Facts on the Ground Peace Index: Volume II
(Covering Period: August 27, 2013 to September 25, 2013)
For the first installment of the Peace Index, click here.
While the first month of Israeli-Palestinian talks was marked primarily by a series of provocative announcements for new Israeli settlement construction, recent weeks have seen a continuation of demolitions of Palestinian homes in the occupied territories, particularly in occupied East Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley, and of aggressive Israeli military raids into Palestinian population centers resulting in deaths and injuries of Palestinians.
NOTE: The Peace Index is focused on the actions of the Israeli government and military, and statements of government officials. It does not include frequent attacks carried out by Israeli settlers against Palestinians and their property and other non-official provocations and incitement.
DEADLY MILITARY RAIDS
- On September 17, Israeli forces shot and killed 21-year-old Islam Husam al-Toubasi during a raid on a refugee camp in Jenin in the West Bank. Several other Palestinians were reportedly injured, including a 13-year-old boy who was shot in the leg. The incident brought to six the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces during West Bank raids since the restart of negotiations in August.
- On August 31, 17-year-old Kareem Sobhi Adu Sbeih, died of wounds sustained during an Israeli raid in Jenin on August 20 that also killed 20-year-old Majd Lahlouh and wounded one other.
EVICTIONS & DEMOLITIONS OF PALESTINIAN HOMES & STRUCTURES
- On September 24, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) condemned Israel’s ongoing destruction of Bedouin homes and other structures, particularly in the Negev in southern Israel as part of the so-called “Prawer Plan” that threatens 40,000 people, and in occupied East Jerusalem. A spokesperson for OHCHR warned: “These mass demolitions raise serious concerns about the prohibition on forced evictions under international human rights law, and Israel’s obligations to respect, protect and fulfill the rights of Palestinians to adequate housing and freedom from arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy, family and home.”
- On September 16, Israeli forces demolished the village of Makhoul in the northern Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank, rendering 48 Palestinians, including 17 children, homeless. Israeli forces also confiscated humanitarian supplies and tents. Two days later, on September 18, Israeli forces destroyed a tent encampment set up by the people of Makhoul. The evictions and demolitions in Makhoul garnered international media attention after Israeli forces roughed up French diplomats and confiscated aid that they were attempting to deliver.
- On September 11, Israeli authorities destroyed the steel structure dwellings of 10 Palestinian families in al-Zaayyem in occupied East Jerusalem, as well as structures used to house sheep and poultry. Approximately 100 people, most of them children, were reportedly made homeless. Israeli authorities claimed the structures were built without permits, however building permits are almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain in East Jerusalem and most of the West Bank.
- On September 8, Israeli authorities issued demolition orders against four commercial properties belonging to Palestinians in the flashpoint neighborhood of Silwan in East Jerusalem, where settlers are attempting to gain a foothold. Orders to demolish a small sports complex, previously destroyed and rebuilt, were also issued. In all cases, Israeli authorities claimed that the structures were built without proper permits.
- On September 5, Shaker Nayef Jaabes was forced to destroy his own home in East Jerusalem rather than have the Israelis demolish it and charge him a fine. Jaabes, his wife and five children were made homeless. Israeli authorities claimed that the home, which was built by a previous owner, didn’t have proper permits.
- On September 2, Israeli forces raided the village of Fasayil near Jericho, destroying a home and cattle farm belonging to Deifallah Rashayda and Jihad Rashayda, leaving 12 family members homeless. According to reports, Israeli soldiers assaulted five women, who were taken to hospital for treatment.
- On August 29, after a five-year legal struggle, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered that 79-year-old Ayoub Shamasna and his family be evicted from their home in Sheik Jarrah in East Jerusalem. The court ruled in favor of Israeli Jews who claimed ownership of the home prior to 1948, when Israel was created and the city was divided into eastern and western halves, the former under Jordanian control. In recent years the Supreme Court has begun turning over Palestinian-owned properties in occupied East Jerusalem to Jewish Israelis who claim ownership pre-1948, however Israeli courts do not recognize Palestinian legal claims to homes and property owned in Israel and Jerusalem prior to 1948. The plaintiffs in the Shamasna case are being assisted by the Israel Land Fund, a right-wing settler group cofounded by an anonymous American financial backer which is active in efforts to replace East Jerusalem’s Palestinian population with Israeli Jews.
- Following the killing of two Israeli soldiers in separate incidents in the occupied West Bank, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that extremist settlers will be allowed to return to a building near the flashpoint Ibrahimi Mosque/Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. Last year the settlers were evicted from the building by the Israeli military.
- On August 30, 2013, the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics issued a report showing that settler housing starts in the West Bank rose by 141.5% in the first half of 2013 compared to the same period last year. The report found that construction began on 1,461 settler houses during the first six months of 2013 compared to 1,089 starts for all of 2012.
PROVOCATIVE STATEMENTS FROM SENIOR ISRAELI OFFICIALS
- On September 23, Al-Monitor website published an interview with Yariv Levin, a parliamentarian with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and chairman of Israel’s governing coalition, in which Levin warned Netanyahu against any peace agreement with the Palestinians that includes a withdrawal of settlers, stating: “the final outcome [of any negotiations] should be the strengthening of the settlement enterprise rather than the surrender of territory.” He also said that most Likud members would oppose such a deal, adding: “Within the Likud faction and among the Likud activists, there is a clear majority against the evacuation of settlements and the surrender of territory — and this, without getting into the fine details of an interim arrangement or a permanent arrangement.”
- On September 21, following the killing of two Israeli soldiers in separate incidents in previous days, several Israeli politicians blamed the deaths on the Palestinian Authority, despite having no evidence to support the claim, and condemned ongoing negotiations. Naftali Bennett, the leader of the Jewish Home party and Minister of the Economy and of Religious Affairs, wrote on his Facebook page: “Twenty years after the Oslo Accords, our partner has not changed… We cannot make peace with terrorists who throw the bodies of soldiers into pits; we must fight them without mercy.” Bennett added: "The murder meant [sic] to free a terrorist, to free a soldier of Abu Mazen [Abbas], once again shows who our partner is." Yair Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid party and Finance Minister, called those responsible for the killings “murderous animal-like terrorists.”
- On September 20, The New York Times published an op-ed by Danny Danon, Deputy Defense Minister and Chair of the Central Committee of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, calling for Israel to annul the Oslo Accords and dismissing the idea of a negotiated final peace agreement with the Palestinians in the foreseeable future. Also on September 20, The Jerusalem Post quoted Danon saying that most Likud members, including its leadership, don’t support an Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories to facilitate the creation of a Palestinian state, declaring: “A deal giving up most of Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] – the current Likud leadership will not accept that... We [who oppose such steps] are the majority in the party.
- On September 15, 17 members of Netanyahu’s governing coalition, including five deputy ministers, released a letter calling on Netanyahu to refuse to relinquish control of any occupied Palestinian land in negotiations. The letter, which was signed by Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin (a settler and also a member of Netayanhu’s Likud party) and Deputy Defense Minister Danon, among others, read in part: “Israel will not return to the Oslo outline, and will not hand further parts of the motherland to the Palestinian Authority.”
- Also on September 15, Deputy Foreign Minister Elkin spoke out against a peace agreement with the Palestinians. Quoting Netanyahu from the early 1990s when he was in the opposition, Elkin told a conference: "The Palestinians will enjoy all the rights except for one right: the right to destroy the State of Israel. Autonomy - yes. A state - no... Netanyahu went on to say that we should not be alarmed that the international community does not see eye to eye with us regarding the Palestinians. And he concluded by saying what is so true even today: Yes to a Palestinian state means no to a Jewish state and yes to a Jewish state means no to a Palestinian state.”
- On September 10, Avigdor Lieberman, the former foreign minister and leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, which is a part of Netanyahu’s governing coalition, having run on a joint ticket with Netanyahu’s Likud party in the last election, told Israel’s Army Radio that efforts by Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate a final peace agreement are “impossible” and “doomed to failure.”
- On September 2, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said that ongoing negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians wouldn’t result in a withdrawal of settlers from the occupied territories, stating: “In the Middle East, we need to talk about interests and not signed agreements.”
- On September 1, Deputy Defense Minister and the chairman of the Likud Party Central Committee Danon told a group of settlers that Netanyahu has "no place in [the] Likud" party if he concludes a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
- In late August, Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem and a confidante of Netanyahu, declared that “Jerusalem must remain outside of these negotiations. Jerusalem should be developed and strengthened, rather than, God forbid, thinking of its division.”
- On August 29, Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar declared that Israel would never agree to return to its pre-1967 borders, relinquish control over occupied East Jerusalem, or remove settlers from the occupied territories, stating: "We will insist on Jerusalem remaining the united and undivided capital of Israel… We do not believe in uprooting Jewish communities in Eretz Yisrael nor do we believe that doing this leads to peace."
- On August 27, Deputy Minister of Transportation Tzipi Hotovely of Netanyahu’s Likud party declared that Likud members were opposed to Palestinian statehood and called for the annexation of the West Bank, stating: “The Bar-Ilan Speech [in which Netanyahu first expressed support for Palestinian statehood] was never authorized by the Likud. Members of our movement never agreed to found a Palestinian state. Certainly [Likud ideological forebear Ze’ev Jabotinsky] never agreed that another country would exist in the Land of Israel… Whoever believes in the Greater Land of Israel has never been prepared to give parts of our homeland away for any purpose, not even for peace.”