Those who chant the mantra that ‘settlements are no obstacle to peace’ also frequently assert, first, that no new settlements have been established for decades (some local chanters say since 1998, others since 2004!) and, secondly, that all (or ‘almost all’!) construction has been confined during that period within the boundaries of existing ‘settlement blocs’ that will be retained by Israel in any future final agreement on borders and land swaps. One typical example: ‘Israeli policies since 2004 have prevented any new settlements or the expansion of the boundaries of existing settlements.’ [Australian Jewish News 24.01.13].
Such assertions are deceptive and misleading for many reasons. Here are a few.
It is correct that no new settlement has been established by open decision of the Israeli government since at least 2004 but what was previously done openly by the top political echelon has since been done instead in less visible ways, one object being, as a government report said, to avoid or reduce international criticism. Two Israeli government reports – the Sasson report (2005) and the Levy report (2012) – expressly found that, with knowledge and involvement of all levels of government, from the prime minister and ministers down to lowest level agencies, illegal outposts have continued to be established or maintained, and the built footprints of existing settlements have continued to expand, often illegally even under Israeli law (conduct that the Levy Report described as not befitting a state that prides itself on the rule of law). The jurisdiction of settlements has been expanded by military orders and some illegal settlements have been retrospectively legalised. Some of these evasions and obfuscations are being exposed again in PM Netanyahu’s current negotiations with president Trump’s envoy, Jason Greenblatt, over what future settlement activity the US may regard as acceptable or otherwise.
Ahead of meeting with Trump envoy, Netanyahu says Israel, US working on mutually agreed settlement policy – Barak Ravid – Haaretz 16.03.17
Netanyahu tells settlers he will keep his word on establishment of new Amona settlement ahead of second meeting with Trump representative Greenblatt.
Israel to give highest honour to leader of group that settles Jews in Arab Jerusalem – Yarden Skop & Nir Hasson – Haaretz 16.03.17
Annexationist Minister Naftali Bennett announced the award to David Be’eri, the director of far-right settler organisation Elad. MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz): ‘If there is one party that is responsible most clearly and in the most organised manner for driving a wedge in East Jerusalem, for destroying our joint future and destroying any prospect for a diplomatic solution [of the conflict with the Palestinians], it’s Elad, which single-handedly is leading the eviction of Palestinians from their homes and the settlement and Judaization of Silwan…. But it’s symbolic that in the 50th year of the occupation, this is the message that the government is conveying.’
And see: Land-grab law now before Court March 11, 2017