180 new units in East Jeruslam

October 29, 2012

The Israeli Land Administration announced last week the allocation of 180 new housing units in East Jerusalem for families of people from the Israeli security forces (the army and police). The decision was made in accordance with the Israeli Government’s decision from 20.5.12 to allocate units for security people in Jerusalem in “places with special characteristics that can justify such allocations, according to the ILA considerations”.

Since almost no Palestinians serve in the Israeli security forces, this decision is clearly intended to prevent from Palestinian families the possibility to buy homes in the new neighborhood, which is located between two Palestinian neighborhoods, Sur Baher and Um Lison.

The plan, number 7977A, is on lands that were confiscated by the Israeli Government back in 1970 as part of the confiscations for the East Talpiyot (AKA Armon Hanatziv) neighborhood. On July 2012, the plan was officially announced valid after the final approval by the regional planning committee.

I think it is a shame that in a city where over 1/3 of the population are Palestinians, the authorities are planning only for Israelis, even near Palestinian areas in East Jerusalem, where such construction is desperately needed. This policy is not only taking us away from the possibility to get to Two States, but is also discriminatory and adds to the instability in Jerusalem.


Plan for a Military College on Mount of Olives Now Deposited

October 20, 2012

20/10/2012

In the last few days, ads were hung up in Mt. of Olives in East Jerusalem announcing the depositing of plan no. 51870 for the construction of the Israeli Military College. The public is granted 60 days to file any objections or reservations to the plan, after which the Regional Planning Committee can discuss the objections and approve the plan. The planned college would serve as the academy for training senior commanders in the Israeli Military and the Security Forces.

The idea to build the college should not be of any problem, but the location, at one of the most sensitive and disputed areas in Jerusalem,  is a little more than provocative. The plan is to build the Military Academy at the Palestinian neighborhood of A-Suwane, near the Beit Orot Settlement, 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.

See more at t-j.org.il.

The planed academy – an imaging from the plan documents

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.


Final Approval for 800 units in Gilo

October 18, 2012

As Israel enters into a period of elections, the plan to build 800 units at the Western Slopes of Gilo (plan no. 13157)  is published for validation. Today (18/10/2012), an ad was published in Maariv newspaper declaring the plan’s validation. This publication is the last phase of the planning process. Two weeks from the publication of the ad in the newspapers, the plan is valid and contractors may apply for a construction permit from the Municipality. In the case of Gilo’s Western Slopes plan, which was initiated by the Israel Land Administration, the contractors should win the bid in order to buy the rights to build, through a tender. Such a tender may be published in a few months.

 

There were two plans called Gilo’s Slopes:

  • The Southern Slopes of Gilo – Plan no. 13261 – for the construction of 850 units with potential addition of another 300 units. This plan was deposited for public review on May 10th, 2012, and is awaiting discussion of the objections by the district planning committee.
  • The Western Slopes of Gilo – Plan no. 13157 – for the construction of 800 units. This plan was deposited for public review already on April 2011 and was approved for validation on 24/6/2012. Today, 18/10/2012, it was published for validation.

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.


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