Israel set to approve over 900 new settlement homes in West Bank
Civil Administration is expected to okay 732 units in Modi’in Ilit; some isolated settlements to be retroactively approved after construction stopped by a High Court of Justice injunction.
By Chaim Levinson
The Civil Administration’s Supreme Planning Council is to meet Wednesday morning to approve the construction of over 900 new homes in the West Bank.
The largest plan is for 732 units in Modi’in Ilit, a plan that was okayed by former Defense Minister Ehud Barak in January. This plan is at an advanced stage of authorization, so if the defense minister permits, construction could start shortly.
The adjacent Palestinian village of Dir Qadis objected to the plan, claiming that some of the construction was slated to take place on its lands. But last month, the planning council rejected the village’s objections, saying there was no private land involved.
Other, smaller plans are being approved for isolated settlements. Shiloh will be getting 17 homes, whose construction had previously been stopped by a High Court of Justice injunction.
This retroactive approval is essentially a gift from the state to Ze’ev Hever, secretary general of Amana, the movement that started building the homes without a permit. The construction itself is the subject of an ongoing police investigation.
But it isn’t clear whether any police representatives will come to the council hearing to find out who takes responsibility for the illegal construction.
Thirty-eight units in Kokhav Yaakov, near Ramallah, will also be getting retroactive approval. The settlement is home to Avi Roeh, chairman of the Yesha Council of settlements.
“After years in which the plan, and the change in parcellation, have been stuck in the Civil Administration, the time has come for the kibbutz to continue its trend of absorption and development and add families and returning children to the valley,” said David Elhayani, chairman of the Jordan Valley Regional Council. “This is welcome news that will strengthen the valley.”
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EU takes tougher stance on Israeli settlements
‘Earthquake’ directive will prohibit EU states from signing deals with Israel unless settlement exclusion clause is included
Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem
The European Union has dealt a harsh blow to the Israeli settlement enterprise in a directive that insists all future agreements between the EU and Israel must explicitly exclude Jewish colonies in the West Bank or East Jerusalem.
The move, described by an Israeli official as an “earthquake”, prompted furious criticism from the Israeli prime minister over “external diktats”.
But it was hailed by Palestinians and their supporters as a significant political and economic sanction against settlements.
The EU guidelines will prohibit the issuing of grants, funding, prizes or scholarships unless a settlement exclusion clause is included. Israeli institutions and bodies situated across the pre-1967 Green Line – including the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel in 1967 and later annexed — will be automatically ineligible.
In order to secure agreements with the EU in the future, the Israeli government will be required to concede in writing that settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are outside the state of Israel.
The directive, part of the 2014-20 financial framework, covers all areas of co-operation between the EU and Israel, including economics, science, culture, sports and academia.
In a broadcast statementon Tuesday evening , Binyamin Netanyahu said: “As prime minister of Israel, I will not allow the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who live in the West Bank, Golan Heights and our united capital Jerusalem to be harmed. We will not accept any external diktats about our borders. This matter will only be settled in direct negotiations between the parties.”
The move was seen in Israel as a penalty that could in future extend to settlement produce and goods destined for European markets.
Israel has become increasingly concerned about the EU adopting a more robust stance against settlements. Some member states are pressing for an EU-wide policy of labelling produce and goods originating in settlements to allow consumers to make informed choices on purchases.
An EU statement said the guidelines “set out the territorial limitations under which the commission will award EU support to Israeli entities … concern has been expressed in Europe that Israeli entities in the occupied territories could benefit from EU support. The purpose of these guidelines is to make a distinction between the state of Israel and the occupied territories when it comes to EU support.”
The directive follows a decision by EU foreign ministers last December that “all agreements between the state of Israel and the EU must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967”. All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law.
Other Israeli government ministers weighed in with criticism. The centrist finance minister, Yair Lapid, said the EU move “pushes peace further away instead of bringing it closer” and was “another in a long line of decisions that isolate Israel”. He urged a return to peace talks, adding: “This is a miserable decision, which was made in very bad timing and thus sabotages the efforts that US secretary of state John Kerry is putting into bringing the sides back to the negotiation table.”
Ze’ev Elkin, Israel’s rightwing deputy foreign minister who lives in a West Bank settlement, told Army Radio the directive was a “big mistake”, saying: “This is more fuel for Palestinian rejectionism.”
Another minister, Silvan Shalom, said: “Once again, Europe has demonstrated just how detached it is, how it can’t really be a full partner to the negotiations.”
A senior Israeli official, who declined to be identified, told the Guardian: “Israel will have to explicitly express in writing the EU’s position. We don’t believe the EU’s position should be forced down our throats like geese.” He said it was impossible for Israel to agree to such a demand.
The directive would affect “all realms of co-operation”, he added, and would result in “rising tension and increased friction” and “create a lot of bad blood”.
Another Israeli official told Haaretz, which disclosed the new guidelines, the move was an “earthquake” that unprecedentedly turns “understandings and quiet agreements that the [EU] does not work beyond the Green Line [into] formal, binding policy”.
Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian official, welcomed the guidelines. “The EU has moved from the level of statements, declarations and denunciations to effective policy decisions and concrete steps, which constitute a qualitative shift that will have a positive impact on the chances of peace,” she said.
“The Israeli occupation must be held to account, and Israel must comply with international and humanitarian law and the requirements for justice and peace.”
The new requirements would affect the EuroMed Youth agreement, under negotiation, which involves joint youth projects and exchanges, said Haaretz.
Another example would be applications from Israel to the EU’s research and technical development programme, an EU source told the Guardian.
The directive emerged as Kerry arrived in the region on his sixth visit in a drive to restart peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. He is expected to meet the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, in Amman on Tuesday.
Unusually, the secretary of state is not scheduled to visit Jerusalem or meet the Israeli prime minister. Some analysts have suggested this is because Israel has signed up to Kerry’s parameters for a resumption of talks, but he still needs agreement from the Palestinian side.
However, an unnamed Israeli minister was reported by Israel Radio as saying that Netanyahu’s primary objective was merely to show willingness to negotiate and that he did not intend to engage in a far-reaching peace process.
EU’s new policy on Israeli settlements: The full guidelines
Guidelines state that any private Israeli entity that wants to receive funding from EU must demonstrate that it has no links to West Bank, East Jerusalem, or Golan Heights.
By Barak Ravid
Any Israeli entity seeking funding from or cooperation with the European Union will have to submit a declaration stating that the entity has no direct or indirect links to the West Bank, East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights, according to the new EU guidelines.
The guidelines, which condition all future agreements on Jerusalem’s acknowledgement that its occupied territories are not part of Israel, have strained relations with the EU to unprecedented level.
The full text of the guidelines obtained by Haaretz states that any Israeli entity that wants to receive funding, participate in a project or apply for grants or prizes from EU foundations or institutions will have to submit such a declaration.
The guidelines also state that “only Israeli entities having their place of establishment within Israel’s pre-1967 borders will be considered eligible” for consideration.”
The place of establishment “is understood to be the legal address where the entity is registered, as confirmed by a precise postal address corresponding to a concrete physical location. The use of a post office box is not allowed.”
The guidelines, which were drawn up by the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm are expected to be officially released on Friday. The document was circulated among all the EU institutions, foundations, investment funds and aid organizations two weeks ago, as well as to all 28 EU member states. They go into effect on January 1.
A senior Israeli official said that according to the Foreign Ministry’s preliminary legal opinion, the new guidelines are meant to apply to all the bodies and institutions of the EU itself.
With regard to each of its 28 member states, the Foreign Ministry believes the guidelines are not obligatory but are considered policy recommendations. Nevertheless, the ministry believes that many EU members will adopt the guidelines as their policy.
The document states that the European Commission, “will also endeavor to have the content of these guidelines reflected in international agreements or protocols thereto or Memoranda of Understanding with Israeli counterparts or with other parties.”
The guidelines apply to “Israeli regional or local authorities and other public bodies, public or private companies or corporations and other private [entities] including non-governmental not-for-profit organizations.”
The new guidelines will not apply to human rights organizations operating in the territories, the Golan Heights or East Jerusalem (like B’Tselem), or to NGOs that work toward promoting peace and operate in the territories, such as the Geneva Initiative or Peace Now.
The guidelines also do not apply to Israeli government ministries or national agencies or to private individuals.
The document makes it clear that the guidelines do not apply to any Palestinian body, governmental or private, in the West Bank or East Jerusalem, and that they do not affect agreements between the EU and the PLO or the Palestinian Authority.
With regard to research grants or scholarship funds, the guidelines are to be imposed on the initial recipient of the funds. However, the EU official who reviews the application has the authority to apply the guidelines to secondary recipients of the funds, as well. Thus for example, if an Israeli company competes for a research grant, it could be asked to commit itself not to transfer any of the funds to a laboratory located over the Green Line.
With regard to investment funds, the guidelines apply to the primary recipient as well to any secondary recipients. Thus, to obtain EU investment funds, a high-tech firm in Tel Aviv will have to declare that it will not use subcontractors located in the settlements. The guidelines will apply to contenders for or winners of prizes or awards from an EU institution.
EU’s new policy on Israeli settlement
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Har Homa, Jerusalem
Har Homa is an Israeli settlement in southern East Jerusalem. It is constructed on land annexed to the Jerusalem municipality by Israel after the 1967 Six-Day War, it is considered by much of the world an illegal Israeli settlement, although Israel disputes that case.