wall. Jerusalem is heart of the state of Israel. It is a symbol for the Jewish people and for the Jewish religion (just as it is for the Palestinians) and we cannot give up on Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. However, the very unification of Jerusalem (i.e. the annexation of 28 Palestinian neighborhoods in 70 sq.km around Jerusalem in 1967) was not a good thing for Jerusalem nor did it contribute to strengthen the status of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Most of Jewish Israelis, including the Jerusalemites, are not really aware of the meaning of this unification. We don’t see nor visit the Palestinian neighborhoods that were annexed to Jerusalem in 1967, and we have almost no interaction with the 300,000 Palestinians residing in the united city of Jerusalem.

This is why in recent years, the main event of Jerusalem Day, which is a big parade in the streets of the Old City, is attended almost solely by right wing, mostly national religious, youngsters. Unfortunately this parade has become one of the most vulgar expressions of the Israeli occupation.

Last year, activists from Solidarity documented the parade and all its ugly expressions of racism and nationalism (see video below).

This year the Jerusalem police distributed an announcement calling upon the Palestinian shopkeepers at the Old City to close their shops during the parade. Unfortunately, this announcement is unnecessary. Every resident, shopkeeper or visitor of the Old City knows that the Jerusalem Day is a dangerous day, where Jewish youngsters allow themselves to turn over market stands, damage goods and even violently attack Palestinians who happen to be in the street.

 The announcement that was distributed by the Jerusalem police at the Old City. See translation below.

Personally, this parade turns Jerusalem Day into the most unpleasant day of the year in Jerusalem. It should have been a day in which we bring change to the situation in Jerusalem, to offer hope to its residents and to outstretch our hands in peace. Jerusalem should and could become the city of peace, where two capitals, an Israeli and a Palestinian one, reside in peace side by side. It is possible, and this Jerusalem Day peace activists throughout Israel will continue to strive for it.

Translation of the police announcement:

PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENT

To the citizens and shopkeepers of the Old City Marhaba (hello),

We’d like to inform you that 20/5/2012, the upcoming Sunday, will be Jerusalem Day, and the pedestrian movement will be more dense than usual. Tens of thousands of citizens will come on foot in the direction of the Old City and the Western Wall.

We would like to ask the shopkeepers in David st., Bab Alsalsaleh st. and Hagay st. to close the shops from 5:00 o’clock pm (not compulsory), all this in order to prevent additional friction on this day.

  1. The beginning of the big parade, of about 50,000 people, will come from Jaffa Gate, David St. ,Alsalsaleh St., the Western Wall
  2. 40,000 will arrive from Damascus Gate,Hagay St., the Western Wall.

Comment: it is forbidden to put out goods outside the stores or hang clothing or other things at the entrance of the shop, beginning at 4:00 pm.

Thank you very much for your cooperation,

The Kishleh Police [the Old City station]


Watch last year’s parade


A new settlement in Beit Hanina

April 20, 2012

“There’s an Eviction in Beit Hanina” said a text message on my phone last Wednesday (18/4/12). I knew it could happen, already since February last year, when the Palestinians lost the court case, but I didn’t know when and whether the police would assist the settlers with evicting the Palestinian families from their homes. Later in the day, when I got to the place, the locksmith was putting a new lock on the door. Few Palestinians, women and children, were talking to the Jerusalem policemen watching their home being taken for the benefit of the Israeli settlers.

The locksmith enters the house guarded by Jerusalem policemen

The story of the property begins before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. According to the settlers, a parcel of some 10 dunams in the area of Beit Hanina, north of Jerusalem, was bought by Jews from the original owners. By the end of the 1948 war, the land was under the control of the Jordanians. Following the 1967 war, the land was in the hands of Israel, and was annexed to Israel as part of the extended municipal borders of Jerusalem.

The Palestinian Natsheh family built the two homes that were evicted on Wednesday some 15 years ago. The land, according to their claim, was long owned by their family. They told me that their grandfather had a small stone factory on the land already before 1967.

Eventually the Jerusalem local court ruled that the Palestinian family must evict the houses and accepted the settlers’ claim.

Despite being perceived as merely a matter of property rights, this is first and foremost a political matter. The establishment of a new settlement at the heart of a Palestinian neighborhood has wide implications. Locally, this settlement creates yet another place of friction between radical settlers and Palestinians, this time in the quiet neighborhood of Beit Hanina. In addition, this new settlement is part of an effort by the settlers to prevent a future agreement between Israel and the Palestinians based on two states, and on two capitals in Jerusalem. According to such an agreement, the Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem will be part of the Palestinian capital, and the Jewish neighborhoods will be part of Israeli capital. If the settlers succeed in bringing significant number of Jews into the Palestinian neighborhoods, such an agreement will be much harder to implement.

And finally, the legal basis for the settlers’ entrance to the houses is threatening a basic claim of Israel: We claim that Palestinians who lost their properties during the 1948 war cannot return to them because it will destroy the legitimate right of the Jews for self determination in an independent state. However, this case is actually accepting the right of Jews to return to their properties. If that is the case, the Palestinians will rightly claim, that they should have their right to return to their properties. This way, the settlers may lead Israel to its own destruction.


New Tenders in Har Homa C Aiming at the Two States Solution

April 4, 2012

It seems to me that Netanyahu decided really to kill the two states solution. He continues with his plan to bloc between Bethlehem and the southern Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem so that no Palestinian capital will be able to be established in East Jerusalem. Today (4/4/12) Tenders for 800 housing units were issued in Har Homa C, and another 72  in Har Homa B.

Har Homa C is a dramatic expansion of the very problematic Har Homa neighborhood. Har Homa was built  by Netanyahu when he was Prime Minister in 1997, and was meant to bloc East Jerusalem from the South. Har Homa C, expands it further South-East to bloc the potential corridor of Palestinian contiguity that was left. In all negotiation rounds till today (including the Geneva Initiative) the Palestinians refused to accept Har Homa as part of Israel because it destroys their future development of the Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, and it was built already after the peace process started.

The new severe tender was in the pipeline: the plan was approved on August 2011, and in December 2011, when the Ministry of Housing published its list of upcoming tenders, Har Homa C was there. The Israeli government will probably claim that the tender that was issued today was not new, because it was on that list. However, this way the government is trying to avoid critiques:  when the list is published, “it’s only a list of future tenders, no contractor can bid for the rights to build before the actual issuing of the tender”; and when the tender is actually issued (like today in Har Homa C), the government would say, “it was already published on the list, it’s not new…”.

Summary of today’s tenders:
632 units in Har Homa C
Additional 168 units in Har Homa C.
22 units in Har Homa B (in plan 12825 that was approved in August 2011).
Additional 50 units in Har Homa B.
Four commercial buildings in Har Homa B.
180 units in the West Bank Settlement of Givat Ze’ev (at the Ultra-Orthodox Agan Ha’ayalot neighborhood)


Barkat Provocations Presents: The Settlement in Abu Dis

April 3, 2012

Sometimes it is really hard for me to understand the mayor of my city, Nir Barkat. What was he thinking when he recently announced the promotion of the “Kidmat Zion” plan for a new settlement of 230 units at the heart of the Palestinian neighborhood of Abu Dis? Was he thinking that this way he can promote peace, stability and prosperity in our city? Or maybe is it that he was so blind to understand the city that he is in charge of? This plan is a provocation which is meant, if implemented, to prevent a two states solution by preventing a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, and in the short term, it is meant to destabilize the fragile relations between Israelis and Palestinians in the city.

The plan (No. 7659) to build a settlement in Abu Dis is not new. It was presented in the local planning committee already in year 2000 but was never promoted. When Barkat was elected as mayor, one of his first actions was to try to revive the plan.  However, the then legal adviser of the Municipality, stopped the plan.

The plan is for the construction of 230 housing units on some 97 dunams (24 acres) that were owned by Jews before 1948. Following 1967 those lands became under the responsibility of the Israeli General Custodian, and a few dozens of them were bought by Dr. Irvin Moskowitz, a rich Jewish American who supports the settlements in East Jerusalem. The JNF (Hakeren Hakayemet Leyisrael) also owns some of the lands. If the plan is implemented it will be the implementation of the Jewish Right of Return to properties owned by them pre-1948, and it will annul the moral basis of the Israeli claim that the Palestinian Right of Return should not be implemented in Israel.

In the case of Kidmat Zion in Abu Dis, the Government can easily prevent the plan: Much of the lands are directly controlled by Israeli General Custodian. The Custodian can simply declare that the lands will not be allocated for a settlement. It seems that Barkat, again, is challenging the Government with his provocations.

The Barkat Method: Holding the Palestinians hostages for settlements promotion
In his announcement, mayor Barkat linked between the promotion of a few plans for Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the Kidmat Zion plan, claiming that if the settlement is not promoted, the plans for the Palestinians will not be promoted either. This method, of threatening not to promote Palestinian plans, is worthy of contempt. In the Bustan neighborhood in Silwan, Barkat insists that the approval to (some of) the Palestinian homes will be granted only when the settlement-park will be implemented.  In Beit Yonatan, a house of settlers at the heart of Silwan that the Supreme Court ordered to evict, Barkat threatens that if he would be forced to evicted the settlers and implement the demolition order, he will implement demolition orders against Palestinians in the neighborhood (in Barkat’s nice words it was suggested as grating “a mercy” to the Palestinian illegal construction together with the settlers).

Experience shows that in similar cases when a plan was proposed to the settlers simultaneously with a plan proposed to the Palestinians, the plan for the settlers was realized but the plan for the Palestinians never was. Two prominent examples are the plan on the basis of which the Beit Orot compound was established in the Palestinian neighborhood of A-Sawaneh (plan no. 3092), which provided that simultaneous to building the settlement a school would be built for the Palestinian children in the neighborhood. Ultimately, the settlement was built but the school has not been built to this day. The plan to build the neighborhood of Ma’aleh Zeitim in Ras al-Amud was bundled with a plan to build and license 500 housing units for Palestinians, that was approved simultaneously, but since then the neighborhood for the settlers was built but only a very few houses were built for Palestinians.

The plan for the Settlement in Abu Dis (Kidmat Zion)


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