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Peace Now Annual Settlements Report - Feb. 21, 2007

Highlights from Peace Now's Annual Reports on Settlements and Outpost in the West Bank

Highlights from Peace Now's Annual Reports on Settlements and Outpost in the West Bank

Report I. Settlements in 2006

· Settlements on Both Sides of the Barrier Continue to Expand: Building continues in a large number of settlements on both sides of the route of the West Bank security barrier - a phenomenon that is inconsistent with an Israeli intention to evacuate settlements or to comply with repeated commitments made to the U.S. (including in the Road Map) to stop expanding settlements. In total, looking at construction of buildings, placement of trailers and other temporary structures, and infrastructure and earthworks, 68% of changes (namely different types of construction and developments) in settlements in 2006 took place in settlements on the west side of the security barrier, while 32% took place in settlements located east of the barrier.

· No New Settlements, Sort of: During 2006, there was no change in the number of official settlements. However, during the last week of 2006, it was made public that Defense Minister Amir Peretz had approved construction of thirty homes adjacent to Maskiyot, a mostly disused army outpost established in the 1980s, located in the northwestern part of the West Bank approximately 15 kilometers from the Green Line (and west of the route of the security barrier). The decision to approve building there for civilians was tantamount to a decision to establish a new settlement. Only after strong criticism from within Israel and from abroad did Peretz, in mid-January 2007, freeze the approval. While construction at Maskiyot now appears to be off the table, the affair raises very serious questions about the Olmert government's policy regarding settlements.

· Settler Population Growth Continues to Outpace Growth Inside Israel: The settler population continued to grow in 2006 at a pace that outstripped population growth inside the Green Line and clearly exceeded "natural growth." According to the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), the number of settlers at the beginning of 2006 was approximately 247,300. To date, the CBS has not yet published official statistics regarding the number of settlers at the end of 2006. According to the Ministry of the Interior, however, at the end of 2006 some 268,000 Israelis were living in the settlements. Assuming that the final numbers will be somewhat lower than those of the Interior Ministry (as is usually the case), it nonetheless appears that the settler population grew by around 5% in 2006, a continuation of the trend towards a population increase in the settlements since 2001 (in Israel, the highest growth rate is in Jerusalem, where it stands at around 2.2% annually; for the overall population of Israel the growth rate in 2005 was 1.8%).

· Government Continues to Approve Building Tenders: During 2006, tenders were publicized for 952 housing units in the settlements. All of the tenders were publicized beginning in June 2006, that is, after the March elections. All of the tenders during this year were for construction planned in settlements located west of the separation fence's route, as approved by the Israeli government on April 30, 2006. We note that during 2005, tenders were published for 1,184 housing units in the settlements.

· No Slow-Down in Construction Starts: To date, the CBS has not yet published final number regarding building starts in the West Bank for 2006. However, according to interim numbers reported by the CBS for the first three quarters of 2006 (that is, until the end of September), 1272 building starts were recorded from January-September 2006. Factoring in additional, as-yet unreported building starts for October-December 2006, it is clear that the pace of building in settlements in 2006 was comparable to that of previous years (in 2005, 1727 building starts were recorded; in 2004, 1926 building starts were recorded).

Where Construction is Taking Place

Largest building sites in the West Bank: Ma'ale Adumim, Modi'in Illit, Beitar Illit

Large building sites in the West Bank: Ariel, Efrat, Alfei Menashe, Giv'at Ze'ev

Medium-sized building sites in the West Bank: El'azar, Karnei Shomron, Kiryat Arba, Alon (Kfar Adumim), Rosh Tzurim, Nirit site (Alfei Menashe), Kedumim

Settlements Where There Is Private Construction

In addition to government-sponsored construction and construction tenders, privately-planned, privately-financed construction is ongoing in a large number of settlements. These are: Har Adar, Har Gilo, South Giv'at Ze'ev - Mt. Shmuel, Hashmonaim, Keidar, Barqan, Sha'arei Tikva, Elkana, Beit Arye, Neriya (Talmon), Sansana, Nofei Prat (Kfar Adumim), Carmel, Pedu'el, Yakir, Neve Daniel, Oranit, Mevo Horon, Gitit, Ofra, Beit El, Geva Binyamin, Mitzpe Yericho, Eli (15 new containers), Susiya (10 new containers), and Tko'a.

Special Security Areas Surrounding Settlements (East of the Security Barrier)

A "Special Security Area" is an area around a settlement designated to be a protective barrier. Such an area includes an enclosure fence and a wide space for patrols, and is usually located some 100 meters from the outermost houses, thus expanding the settlement's overall area substantially. Settlements with such "Special Security Areas" are: Ateret, Nahaliel, Shavei Shomron, Avnei Hefetz (preliminary construction work), Karmei Tzur, and Enav. In addition, "Special Security Areas" are slated to be built in 2007 in at least two more settlements - Susiya and Ro'i - both located east of the security barrier:

Bypass Roads and Infrastructure

· Za'atara Bypass Road: During 2006, construction of the Za'atara Bypass Road continued at a slow pace. This bypass road is meant to connect the settlements of Tko'a and Nokdim (some 1,800 settlers in total), located southeast of the Bethlehem block, with Jerusalem. It should be noted that most of the road has been paved for over a year, and Peace Now is unaware of the reasons that construction operations were at a standstill during most of the past year. Of late, perhaps due to pressure on the government by settlers in Gush Etzion, intensive construction on the road has been renewed.

· Jerusalem-Jericho Road: Large-scale construction is taking place on the Jerusalem-Jericho Road in the section from Mitzpe Yericho to the Almog Junction. The road is being expanded from a two-lane road to four lanes.

· Anatot-Mt. Scopus Road: Work on the Anatot - Mt. Scopus Road has continued throughout the year. This road will have separate lanes for settlers and Palestinians. Its significance for Israel is the fact that Anatot settlers (some 800 people) will be able to commute to Jerusalem without having to travel outside the fence.

· Ofarim-Beit Arye Bypass Road: Work on a new bypass road connecting the settlements of Ofarim and Beit Arye Bypass resumed in the last weeks of 2006. The existing road connecting the settlements will be cut by construction of the security barrier (which will include both settlements). The new road is expected to continue farther north form Beit Arye, though the exact plan is still not known to us at this time.

Construction of Special Concern - E1/Ma'ale Adumim

Located between Ma'ale Adumim and Mt. Scopus, the area known as "E1" was in practice annexed by Israel long ago and allocated to the Ma'ale Adumim municipality (an area whose jurisdiction is larger than that of the Tel Aviv juridical area). The government has for some years made known its intention to build thousands of housing units in E1, in order to connect Ma'ale Adumim to Jerusalem. In the process, the construction will effectively cut the West Bank in half and isolate East Jerusalem from the West Bank.

On the eve of the 2006 Israeli elections, then-acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert authorized the commencement of construction of a new police station in E1. The new building is intended to serve as police headquarters for the Judea and Samaria Regional Police. Construction of that building is presently nearing conclusion. (It should be recalled that on April 26, 2006, Haaretz published a story, never refuted by the authorities, that construction of the police headquarters is being financed by settlers' organizations that are working to receive in exchange the current police headquarters building in Ras al-Amud in East Jerusalem.) There is a grave concern that breaking the taboo against building in E1 will pave the way for the government to implement its plans to build a residential neighborhood in E1. Indeed, it appears that it is only a matter of time and timing until some Israeli government tries to continue building in E1. At the same time, extensive construction work is continuing in the eastern and northeastern parts of Ma'ale Adumim.

Based on the extent of construction and its location relative to the map of the West Bank as a whole, our assessment is that the building in Ma'ale Adumim, coupled with the breaking of the taboo against construction in E1, is one of the most significant settlement-related developments of 2006 and the most harmful to the chances of reaching an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians based on two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace.

Report II. Outposts

· As of December 31, 2006, there were 102 outposts in the West Bank, home to about 2000 settlers. Of the total number of outposts, 80% are located east of the security barrier, many deep inside the West Bank, consistent with the ideological motivations of the settlers involved.

· During 2006, no populated outposts were dismantled (one unpopulated one was). On February 1, following a successful court battle waged by Peace Now over the course of 7 months, the Israeli army demolished 9 permanent structures in the outpost of Amona. However, the victory is only partial, since the entire outpost of Amona - not just the structures that were demolished - is located on land privately-owned by Palestinians. Today Amona remains intact and Palestinians still do not have access to their land.

· In the aftermath of the Amona demolitions, the government of Israel has taken no affirmative action to dismantle outposts or curtail the illegal construction taking place in them. The exception is the evacuation of three empty trailers that were standing in the outpost of Yitav East. However, as in Amona, the land in question remains inaccessible to Palestinians, since the area where the trailers stood remains fenced.

· In addition, during 2006, evacuation orders for 6 outposts were extended (but still not implemented). Growth took place in 5 of the 6 outposts slated for imminent evacuation.

· Overall, one year after the events of Amona it is hard not to avoid the conclusion that the settlers won the struggle over outposts, since the government continues to avoid enforcing the law upon them.

Construction/Changes in Outposts:

· During 2006, 251 changes in outposts (including construction, infrastructure work, placement of new trailers, etc.) were recorded by Peace Now. Of these changes, 20% took place in outposts located west of the security barrier, while 80% took place in outposts located east of the security barrier. During this period, permanent construction took place in 30 outposts, and new roads were paved or built to serve 7 outposts.

· Of the 102 outposts in the West Bank today, at least 50 were established after March 2001 (under the Roadmap, Israel has committed to dismantling all outposts established after this date). During 2006, growth was recorded in 27 outposts established after March 2001. Overall, changes in outposts were concentrated in outposts established before March 2001 (74%), rather than those established after March 2001 (26%).

Where Changes Are Taking Place:

· Outposts founded after March 2001 where changes took place in 2006 are: Nofei Nehemia, Mitzpe Lachish, Ramat Gilad, T Junction - Givat Asaf, Migron, Nofei Prat Alt. 468, Zayit Ra'anan, Avigail, Havat Gilad, Kida + Habayit Ha'adom, Mitzpeh Yitzhar, Susiya Northwest (Rujum El Chamri), Tzur Shalem, Derech Ha'avot, Neve Daniel North, Elmatan, Tko'a D, Bat Ayin East, Yair Farm, Bnei Adam, Givat Hatamar, Kfar Tapuah West, Ma'avar Michmash, Mitzpe Eshtamoa "new", Jabel Aritis, Kiryat Arba South (Gal Section)

· Outposts founded before March 2001 where changes took place in 2006 are: Amona, Esh Kodesh, Ahiya, Haresha, Horesh Yaron, Mitzpeh Danny, Mitzpe Yair, Mitzpe Kramim, Bracha A, Henekuda, Hill 777, Hill 782, Hill 851, Gva'ot Olam, Givat Hahish, Pnei Kedem, Bat Ayin West, Givat Harel, Sde bar, Palgei Mayim (Eli), Hayovel (Eli), Nof Harim (Eli), T'koa B+C

Where Permanent Construction is Taking Place

The popular image of a West Bank outpost consisting of young settler families roughing it in makeshift temporary structures is giving way to the increasingly widespread phenomenon of permanent construction in an increasing number of outposts (i.e., laying of foundations and construction of permanent buildings with associated infrastructure). During 2006, such permanent construction took place in 30 outposts: Tko'a B+C, Kida, Sneh Ya'akov, Mitzpe Kramim, Zayit Ra'anan, Haresha, Ma'ale Rehav'am, Ahiya, Givat Harel, Adei Ad, Hill 782, Gva'ot Olam, Hill 777, Hanekuda, Hill 851, Tzur Shalem, Derech Ha'avot, Alonei Shilo, Magen Dan, Tko'a D, Sde Bar, Neve Erez, Kiryat Arba South (Gal Section), Pnei Kedem, Bruchin, Mevo'ot Jericho, Palgei Mayim, Hayovel, Mitzpe Yair, Elmatan

Construction and Paving of Roads

One of the features connected to the entrenchment of the outposts is the construction and paving of roads in and around the outposts. The ring roads around the outposts usually constitute the immediate borders of the outpost. During 2006, roads were constructed or paved in or around 7 outposts: Kida, Hahar - Avnei Hefetz, Adei Ad, Nofei Nehemia, Magen Dan, Givat Sal'it, and Hayovel.

Construction in Outposts Against Which Demarcation Orders Are Pending

In April 2006, Peace Now petitioned the High Court of Justice over the fact that "demarcation orders" issued for six outposts during 2004 were about to expire without the government carrying them out. On June 6, 2006, the Court rejected the petition after the state extended the orders for two more years, and announced its commitment to evacuate those outposts. Despite this commitment, during the second half of 2006, in five of the six outposts trailers and/or permanent structures were added, raising questions about the seriousness of the government's intentions in this matter. The six outposts at issue are: Mitzpe Lachish, T Junction - Givat Asaf, Ramat Gilad, Ma'ale Rehav'am, and Mitzpe Yitzhar.

Update on Peace Now Petitions Against Outposts

There are two Peace Now petitions pending against the outposts:

· The Haresha and Hayovel petition (HCJ 9051/05) - a hearing on the petition is scheduled for March 7. For further details on this petition see: http://www.peacenow.org.il/site/en/peace.asp?pi=370&docid=1637

· The Migron petition - (HCJ 8887/06). On Monday, February 12, 2007, a discussion was held regarding the joint petition of the landowners and Peace Now, demanding that the Migron outpost be evacuated. The court stipulated that the State be given 60 days to update the Court regarding the discussions being held with the settlers regarding voluntary evacuation of the outpost. It was subsequently decided that an additional 21 days would be given to the parties to respond to the State's update. For additional details regarding this petition see: http://www.peacenow.org.il/site/en/peace.asp?pi=370&docid=2006