On the 44th anniversary of Land Day, when Palestinians express their loyalty and belonging to their land in the face expulsion and uprooting policies, Israeli occupation authorities continue to expand settlements by confiscating and stealing Palestinian land. This is carried out in a systematic and calculated manner, aimed at changing the geo-demographic nature of the occupied Palestinian territories. Israeli settlement policies in the occupied Palestinian territory are a serious violation of international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention.
After 52 years of military occupation over the West Bank and Gaza Strip including East Jerusalem, Israel’s manipulation of the demography of the Palestinian territories has been evident in the transfer of Israeli civilians to the occupied territory, in violation of international law and the 4th Geneva Convention, which governs the behavior of an occupying power. The number of illegal settlers has exceeded 670,000 in the West Bank in 2018, of which more than 229,000 are living in occupied East Jerusalem.
The settlements with the highest population increase are those in and around East Jerusalem and settlements in the Qalqilia and Salfit districts. Presently, there are more than 445 settler locations on occupied Palestinian territory. These locations include 304 residential settlements and outposts in addition to 94 military bases, 25 Israeli settler industrial zones, and 25 settler tourist and facility sites.
The Settlement enterprise is a project that includes not only the illegal Israeli settlements, but additionally their infrastructure networks, their area of jurisdiction that amounts to 9.3% of the area of the West Bank, the construction of the Annexation Wall that is 714 km in length that isolates 9.4% of the area of the West Bank and most importantly their control of 60% of the area of the West Bank through military declaration orders that deprive Palestinians from investing and using their land. These orders categorize West Bank lands as being closed military areas, firing zone areas, nature reserve areas, no construction areas, land seizure areas, etc. Close to 3 million Palestinians living in the West Bank in 2019 including East Jerusalem are deprived from using land they own because of the settlement enterprise that is continuously growing.
This is over and above the industrial settlements, which have a dangerous impact on the environment and consider Palestinian communities as dumping sites for settlement waste, which has put the lives of Palestinians who live in their vicinity at risk.
The table below illustrates the largest settlements in the West Bank with populations exceeding 10,000 settlers:
Settlement housing units in approved plans and tenders published in 2019:
The planning and construction process in settlements starts with allocation of land for planning followed by construction approval, which is granted by the Israeli “Minister of Defense”. After the plan is approved, it is published and then officially ratified 15 days afterwards. The second phase of the plan includes tenders and bidding. The Israeli Minister of Housing chooses the best bid after which construction begins.
Since the beginning of 2019, a total of 8,337 housing units in settlements were approved with an increase of close to 50% compared to 2018 where 5,618 housing units were approved. In October 2019, plans for 2,342 housing units in settlements were approved by Israeli authorities.
Tenders for housing units announced in 2019 amounted to 1,761 housing units in the West Bank including East Jerusalem.
A well-developed infrastructure road network connects illegal settlements together and connects them with their center of life in Israel proper and aim at shortening the time of a commute for Israeli settlers. The bypass road system was created to allow settlers to bypass Palestinian localities and access for Palestinians to bypass roads are controlled by road gates that were erected at entrances of localities. Two new bypass roads were approved for construction; the Huwwara bypass road of 5.5 km in Nablus Governorate and Al-Aroub bypass road of about 7 km in Bethlehem Governorate where in October 2019 the Israeli Higher Planning Council approved a building permit for the construction of the new Tunnel Road that bypasses Bethlehem. As a consequence more than 800 dunums of private Palestinian land were confiscated for paving the roads. Palestinian localities affected by Huwwara bypass road are Burin, Huwarra, Beita, Awarta, Yasuf, Yatma and A-Sawiya with 406 dunums of their privately owned land being confiscated while Al-Aroub bypass road will affect the localities of Beir Ummar and Halhul with 401 dunums of land being confiscated.