of the Council
- Press Office -
Brussels, 19 March 1999
EU SETTLEMENTS WATCH
(23 OCTOBER - 12 DECEMBER 1998)
The EU continues to oppose Israeli settlement activities in the Occupied Territories as being illegal and an obstacle to peace. It contravenes the Fourth Geneva Convention, which in Article 49, paragraph six, states that "the Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies". The Council has reaffirmed the importance of avoiding counter-productive unilateral actions in order to restore confidence in the Middle East peace process and establish a firm basis for further progress in the negotiations.
The Settlements Watch is produced by the EU Consuls General in Jerusalem, the Heads of the Representative Offices in the Palestinian Territories and the EU Union Heads of Mission in Tel Aviv. It draws on official statements, reports from NGOs and the press (both Israeli and Palestinian) and local expertise. The Missions have aimed for the highest degree of accuracy possible, although statistics on settlement expansion are often subject to controversy. The following summarises the Watch report 23 October - 12 December 1998, which intends to give an overview of the settlement activity since the signing of the Wye River Memorandum.
The Israeli Government continues to allow settlement expansion on the ground and building of bypass roads which link settlements directly to Israeli territory. Referring to public statements, it appears that the Israeli government encourages settlement expansion. During the period of review settlers have put up mobile homes on previously empty hilltops and of particular significance are the plans for new and expanded bypass roads serving settlements in Gaza and the West Bank. The construction of several bypass roads have continued or started since the signing of the Wye River Memorandum.
SETTLEMENTS IN JERUSALEM AND THE SURROUNDING AREA
On 1 November settlers from the Ateret Cohanim group erected barriers around a 14,7 dunum (1 dunum is 1000 square metres of land, or 1/10 of a hectare) site in Ras Al-Amoud in East Jerusalem. 132 residential units are planned to be built on the spot. The site is sensitive since it is the last Palestinian neighbourhood linking the Muslim quarters in the Old City to the city's Palestinian suburbs.
Tenders for 1025 housing units (the first of the 6500 planned) on Har Homa/Jabal Abu Ghneim were issued late November and on 1 December construction firms toured the hill and examined the plots issued by the Israeli government. The infrastructure (roads) on and leading to Har Homa/Jabal Abu Ghneim is already under construction.
SETTLEMENTS IN THE WEST BANK
Around Bethlehem mobile homes were set up on two different hilltops near the settlements of Alon Shvut and Bat Ayin.
Settlements continued to expand around Hebron and east of the settlement of Susya on a hilltop and on 100 dunums of previously confiscated land, three mobile homes have been put up and constructions started. A bypass gravel road from road 317 to the hilltop has been constructed.
In the Ramallah area several new hilltops have been seized by settlers who have put up mobile homes on them. The Israeli Authorities also gave retrospective approval to the settlement of Rachelim; this was declared legal on the basis of the transfer of the so-called 'survey land' on which it was sited to 'state land'.
The same activity has been witnessed in the Nablus/Jenin area, where mobile homes have been put up on at least three hilltops.
In the Jordan Valley the infrastructure for 127 new housing units are under construction in the settlement of Tomer.
SETTLEMENTS IN GAZA
During the period under review unusual movements of Israeli trucks transferring sand from the Gaza strip to Israel by the settlers of Budaloh and Beni Adsunah settlements have been noticed.
According to the NGO "The Way to Peace" (a forum of Golan residents for discussing peace and the Golan Heights) no new settlement construction activities in the period under review have taken place on the Golan Heights. There has been no concrete follow up on the ground to the Israeli Ministerial Committee decision of August 19, 1998. The Israeli Ministry of Finance stated that no direct government support has been extended to settlements construction on the Golan and that there exists no special budget line.
SETTLEMENT RELATED ISSUES
The construction of several bypass roads in the West Bank have continued or begun during the period under review, e.g. on 17 November work started on a bypass road south of Nablus that will link the settlement of Kfar Tapuah with the Eli settlement. The bypass road will cut through two Palestinian villages and on 15 November construction work began on a bypass road that will open an additional entrance to the Efrat settlement. The bypass road will go through agricultural land belonging to the village of Al-Khader, near Bethlehem.
Planned budgetary expenses for 1999 allocated to settlement activity register a significant growth in the draft budget submitted by the government to the Knesset.