Illegal settlements bonanza: Israel plots an endgame

Israel’s colonization policies are entering an alarming new phase, comparable in historic magnitude to the original plans to colonize Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem following the war of 1967.

On April 24, an Israeli ministerial committee approved three settlement outposts—Bruchin and Rechelim in the northern part of the West Bank, and Sansana in the south. Although all settlement activities in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem are considered illegal by international law, Israeli law differentiates between sanctioned settlements and ‘illegal’ ones. This distinction has actually proved to be no more than a disingenuous attempt at conflating international law, which is applicable to occupied lands, and Israeli law, which is in no way relevant.

Since 1967, Israel placed occupied Palestinian land, privately owned or otherwise, into various categories. One of these categories is ‘state-owned,’ as in obtained by virtue of military occupation. For many years, the ‘state-owned’ occupied land was allotted to various purposes. Since 1990, however, the Israeli government refrained from establishing settlements, at lease formally. Now, according to the Israeli anti-settlement group, Peace Now, “instead of going to peace the government is announcing the establishment of three new settlements . . . this announcement is against the Israeli interest of achieving peace and a two states solution”

Although the group argues that the four-man committee did not have the authority to make such a decision, it actually matters little. Every physical space in the occupied territories—whether privately owned or ‘state owned,’ ‘legally’ obtained or ‘illegally’ obtained—is free game. The extremist Jewish settlers, whose tentacles are reaching far and wide, chasing out Palestinians at every corner, haven’t received such empowering news since the heyday of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

The move regarding settlements is not an isolated one. The Israeli government is now challenging the very decisions made by the Israeli Supreme Court, which has been used as a legitimization platform for many illegal settlements that drove Palestinians from their land.

On April 27, the Israeli government reportedly asked the high court to delay the demolition of an ‘unauthorized’ West Bank outpost in the Beit El settlement which was scheduled to take place on May 1. The land, even by Israeli legal standards, is considered private Palestinian land, and the Israeli government had committed to the court to take down the illegal outposts—again, per Israeli definition—on the specified date.

Now the right-wing Netanyahu government is having another change of heart. In its request to the court, the government argued: “The evacuation of the buildings could carry social, political and operational ramifications for construction in Beit El and other settlements.” Such an argument, if applied in the larger context of the occupied territories, could easily justify why no outposts should be taken down. It could eradicate, once and for all, such politically inconvenient terms such as ‘legal’ and ‘illegal.’

“Previous Israeli governments have pledged to demolish the unauthorized settler outposts in the West Bank, but only a handful have been removed,” according to CNN online. In fact, that ‘handful’ are likely to be rebuilt, amongst many more new outposts, now that the new legal precedence is underway.

Michael Sfard, an attorney with Yesh Din, which reportedly advocates Palestinian rights, described the request as “an announcement of war by the Israeli government against the rule of law.” More specifically, “they said clearly that they have reached a decision not to evacuate illegal construction on private Palestinian property.”

Some analysts suggested that Netanyahu was bowing down to the more right-wing elements in his cabinet—as if the man had, until now, been a peacemaker. The bottom line is that Israel has decided to embark on a new and dangerous phase, one that violates not only international law, but Israel’s own self-tailored laws that were designed to colonize the occupied territories. It appears that even those precarious ‘laws’ are no longer capable of meeting the colonial appetite of Israeli settlers and the ruling class.

Israeli settlements have been contextualized through Israeli legal and political references, as opposed to references commonly accepted in international law. The emphasis on differences between Israeli governments, political parties and religious/ultra-nationalist settlement movements is distracting and misleading; colonizing the rest of historic Palestine has been and remains a national Israeli project.

An article in the right-wing Israeli Jerusalem Post agrees. “Support for settlement is not simply a program of right-of-center Likud. Its history has firm roots in Labor party activity during the periods of its governments, and activities by predecessors of the Labor party going back before the creation of the Israeli state” (April 27).

The only variable that might be worth examining is the purpose of the settlement, not the settlement itself. Following the war of 1967, the Allon plan sought to annex more than 30 percent of the West Bank and all of Gaza for security purposes. It stipulated the establishment of a “security corridor” along the Jordan River, as well outside the “Green Line,” a one-sided Israeli demarcation of its borders with the West Bank. Then, there was no Likud party to demonize, for that was the Labor party’s vision for the newly occupied territories.

While the Israeli settlement drive since then has swallowed much of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, populating them with over half a million Israelis, the international community’s response was as moot in 1967 as it is now in 2012. Responding to the latest sanctioning of illegal outposts, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon declared that he was “deeply troubled” by the news. Meanwhile, Russia was ‘deeply concerned’ and so was the EU’s Catherine Ashton. As for the US, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland insisted that the Israeli measure is not “helpful to the process.” What process?

While Israel has now showed all of its cards, and the international community declared its complacency or impotence, the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah continues to plan some kind of UN censure of the settlements. Even if a watered-down version of some UN draft managed to survive the US veto, what are the chances of Israel heeding the call of the international community?

There is no doubt that Israel is plotting its version of the endgame in Palestine, which sees Palestinians continuing to subsist in physical fragmentation and permanent occupation. Unless a popular Palestinian uprising takes hold, no one is likely to challenge what is actually an Israeli declaration of war against the Palestinian people.

Ramzy Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of His latest book is “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story” (Pluto Press, London), now available on

3 Responses to Illegal settlements bonanza: Israel plots an endgame

  1. Good.

  2. Great news. thanks This is how I believe

  3. It may seem like a lot of yellow to you, but if you are ineertsted in a contiguous, viable Palestinian state, this map shows pretty clearly that this territory has been carved up into something more closely resembling Swiss cheese.You’ll notice a lot of dark orange on the eastern half of the West Bank namely, the Jordan Valley. :Since 1967, Israel has employed various methods to de facto annex the Jordan Valley, the most significant land reserve in the West Bank. Toward this end, Israel prevents the development of Palestinian communities there, systematically demolishes the structures of the area’s Palestinian-Bedouin communities, prevents Palestinians from accessing the Valley’s rich water resources, and harshly restricts Palestinian movement in the area. Simultaneously, Israel has allocated extensive areas in the Valley for settlements The Jordan Valley is closed almost completely to Palestinians who are not officially registered as residents of the area. Palestinians living elsewhere in the West Bank are only allowed to enter on foot or by public transportation. Israel set up four checkpoints west of the Valley, which it uses to control Palestinian movement between the Jordan Valley and the rest of the West Bank – Ma’ale Efraim, Tayasir, al-Hamra, and Yitav (al-M’arajat) Other orange areas on the western edge correspond to Palestinian lands that were expropriated by the routing of the Separation Barrier into the West Bank proper. :Eighty-five percent of the amended route runs through the West Bank, and not along the Green Line. In areas where the Barrier has already been built, the extensive violations of human rights of Palestinians living nearby are evident. Further construction inside the West Bank, in accordance with the Cabinet’s decision of February 2005, causes additional human rights violations affecting hundreds of thousands of local residents. The orange lines that carve up the West Bank represent Israeli only highways that are forbidden to Palestinians. The (Forbidden Roads) regime, based on the principle of separation through discrimination, bears striking similarities to the racist apartheid regime that existed in South Africa until 1994. In the roads regime operated by Israel, the right of every person to travel in the West Bank is based on his or her national origin. The roads regime that Israel operates in the West Bank differs from the policies of South African apartheid in at least one important way. While every last detail of the apartheid system was formulated in legislation, the roads regime in the West Bank has never been put on paper, neither in military legislation nor in any official decision. Implementation of the regime by IDF soldiers and Border Police officers is based solely on verbal orders given to the security forces. Therefore, enforcement of the roads regime entails a greater degree of arbitrariness than was the case with the regime that existed in South Africa The Forbidden Roads Regime is based on the premise that all Palestinians are security risks and therefore it is justifiable to restrict their movement. This is a racist premise that led to a policy that indiscriminately harms the entire Palestinian population, in violation of its human rights and of international law.