Recent statistics have revealed that the number of demolitions and confiscations by Israel in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 2016 have increased by 450%, in comparison to 2015, signaling a covert attempt to establish a state for Israeli settlers in the Palestinian state.
Since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, the number of Israeli settlers and settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has multiplied by 600%.
The Israeli population illegally occupying the West Bank and East Jerusalem is gradually turning Palestinians’ dreams in statehood onto a mirage.
As of December 31, 2015, the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem surpassed 765,000, a huge increase since 1993 when the number barely reached 105,000.
Data revealed that the growth rate of the settler population in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is higher than that among Israelis in Israel and Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The increase in the number of settlers is estimated at 5.8% in comparison to 1.8% in Israel and 2.9% among Palestinians, which indicates a deliberate targeting of the Palestinian state and its resources.
Reviewing the situation on the ground, statistics and experts point out that Israel has come too close to establishing a state for settlers in the heart of the promised Palestinian state.
Israel has founded entire cities, which became home to hundreds of thousands of settlers at the expense of Palestinians’ lives and future by destroying their homes and denying them the right to build in their lands.
Ghassan Daghlas who is in charge of monitoring and documenting Israeli settlement activities in the West Bank told WAFA after the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli government and the Zionist Lobby all agreed and began work in the direction of establishing a state for the settlers in what they choose to refer to as “Judea and Samaria”.
Settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank and annexed East Jerusalem has been fully sponsored and endorsed by right and far right politicians and businessmen. The number of settlement units advertised and sold has increased by 850% in 2016 in comparison to 2015.
According to statistics and data gathered by Daghlas, Israel is currently controlling and exploiting Area C, which covers 60% of the West Bank and is home to an estimated 180,000 – 300,000 Palestinians and to a settler population of at least 325,500 living in 125 settlements and approx. 100 outposts.
According to B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, “Israel retains control of security and land-management in Area C and views the area as there to serve its own needs, such as military training, economic interests and settlement development.”
Israel ignores Palestinians’ needs and bans them from construction and development. B’Tselem added, “At the same time, it encourages the development of Israeli settlements through a parallel planning mechanism, and the Civil Administration turns a blind eye to settlers’ building violations.”
According to Al-Maqdese for Society Development (MSD), a non-profit organization to protect and defend Palestinians’ rights, between the years 1967 and 2000, Israel demolished around 500 buildings and between 2000 and 2014, it demolished another 1,342 buildings in Jerusalem, forcefully displacing 5,760 Palestinians.
In East Jerusalem, Palestinians are forced to take the painful route and demolish their own homes to avoid large demolition fines issued by the Israeli municipality.
Many Palestinians must choose between demolishing their homes, and paying for it or going to court, paying fines, paying the engineer and the lawyer and eventually losing.
Around 340 Palestinians in East Jerusalem were forced to demolish their own homes between 2000 and 2014.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Israeli forces demolished 417 buildings in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, leading to the forced displacement of 495 Palestinians including 277 children.
Jad Issac from the Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem told WAFA that Israel plans to establish two states in the West Bank. “Israel plans to give Israeli settlers around 75% of Area C, which is a total of 60% of the West Bank, eventually turning the Palestinian state into isolated cantons on less than 50% of the original area.”
Issac pointed out, according to WAFA, that the increase in demolitions is spiraling out of hand, saying that between January and May 2016, Israeli demolished 276 homes and 348 dwellings in comparison to 108 homes and 59 dwellings in 2015, mostly in Jerusalem, Nablus and Hebron.
He said that the reason behind the concentration in specific areas is to support the presence of the settlers in these areas and establish a solid state for them and ensure their control.
But, it is different in Jerusalem; Issac said Israel is trying to empty Jerusalem from Palestinians and maintain a Jewish majority. Many Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem are facing drastic Israeli attempts to confiscate more homes.
“Israel issues 143 building permits to the Palestinians in East Jerusalem while their need exceeds 2000 permits. As a result, they are forced to build in areas near Jerusalem such as al-Ram and al-Issawiya, turning these areas into overcrowded areas with minimum services.”
The expenses Palestinians are forced to pay in order to be issued permits are considered the highest around the world. In order for a Palestinian family to receive a construction permit, they need to wait between 8 and 12 years while the average cost to receive a permit for a 110 meter square apartment in Jerusalem is $60,000 to $70,000, excluding taxes and post-construction fees.
Since the year 2000, Israeli demolished 3,979 homes in the West Bank and displaced thousands of Palestinians.
As for confiscated land, Israel has taken over 7,773 dunums of land between January and June 2016 mostly in Jericho, Bethlehem and Salfit, an increase by 439% in comparison to 2015.
Waleed Assaf, minister of the separation wall and settlement activities’ affairs asserted that the far right government, which is leading Israel, has destroyed the West Bank and isolated its north from the center and south using military checkpoints.
He added that Israel regularly expropriates area A, currently comprising about 18% of the land in the West Bank, which includes all the Palestinian cities and most of the Palestinian population of the West Bank; the Palestinian Authority (PA) is endowed with most governmental powers this area, and denies Palestinians from making use of Area C.
“The sum of money spent on infrastructure in the settlement blocs and outside and the governmental expenditure on roads connecting between settlements as well as water, power and sewage networks indicates that Israel is aiming to establish a new entity for the settlers,” Assaf said.
He added, “Two decades after Oslo, Jerusalem has become more Jewish and Israeli due to the settlements, separation wall, and policy targeting Palestinian institutions. Al-Aqsa Mosque is the main target of Israel with Israeli settlers trying to take over the holy compound.”
In 1992, the idea of creating a physical barrier separating the Israeli and Palestinian populations was proposed by then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and by 2012, 440 km (62%) of the barrier was completed, 57 km (8%) was under construction and 212 km (30%) had not yet been started with little progress made by 2014.
Jerusalem has become an isolated city with 120,000 Palestinians stranded outside its municipal boarders, with 36% of its land under Israeli control. While Palestinians were granted small and ed areas for construction, Israeli settlers were allowed tens of thousands of settlement units.
By the year 2020, Israel plans to complete the construction of 58,000 units, a big part of which has already been constructed in the last two decades.
When it comes to Palestinian Bedouins, Assaf indicated that Israel is currently targeting those populations to completely empty Area C, which stretches from Yatta in the south through Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and Ramallah, and all the way to the north, eventually annexing these areas to Israel.
The far right Israeli government is also planning to speed up the settlement expansion and finalize isolating Jerusalem and dividing Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.