Israel approved plans to build over 12,000 settlement units in the first half of 2023
New research by the Taub Center for Israel Studies at New York University and reported by Ha'aretz revealed the extreme lengths the Israeli government took to dispossess Palestinians of their land to build settlements.
Settlement construction in the occupied West Bank is a determined policy of successive Israeli governments, whether from the right, centre or left. The settlement construction began in earnest in September 1967, near al-Khalil (Hebron), mere months after the occupation by the Israeli army.
In 1972, the Israeli military used a crop duster to spray toxic chemicals to render Palestinian land sterile to deter farmers from the village of Aqraba from cultivating their fields. The drastic measure came after the Israeli military made several attempts to discourage farmers from growing crops. First, they told the village farmers their land would be declared a military training zone. When that didn't work, the Israeli army sabotaged agricultural tools and used vehicles to destroy crops.
One file dating to January 1972, when the left-leaning labour party ruled Israel, revealed that the Israeli army's central command ordered one of its brigades to ensure that "no land is cultivated," and to destroy existing crops.
Fifty-six years later, the settlement movement is still as fierce. Over half a million Jewish settlers live illegally in the occupied West Bank, with both open and tacit government support.
A criminal racist calls for the killing of thousands of #Palestinians, the demolition of their homes and settlement. We say to this terrorist you will leave sooner or later. And we will stay on this earth against your will. https://t.co/FDN5HYNZEI— حسين الشيخ Hussein AlSheikh (@HusseinSheikhpl) June 25, 2023
Following the shooting attack by two Palestinian armed men, which killed four Israeli settlers, the Israeli government announced plans to build one thousand settlement units in the illegal settlement of Eli. In addition, the Israeli PM has decided to legalise the Evyatar outpost and not evacuate it. It all comes after the civil administration disclosed details about the advancement of 4,799 units throughout the occupied West Bank, including the retroactive legalisation of an additional outpost in the Eli settlement area known as Palgei Maim.
In February, the Israeli army's civil administration approved plans for 7,349 housing units. According to Peace Now, Israel has, in the first half of 2023, advanced 12,149 through the planning procedure. "For comparison, in the entire year of 2022, Israel approved 4,427 housing units", Peace Now recently reported.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to "strengthen settlements" and has expressed no interest in reviving peace talks, moribund since 2014.
To give a sense of the present mood in the ruling coalition, national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir recently urged settlers to run "to the hilltops" to build more outposts.
In response, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu boasted at a cabinet meeting about his record of doubling settlements in "Judea and Samaria"; the term Israelis refers to the occupied Palestinian territories.
Nevertheless, the Israeli PM quickly distanced himself from Ben-Gvir's remarks but said simultaneously that "the proper response to terrorism is to fight the terrorists and deepen our roots in our country".
"Calls to grab land illegally and actions of grabbing land illegally are unacceptable to me", he added.
In reality, there is no disagreement between the Israeli PM and his minister over settlements in the occupied territories, only the tactics.
US-brokered peace talks aimed at establishing a Palestinian state in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip collapsed in 2014. Most countries and international law deem any settlements Israel built on land seized in the 1967 war illegal.
Diplomats from more than 20 missions, including the European Union and the United States, visited Turmus Ayya on Friday, condemning settlers' attack on the village.
At least 176 Palestinians, 25 Israelis, a Ukrainian and an Italian have been killed since the start of the year.
The tally compiled from official sources includes combatants, civilians, and, on the Israeli side, three members of the 1948 Palestinian community.