Netanyahu lifts restrictions on Jerusalem settlements

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Jan. 22 he will be lifting restrictions on Israelis building settlements in East Jerusalem. The statement said, "My vision is to enact sovereignty over all the settlements." Immediately after the announcement, hundreds of building permits were approved by the municipal government. According to Haaretz, Netanyahu delayed lifting restrictions for two weeks to wait for then-US president Barack Obama to leave office. (The restrictions on Jerusalem's urban planning committee had been imposed in response to pressure from the Obama White House.) Netanyahu will be meeting with Obama's successor Donald Trump at some point in the near future. In a statement to Reuters, Nabil Abu Rdainah, spokesperson for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said: "We strongly condemn the Israeli decision to approve the construction." Netanyahu and his ministers also decided Jan. 22 to postpone discussion of annexing a West Bank settlement.

From Jurist, Jan. 23. Used with permission.

Note: The settlement in question is Ma'ale Adumim, on the outskirts of East Jerusalem. A bill for its annexation was introduced by Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett. Netanyahu made clear he supports the bill, but said he wanted to consult with Donald Trump before moving ahead with annexation. (Times of Israel) Palestinian Bedouin communities were displaced in the 1990s to make way for the Maale Adumim settlement.

UN Security Council urged to act on Israeli settlements

N Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk [official profile] recommended [press release] on Friday that the UN Security Council and the General Assembly act to ensure Israel complies with Security Council Resolution 2234 (PDF), which confirms that Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory violate international law. The statement came in response to proposed legislation in Israel that would retroactively legalize the Israeli outposts constructed on privately-owned Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank. The legislation would allow for the construction of 4,000 new settler homes. Currently there are about 570,000 Israeli settlers living in 130 settlements and 100 outposts in the West Bank.

According to Lynk, "The settlement announcements by the Israeli government, only a month after the clear direction of the international community, are a defiant and troubling repudiation of resolution 2334." (Jurist)

Jews and Arabs march in Tel Aviv against house demolitions

Thousands of people, Arabs and Jews, marched the evening of Feb. 4 in Tel Aviv in a protest against the house demolitions in Kalansua and Umm al-Hiran in recent weeks, and against further steps to demolish more homes. A number of Jewish and Arab organizations participated in organizing the demonstration, which the organizers termed a new stage in the civil struggle of Jews and Arabs. The speeches were given in Arabic and Hebrew, and marchers waved both Israeli and Palestinian flags.

One man was killed during the operation to demolish illegal homes in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev last month. Homes were also destroyed at the unrecgnized Arab village of Kalansua in Israel's Central District. (Haaretz, Feb. 5; Haaretz, Jan. 13)

Israel passes controversial law on West Bank settlements

Israel's Knesset voted 60-52 to pass a controversial law retroactively "legalizing" about 4,000 homes built on settlements in the occupied West Bank. It states that the original Palestinian landowners will be compensated with money or alternative land. (BBC News)

The "Regularization" law states that any settlement built in the occupied West Bank “in good faith”—without knowledge that the land upon which it was built was privately owned by Palestinians—may be officially recognized by Israel pending minimal proof of governmental support in its establishment and some form of compensation to the Palestinian landowners. The law immediately affects the status of 16 outposts, although Israeli media reports indicate that more could be included in the future. 

PLO secretary-general Saeb Erekat calle