Monday, September 1, 2014

A comment on new settlement activity

I'm writing this post very very gingerly. Being a civil servant I'm strictly forbidden to publicly pontificate on political issues. I've decided that defending issues of Israeli consensus at time of war is alright, hence the recent few posts, but Israel's settlement policy isn't that in any way, so I need to stay far from it as long as I remain a public servant. (On which matter, by the way, I posted an announcement earlier today, over here).

And yet.

The issue of settlements is characterized by large dollops of inaccurate information. I'm toying with the idea of doing what an archivist can do, namely publish the full documented record of the story. Significant parts of such a story would differ enough from "accepted wisdom" as to be an important public service. So: someday, perhaps.

Today I'd like to point out a few facts about settlements which seem not to be widely known, starting with an item in today's paper relating to a decision made yesterday, to appropriate some 1,000 acres of land near Guh Etzion. Whether this is good or bad, wise or foolish, is not for me to say. The head of Peace Now, however, doesn't like it, and one of the things he has to say about it is
The decision to appropriate 4,000 dunams (1,000 acres) and make them state land is unprecedented and changes the reality in the region of the Etzion Bloc,” Oppenheimer said, adding that there has not been such a large land seizure since the 1980s.

If he's correct about the fact, and I think he may be, what's going on? Many of the arguments pro and con the settlements are about how they're taking over ever more land on the West Bank. How are they doing so if land isn't being appropriated?

To which I'd like to add another few facts. To the best of my knowledge, no new settlements have been created since 2003, which is 13 years ago. If someone knows otherwise I'd be interested in what they know.

No settlements exist in Area A, which was transferred to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the 1990s, and there has been no settlement activity there ever since.

So far as I know, there are no settlements and has been no settlement activity in Area B, either, since it was transferred to civilian control of the PA in the 1990s. Area A and B together make up something like 40% of the West Bank.

So if I'm right and there are no new settlements at all, and very little appropriation of land (says Oppenheimer), what is going on? The answer, so far as I can tell, is that most of the construction which is happening is taking place inside existing settlements, and most but not all of that is in settlements in areas Israel expects to hold onto in any peace agreement, perhaps in exchange for other areas and perhaps not.

That's as much as I feel comfortable in saying right now.


Markus said...

"I'm toying with the idea of doing what an archivist can do, namely publish the full documented record of the story."

Yes, please do so! I'm sure it would be greatly appreciated.

David said...


If you do find out what this reclassification of land means and you can write about it, it would be very good to know what is really going on. I cannot get any real sense of what is going on from the news reports and the question is obviously important for anyone who advocates for Israel.

David Sigeti

Rachel said...

Thanks, Yaacov. But according to Peace Now a couple of years ago (, three illegal outposts that were given official status as proper settlements in 2012 were the first new settlements Israel had created since 1990! So what happened in 2003 that makes you choose that year for the last new settlement?

Yaacov said...

Hi David
Does this help?


Your comment merely strengthens my contention that the story lacks facts. I doubt that statement about 1990 is true, and the one about 2012 puzzles me, but the problem is that there is no single resource which contains all the relevaant facts, anywhere. Which means the more or less 100% of the verbiage is based upon something but that something isn't systematic facts.

Rachel said...

I totally agree with you Yaacov. But I'm still intrigued by what it was that made you choose 2003. Was there some major settlement development that year?

Tom E said...

2003 is not 13 years ago.

Graham said...

This seems relevant: