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Settlements in Focus: "2008 - the Year in Settlements in Review"

On Israeli policy, settlement construction, growth, etc. during 2008

How would you characterize 2008 with respect to Israeli policy and settlements?

Coming on the heels of the November 2007 Annapolis conference, 2008 began with high expectations for diplomatic developments on the Israeli-Palestinian peace track. However, notwithstanding Israel's commitments in Annapolis to freeze settlements, in 2008 the government of Israel continued to permit and promote settlement construction. (For a discussion of how settlements figured into the Annapolis process and its aftermath, see Settlements in Focus, Vol. 3, Issue 5.)

The government of Israel did so by actively initiating and promoting construction and development plans in settlements west of the separation barrier, under the pretext that such construction had no bearing on the diplomatic track, since these areas were within the "national consensus" and would under any final agreement be retained by Israel (for more details of the supposed "national consensus," see Settlements in Focus, Vol. 4, Issue 3). It did so, too, by issuing permits and licenses for settlement plans and construction at the request of the settlers, including construction at sites east of the barrier, as part of agreements and understandings with the settlers. Finally, it did so by ignoring unauthorized and illegal construction and development by settlers, and through continued non-enforcement of applicable Israeli laws.

What do we know about the growth of the settler population in 2008? (the following numbers were updated in April, 2009)

According to statistics published by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS), as of September 2008 the settler population ( West Bank and East Jerusalem ) had risen to 289,600 people, compared to 276,100 at the end of 2007. This represents annual growth rate of 4.9% in the settlements in 2008, continuing the trend of a much higher population growth rate in the settlements compared to Israel (areas inside the Green Line), where the annual growth rate in 2008 was 1.8%.

The high population growth rate in West Bank settlements primarily reflects the fact that Israelis are continuing to move into settlements, especially the ultra-Orthodox settlements located west of the separation barrier, and the fact that ultra-Orthodox settlers (like ultra-Orthodox in Israel) have a very high birthrate. Thus, it is not surprising that the growth rates in the ultra-Orthodox settlements of Modi'in Illit and Beitar Illit, the two biggest settlements, were 9.3% and 8% respectively. This trend is similar to an ultra-Orthodox city in Israel, Elad, which had a similar annual growth rate (7.7%) and similar characteristics - cheap and readily-available housing for the many young couples looking for housing outside the overflowing ultra-Orthodox communities in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak, which are the centers of this society.


This does not mean that settlements located east of the barrier are not also growing at high rates. To the contrary: many settlements located east of the barrier had very high growth rates compared to inside Israel, particularly some of the veteran Gush Emunim (religious-nationalist) settlements located deep in the West Bank heartland and close to major Palestinian population centers (including most of the major settlements located near Ramallah and on the north-south road between Ramallah and Nablus). For example, according to the ICBS statistics:


 Eli, in the West Bank heartland between Ramallah and Nablus, grew by 5.7%

 Shilo, in the West Bank heartland between Ramallah and Nablus (south of Eli), grew by 5.4%

 Ofra, in the West Bank heartland between Ramallah and Nablus (south of Shilo), grew by 3.3%

 Beit El, abutting Ramallah from the east (just south of Ofra), grew by 3.2%

 Psagot, located cheek-to-jowl with Ramallah, grew by 4.6%

 Kochav Ya'akov, abutting Ramallah on the east, just south of Psagot, grew by 3.9%

 Ma'ale Michmash, located east of Ma'ale Michmash, grew by 4.5%

 Geva Binyamin (aka Adam), located south of Ramallah, grew by 4.8% (this is of particular concern because of the existence of a plan to expand the borders of Jerusalem to include this settlement, which dovetails with a plan to transplant the illegal outpost of Migron to a site near Geva Binyamin)

 Dolev, located west of Ramallah, grew by 6.2%

 Talmon, located west of Ramallah (just north of Dolev), grew by 8.1%

 Mizpe Yeriho, located halfway between Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley, grew by 5.6%

 Tko'a, in the West Bank heartland between Bethlehem and Hebron, grew by 11.6%

 Kiryat Arba, locate cheek-to-jowl with Hebron, grew by 2.3%


Interestingly, a recent study conducted by Ariel University Center of Samaria (located in the settlement of Ariel), found, among other things, that on average, settlers enjoyed annual income almost 10% higher than those of Israelis living inside the Green Line, with an average income of 13,566 NIS per settler family per month in 2006, compared to 12,343 NIS inside Israel.


Were any new settlements or outposts established in 2008?


One new settlement was established in 2008 - Maskiyot in the Jordan Valley. Since the site was previously used as a military post (although with no permanent civilian inhabitants), the Israeli government contends that it is not actually a new settlement. For details of this case, see Settlements in Focus, Vol. 4, Issue 4. In addition, the official approval process commenced to establish a new settlement in the Hebron area, called "Sansana." This settlement, too, is being established under a fiction that it is not a new settlement, this time because Israel has defined Sansana as a new neighborhood of an existing settlement located nearly 2.5 miles away. Both of these cases are examined in greater depth below. 


Was there significant settlement expansion in 2008?


Yes. During 2008, 1,518 new structures were built or set up (in the case of temporary housing, generally in the form of mobile homes, referred to as "caravans") in settlements and outposts, compared to 898 structures in 2007. Of these, at least 261 were in illegal outposts. This constitutes a 60% increase in new structures compared to 2007, when 800 new structures were built in settlements and another 98 in outposts. In addition, the ground was prepared (infrastructure development, earthworks, etc) for the construction of 63 additional new structures. 61% of the new structures (927 structures) were built west of the route of the separation barrier and 39% (591 structures) east of it. 


Another indicator of settlement expansion is the issuance of tenders - invitations for construction in settlements. In 2008, tenders were issued for the construction of 539 new housing units in the settlements. This was an eight-fold increase compared to 2007, when tenders were issued for only 65 housing units.


Finally, a further indicator is building starts, which are tracked by the ICBS. The ICBS figures for 2008, which only cover January-September, record 1,647 new housing units in settlements, compared to 1,389 in all of 2007.


It should be noted that Peace Now figures presented here refer to the number of new structures built in the settlements. Sometimes these are apartment buildings (containing multiple housing units) and sometimes they are single-residence structures (mainly villas and caravans). On the other hand, the ICBS figures track the number of new housing units in the settlements without counting the number of buildings. Additionally, ICBS figures do not include the illegal and unofficial construction that is widespread in the settlements and outposts.


Looking specifically at the second half of 2008, Peace Now found the following developments:


Settlements with large construction projects in the second half of 2008 (most of these structures will contain a large number of housing units):


     Alfei Menashe (16 new structures)

     Efrat (15 new structures)

     Beit Arye (27 new structures)

     Beitar Illit (18 new structures)

     Keidar (13 new structures)

     Giv'at Ze'ev (10 new structures)

     Modi'in Illit (35 new structures)

     Ma'ale Adumim (13 new structures)

     Ma'ale Shomron (19 new structures)


Settlements in which new caravan neighborhoods (10 caravans or more) were established in the second half of 2008:


     Har Bracha (10 caravans)

     Ofra (21 caravans)

     Kiryat Arba (19 caravans)

     Shilo (12 caravans)

Were there any new outposts established in 2008? Were any outposts removed?

At the end of 2008 there were 99 outposts, in addition to a large number of additional points controlled by the settlers but without a permanent settler presence. During 2008, no new "real" outposts (sites with an even moderately well-established settler presence and inhabited on a regular basis) were established and no "real" outposts were evacuated. Instead, many "dummy" outposts - uninhabited sites where settlers placed a container or vehicle, but no real structures - were established and some of these were "evacuated." These were often part of a cat-and-mouse game settlers played with the Israeli army - wherein the settlers create the new "outpost" and the army comes in and removes it, only to see the settlers re-establish it or move it to another site nearby. The only exception is the evacuation in December 2008 of a house in Hebron that was taken over by the settlers in 2007 (in effect, a new outpost in Hebron). This is discussed in detail below. 


Did outposts expand in 2008?


As noted earlier, at least 261 new structures were built in or set up in outposts in 2008, including 227 caravans and 34 permanent structures. This represented a 250% increase compared to 2007, when approximately 98 structures were built in outposts (including approximately 82 caravans and 16 permanent structures).


The 2008 expansion in settlements included 5 new structures and the commencement of construction to extend an existing permanent structure at the outpost of Migron (as part of a case before the High Court of Justice, the government of Israel has admitted that Migron is illegally-built on privately-owned Palestinian land and has promised that Court that it will be removed.)  


In addition the ground was prepared for the construction of 9 new permanent structures.

Outposts where 5 or more caravans were erected:


     Givat Hatamar (28 caravans)

     Itamar, Hanekuda (11 caravans)

     Bruchin (10 caravans)

     Bracha West (6 caravans)

     Karmei Doron (5 caravans)

     Mitzpe Danny (5 caravans)

     Kida (7 caravans and 2 permanent houses)

     Givat Harel (5 caravans, 1 permanent structure)

     Migron (5 new structures and the beginning of an extension to another permanent structure)


What was the situation regarding construction in Israeli neighborhoods in East Jerusalem?


In 2008, tenders were issued for the construction of 1,184 new housing units in East Jerusalem, compared to 793 in 2007, an increase of 50% (of the 793 tenders issued in 2007, 747 were issued in December 2007, immediately after the Annapolis Conference, so the increase after Annapolis was of 25 times more than the year before. For details on the increase in Jerusalem settlement activity after the Annapolis conference, see: Settlements in Focus, Vol. 4, Issue 1).


In addition, during 2008, construction plans for 5,431 housing units in East Jerusalem were submitted for public review, of which 2,730 housing units received final approval, compared to 391 housing units approved during 2007, an increase of 600%.


Did the Gaza war at the end of 2008 impact settlement expansion activities?


Yes. During the war in Gaza the settlers took advantage of the fact that all of the public attention was on the south to expand construction in the outposts and settlements. At this point it is difficult to assess the amount of construction done during the weeks of the war but it can be stated with certainty that a number of new roads were opened, with the goal of extending control in the areas near the settlements.


Roads works during the Gaza War:


     Opening of a road connecting the settlement of Eli with the settlement of Shilo

     Opening of a road extending control surrounding the outpost of Haro'e

     Expanding of a road from the Eli cemetery towards the Hayovel outpost

     Opening of a road from outpost of Adei Ad towards Allon Road

     Beginning of opening road from Zayit Ra'anan outpost southward


Was settlement expansion in 2008 limited to settlements west of the separation barrier?    


No. During 2008, 39% of the new structures in settlements (591 structures) were built east of the route of the separation barrier. Of these, 25% of the new structures were in outposts.


How did the government of Israel in 2008 promote settlement construction west of the barrier route?


During 2008 the government of Israel issued tenders for the construction of 539 housing units in settlements west of the barrier (Elkana, Ariel, Efrat, Beitar Illit, Alfei Menashe). This means the government of Israel actively approved and then marketed the projects.


In addition, the government of Israel granted construction permits for a number of large projects in settlements west of the barrier (950 housing units in Ma'ale Adumim, 800 housing units in Giv'at Ze'ev, 100 housing units in Ariel, and more). Without such permits, even privately-planned and privately-financed projects cannot be undertaken, meaning that the Government of Israel is also responsible for permitting such construction to proceed.


Finally, in 2008, East Jerusalem witnessed considerable momentum - unprecedented in scope compared to recent years - in the government's expediting of planning and construction in East Jerusalem (Har Homa, Givat Hamatos, Pisgat Ze'ev, and more). For a comprehensive report on Jerusalem developments in 2008, see Ir Amim's new report, "State of Affairs - Jerusalem 2008.")  


How did the government of Israel in 2008 actively promote settlement construction east of the barrier route?


During 2008, Minister of Defense Ehud Barak approved dozens of construction plans in settlements, some east of the barrier route. In many cases these were plans meant to allow small changes in existing plans or the expansion/addition of individual housing units, but in some important cases the plans were for the substantial construction and expansion or the retroactive approval of building violations or even the establishment of new settlements.


Major plans approved for settlements east of the route:


Sansana: The Minister of Defense gave the green light to proceed with the approval process for Plan 501/1 (i.e., beginning the procedures to vet the plan and gain the necessary approvals to start construction). This plan involves the construction of 60 housing units in the southern Mount Hebron area at a site at which a group of settlers have been living, in temporary housing (caravans), for some time. Officially, the government of Israel defines Plan 501/1 as a plan for a new "neighborhood" of the settlement of Eshkolot. Eshkolot is located 4 km (about 2.5 miles) away from Sansana, but the connection is even more tenuous than this distance implies: this distance must be measured "as the crow flies," since there is no road connecting the sites. The plan clearly constitutes the establishment of a new settlement - one that already has its own website: Another English-language site describes Sansana in detail but omits any mention of Eshkolot, making clear that Sansana is an independent settlement. Illegal construction of permanent structures at Sansana began a few years ago but was stopped, following pressure by various organizations, including Peace Now and Bimkom. As soon as Defense Minister Barak approved moving forward with Plan 501/1 in 2008, the settlers re-started construction, even though the plan itself has still not undergone all of the planning procedures or been granted all the necessary approvals (it was only at the beginning of January 2009 that the plan was deposited for public objections, a key stage in the approval process). It is worth noting that the barrier route in this part of the West Bank has been gerrymandered to dip sharply into the West Bank to include Sansana and Eshkolot and surrounding land on the Israeli side of the barrier.


Maskiyot: During 2008 Defense Minister Barak approved Plan 303, the validation of which was published on July 23, 2008. The plan involves the establishment of a new permanent Israeli settlement in the Jordan Valley, to become home to Israelis who previously lived in a Gaza settlement. Some settlers are currently living in caravans at the site. The Israeli government insists that Maskiyot is not a "new settlement" since the site was previously used as an Israeli military outpost and an educational institution, although there were no permanent civilian Israeli residents or associated infrastructure. This fiction, though, is not credible, apparently even to the settlers moving there, whose website characterizes Maskiyot, explicitly, as "a new settlement." The establishment of a new permanent, civilian settlement in the Jordan Valley at a time when Israel is ostensibly seeking to make progress toward a peace agreement with the Palestinians is especially provocative, given periodically-declared Israeli intentions to retain control of the Jordan Valley, despite the fact that such a demand would make a peace agreement difficult if not impossible. (For details of the Maskiyot saga see: Settlements in Focus, Vol. 4, Issue 4).


Hebron: During 2008, Defense Minister Barak approved construction of a new building for the settlement in the middle of the city of Hebron, near the settlement of Beit Romano. This is the first approval for new construction in Hebron settlements in years. The approval is for a new dormitory building for a yeshiva located in the heart of Hebron, and according to press reports, the yeshiva was surprised when in July 2008 the project, which had been blocked for years by the Defense Ministry, was suddenly approved. Given the incendiary nature of settlement activities in Hebron (as seen especially this year by settler activities surrounding "the House of Contention" and its evacuation), a government decision to permit for the first time in many years the expansion of settlement in the heart of Hebron is both reckless and irresponsible.


Other: In the course of 2008 Defense Minister Barak approved plans for planning and construction in dozens of other settlements including: Ovnat, Elkana, Efrat, Ariel, Talmon, Negohot, Kiryat Arba, Kedumim, Na'ale, Mevo Horon, Beit El, Neve Daniel, Giv'at Ze'ev, Alon Shvut, Beit Arye and others.


Were there any new land confiscations related to the settlements in 2008?

Despite government declarations that no new land was confiscated in 2008, Peace Now learned of and made public a number of decisions and orders whose practical effect is the confiscation of new land and its transfer to state ownership, in the amount of 275 dunams (including land of al-Khadr, near the settlement of Efrata; land of Hussan, near the settlement of Beitar Illit; land of Brukin, near Ariel; and land of Al-Uddeisa, near Hebron).


How did the Israeli government perform in 2008 in terms of enforcing the rule of law on settlers?


Enforcement of the rule of law on settlers in 2008 was at best limited and most of the time non-existent.


The clearest evidence of this is the fact that in 2008 at least 34 permanent structures and 227 new caravans were erected or placed in illegal outposts. This, despite the government of Israel's declared intent to enforce the rule of law on settlers. Indeed, on October 27th 2008, the State submitted to the High Court of Justice a list of actions Defense Minister Ehud Barak had undertaken, ostensibly to demonstrate that the government of Israel was making an intensive enforcement effort against illegal construction. The list detailed 31 incidents in which tin shacks and other temporary structures were evacuated or demolished, and groups of youngsters who were demonstrating on hilltops were dispersed. However, notwithstanding the supposed Israeli commitment to enforce the rule of law, the list did not include a single demolition of an illegally-built permanent structure at any outpost - because no such demolitions took place. Moreover, all of the outposts Barak declared were evacuated during 2008 were either never really established (so the evacuation was little more than a farce) or were not fully evacuated. For a comprehensive analysis of the Barak list, see:


The evacuation of the disputed house in Hebron in December 2009, discussed below, is the exception that proves the rule regarding non-enforcement of law on settlers.


How did settler violence impact the government's agenda regarding settlements?

Settler violence - including attacks against Palestinians and their property, attacks against Israeli and international staff of various non-governmental and peace groups, and attacks against the Israeli police and IDF - appeared to increase dramatically in 2008.


In past years there has been a fairly constant level of settler violence, mayhem, and destruction (for some details, see Settlements in Focus, Vol. 2, Issue 13). For example, settler use of violence and intimidation to disrupt the Palestinian olive harvest has become an annual ritual. At times this violence has gained wider attention inside Israel, for example, in the case of the 2006 violence surrounding the evacuation of some houses in the outpost of Amona. But 2008 brought the issue even greater attention, in large part due to a project of the Israeli human rights organization Btselem, initiated originally in 2007, to provide video cameras to Palestinians, enabling them to film settler abuses. The result has been that at a time when settler violence is on the rise, the Israeli public at large is, for the time, being exposed to video evidence documenting settlers harassing and attacking Palestinians and in some cases Israeli soldiers and police


Settler defiance of the rule of law in 2008 was blatant, particularly, with respect to Israeli government announced intentions to evacuate outposts. Settlers carried out an effort some are calling "Price Tag," whereby settlers try to block evacuations and make the price for evacuating even a dummy outpost so high (in terms of attacking Palestinians, destroying property, and attacking and abusing Israeli soldiers, etc.) that the government of Israel will not dare to try.


This strategy, broadly speaking, appears to have worked, given that since the Amona incident Israel has not removed a single "real" outpost (other than the Hebron house, discussed below, which is the exception that proves the rule), has permitted most of the outposts to expand, and by and large has overlooked settler violence and mayhem. Even in the case of Migron, the flagship outpost that the government of Israel has agreed must be removed, construction continues while the government negotiates with the settlers over relocating the outpost to a site near another settlement west of Ramallah (a deal that, if implemented, would mean in effect the establishment of a new settlement whose existence would only further undermine any possible negotiated agreement). For details on the background of this case, see Settlements in Focus, Vol. 2, Issue 12).


The decision to evacuate a settler-controlled house in Hebron at the end of 2008 marks the point at which the government of Israel apparently decided that its own credibility was so much at stake that it had to confront the settlers. This followed several months of increasing settler violence and very public defiance of the IDF and the Israeli government. It should be emphasized that the catalyst for the action against the settlers in Hebron was not a sudden recognition that their presence at the property was illegal - the decision that the settlers should be removed was made more than a year and a half before it was implemented (for details of this case, see: Had the decision been implemented in a timely fashion the situation would likely have been very different. Instead, sadly, the Israeli government took its time and tried to bargain with the settlers, continuing this strategy up until the last moment, when the settlers' behavior went too far, and the government and IDF were given the choice of taking action or admitting that, de facto, they had no control at all over the settlers. Indeed, in describing his decision to take action, Barak stated, "What was tested today was the ability of the state to enforce its laws and its essence upon its citizens."


It remains to be seen if the  violence surrounding the "house of contention" evacuation, including the well-documented settler attacks on Palestinians and Israeli forces and wanton property destruction, will have achieved the settlers' goal of searing into the consciousness of the Israeli government the belief that it is politically too "costly" to confront the settlers. It is also possible, conversely, that the experience began searing into the collective Israeli consciousness a greater sense that the settlers and their political agenda are entirely divorced from the greater Israeli body politic and its interests.


Why was Olmert unable or unwilling to stop settlement expansion?


In what many saw as Olmert's "legacy" interview, granted to the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot on September 29, 2008, Olmert said that "We have to reach an agreement with the Palestinians, the meaning of which is that in practice we will withdraw from almost all the territories, if not all the territories...Arik Sharon spoke about painful prices, and refused to elaborate them. I say, there is no choice but to elaborate. In the end, we will have to withdraw from the lion's share of the territories, and for the territories we leave in our hands, we will have to give compensation in the form of territories within the State of Israel at a ratio that is more or less 1:1." Unfortunately, this clear-eyed, pragmatic view was never reflected in the policies of the Olmert government during Olmert's time in office. Indeed, the interview and subsequent Olmert statements seem more than anything else to illustrate a truism about politics: politicians speak the truth only when they have decided they have nothing to lose


Absent an explanation provided by Olmert, we can only surmise the reasons for the contradiction between his bravely-stated, eleventh-hour opinion and the actions he took and supported as Prime Minister.


The most obvious explanation is that Olmert, like so many previous Israeli leaders, bought into the belief that the settlement issue is so divisive for Israelis that it is better to let the settlers have their way in the short-term, putting off confronting them to a time when there is a peace agreement on the table that most Israelis support. The corollary to this argument is that if in the end there is no agreement with the Palestinians, then the Israeli government will not have wasted its political capital on needless confrontations with the settlers. The problem with this logic, of course, is its self-fulfilling nature: by failing to rein in the settlers, the government of Israel weakens Palestinian pro-peace forces, further complicates the situation on the ground, and makes it ever-more unlikely that there will ever be a peace agreement.


Unfortunately, this logic has apparently been irresistible to Israeli leaders since the time of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, under whose watch settlements expanded massively throughout the West Bank. This tendency has been supported by the hapless policies and positions of the international community, and particular the United States, which have consistently failed to hold Israel to any of its commitments regarding stopping settlement expansion. Under President George W. Bush, this failure was especially evident and was compounded by what Israel viewed as U.S. implicit embrace (in the 2004 exchange of  letters with then-Prime Minister Sharon) of the Israeli position that settlement "blocs" would remain forever part of Israel, even under any future peace deal. This position made it easy for Olmert to argue that he could not be expected to stop settlement expansion in these ever-expanding, loosely-defined "blocs." This logic was probably especially irresistible for Olmert, given the Amona experience at the start of his term as Prime Minister, when the evacuation of just a few illegally-built settler houses deteriorated into violent, bloody confrontations.


Another likely reason is internal Israeli politics. This includes Olmert's weakness within his own party (which included staunch supporters of the settlers), the fragility of his ruling coalition (which included staunch supporters of the settlers like Housing Minister Zeev Boim, plus personalities like Defense Minister Barak, who at times seemed to be deliberately using the settlers to undermine Olmert); and his personal political weakness (from a man who until the very end hoped he could survive scandals and stay in power). Another powerful source of pressure on Olmert was the ultra-Orthodox parties, in particular Shas. As we have noted in the past, ultra-Orthodox Israelis are increasingly supportive of the settlers, particularly since today two of the largest settlements are homogeneous ultra-Orthodox communities (with work beginning on a third large ultra-Orthodox settlement, after Olmert approved the new neighborhood of Agan Ha'ayalot in Giv'at Ze'ev).


Finally, yet another kind of political logic may also have come into play during Olmert's term - a logic that has also proven irresistible to previous Israeli leaders. According to this logic, if a weak prime minister feels he is coming off as too conciliatory to the Palestinians, he may undertake actions deliberately intended to "balance" this impression - actions that unfortunately undermine the very pro-peace steps he has taken. For example, this would help explain why, upon his return to Israel following the Annapolis Conference, the Olmert government supported large-scale settlement projects in and around Jerusalem. This decision was reminiscent of 1997, when, following his acceptance of the Hebron Agreement (providing for Israeli troops to withdraw from most of Hebron) then-Prime Minister Netanyahu "balanced" this agreement with a number of pro-settler actions, including the approval of massive construction at the settlement of Har Homa.

Whatever the reason or combination of reasons behind the various decisions Olmert's took and the policies he supported, his record on settlements, on the ground, is unequivocal. His public statements at the end of his term in office seem to reflect a pragmatic, clear-eyed understanding of what Israel must do with respect to land and settlements if it ever hopes to achieve peace with the Palestinians and his embrace, however reluctant, of these positions. However, his actions - and the actions of his government - throughout his tenure in office directly contradicted these conclusions and undermined, politically and concretely, the prospects for peace.


Produced by Lara Friedman, Government Relations Director, Americans for Peace Now, and Hagit Ofran, Settlements Watch Director, Peace Now (Israel)