Following an Israeli security cabinet decision to approve the first new illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank in more than 20 years, when a new government policy of “restraint” on settlement expansion was also introduced, Israeli NGO and settlement watchdog Peace Now has accused Israel of attempting to “fool the international community,” saying the policy shows no restraint whatsoever.
The cabinet’s policy reportedly came in response to pressure from US President Donald Trump’s administration to curb illegal settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territory. However, according to Peace Now, the new policy “would enable continuous expansion of all settlements, without any limitations,” the group said in a statement Friday.
The group referenced Barak Ravid from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, who said that the new policy is aimed at limiting settlement construction by containing construction to only “built up areas” of a settlement. However, if this is not possible, the construction would be limited to “an area adjacent to the built-up area.”
If this is still not feasible, then construction would be carried out “in an area that is close as possible to the “built-up area.” In addition, the policy reportedly also aims to prohibit the establishment of settler outposts, considered illegal by both the Israeli government and international law. However, Peace Now pointed out that Israel’s policy interpretation of a settlement’s “built up area” expands much further than the actually constructed segments of a settlement’s area, and includes all of the land fenced off around the settlement and within the municipal boundaries of the settlement, which spread significantly further than the settlement itself.
“It is this argument over lines — with settlers looking to exploit any loophole they can find in order to permit more expansion of settlements — that has led past US administrations into the trap of 4 seemingly endless and irresolvable negotiations over how to decide what it means to build ‘inside’ settlements,” the group said in their statement.
“Many settlements have far-flung ‘neighborhoods’ that, if used as the basis for the ‘construction line,’ would permit massive expansion that would allow settlements to grow many times over.” The group illustrated the policy by using maps of the illegal Israeli settlements of Eli and Maale Adumim that show tracts of “empty land” between actual constructed areas of the settlement, the fence surrounding that land, and even more land comprising the settlement’s municipal borders beyond the fence.
“Under the pretense of restraint, the Israeli government has drafted a policy that will allow it to continue and expand settlements without any limitations,” the group stated. Peace Now added that the Israeli government was attempting to “fool the international community” by developing a policy of restraint around Israeli settlement construction in name only, while actually contributing to the unfettered expansion of illegal settlements that has been consistently condemned and deemed illegal by the international community. Israeli rights group B’Tselem also slammed the new settlement policy in a statement on Friday, saying that the policy was “unbridled theft masquerading as ‘restrained construction.’”
The Israeli policy represents “continued oppression of Palestinians, settlement expansion, and breach of international law. Going over the heads of Palestinians, Israel facilitates the continued theft of more and more of their land while forbidding them from building on it, demolishing their homes, and flagrantly disregarding their needs,” the statement read.