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Israel’s colony-settlements are growing and are illegal; when will it be held to account?

Construction workers build illegal settlements in West Bank [File photo, Wisam Hashlamoun/Apaimages]

In an attempt to change Jerusalem’s demographic balance in favour of the Jewish population, Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz and Knesset Member Yoav Kisch have proposed a bill seeking to extend the municipal boundaries of the holy city. If approved, this would involve the annexation of the illegal Jewish settlement of Ma’ale Adumim — one of the biggest Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank — as well as Givat Ze’ev, Beitar Illit, Efrat and the Etzion settlement bloc.

The campaign to annex these colony-settlements was started by the extreme right-wing MK from the Jewish Home Party, Bezalel Smotrich. Education Minister Naftali Bennett has pledged that the annexation will go ahead before the end of the year.

According to the authors of the annexation bill, these illegal Jewish settlements would become part of “Greater Metropolitan Jerusalem” similar to Greater London and Greater Paris. However, they forget rather too conveniently that the suburbs which grew into Greater London and Paris were not occupied territory; in stark contrast, the land that they propose to annex is recognised internationally as occupied by Israel.

In an example of the sort of deceitful logic that we have come to expect from such people, the Israelis behind this scheme sought to draw a veil over the real intention. “This is not annexation or the application of sovereignty,” explained Kisch, “but rather the inclusion of the localities surrounding Jerusalem within its municipal boundaries.” He went on to admit, though, that this is “the first step” towards enacting sovereignty.

Read: New settlement units to be approved after Jewish holiday

In July, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the issue of a land exchange when US President Donald Trump’s special adviser Jared Kushner and his special envoy for international negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, visited Israel. He suggested that Israel could annex some West Bank settlements in exchange of some Israeli towns with Arab majorities. Such annexations would mean the virtual end of any prospect of establishing a viable independent Palestinian state. This could well be the ultimate intention, of course.

Indeed, Meretz MK Michael Roizen has apparently told the Hebrew newspaper Maariv that the plans of the Israeli right-wing to annex Ma’ale Adumim, which is home to 40,000 illegal settlers, are no longer a secret. This way, he said, the right-wing is undermining the plan to establish a Palestinian state, posing a threat to Israel’s security and laying obstacles in the way of the international community.

“This place will forever remain part of the State of Israel,” said Netanyahu during a visit to Ma’ale Adumim last week. “We will build thousands of housing units here. We will add the industrial zone needed and the expansion needed to allow for the advanced development of this place.”

He added his support for the law proposing “Greater Jerusalem”, which will, he claimed, enable Jerusalem and its communities to develop in many aspects. “This is great and important news.”

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According to Israel’s own statistics, there are 140,000 Jewish settlers living and around Ma’ale Adumim. If the annexation goes ahead, all of them will become residents of Jerusalem, from which the Israeli occupation authorities have already expelled 100,000 Palestinian residents thanks to the route of the Separation (“Apartheid”) Wall. This means the demography of the city will be more Jewish than Arab and so, claimed the Prime Minister, it would return to its “symbolic status as the capital of Israel.”

To demonstrate that he sticks by the annexation plan, Netanyahu, has insisted that he would not uproot any settler from the Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. He told his audience in Ma’ale Adumim that no previous Israeli government ever was, and no future government ever will be, more of a supporter of settlements than his government. As if in confirmation of this, Israel’s Department of Statistics has recently revealed that settlement building increased by 72 per cent in 2016.

All of this flies in the face of international law, which neither recognises the legality of any Israeli settlements nor, indeed, its annexation of Jerusalem. When is Israel going to be called to account for its illegal actions?

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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