Settlement construction work in the "Ramat Shlomo" settlement in the Shuafat area of ​​occupied Jerusalem (Al Jazeera)

Ramallah -

Land and settlement expert Khalil Al-Tafakji revealed that the areas of influence of Israeli settlements exceed 60% of the area of ​​the West Bank, even though the built-up area there does not exceed 1.6% of its area.

The Al-Maqdisi expert added, in an interview with Al Jazeera Net, that efforts are being made to seize empty areas within what are known as settlement and pastoral outposts, in anticipation of any talk about political solutions.

Israeli media announced on Friday that the occupation authorities intend to establish 3,300 settlement units in their settlements in the West Bank, including about 2,350 in the Maale Adumim settlement, east of Jerusalem.

This comes at a time when the “Jewish Population Statistics in the West Bank” website, which supports settlement, revealed that the number of settlers rose by 3% to reach 517,407 as of last December 31.

While the Palestinian governmental Wall and Settlement Authority documented 2,410 attacks carried out by settlers in the West Bank, which led to the martyrdom of 22 Palestinians during 2023, and the displacement of 25 Bedouin communities, all after the outbreak of war on October 7, in addition to the establishment of 18 settlement outposts, 8 of which after the war.

Al-Tufakji says that there is no disagreement between the Israeli parties regarding supporting and continuing settlement, ruling out the establishment of a Palestinian state in light of the current situation.

Below is the text of the conversation with him about these and other issues:

Khalil Al-Tafakji: Talk about a Palestinian state and what is being proposed now in Europe and America are all empty talk (Al-Jazeera)

  • Based on the latest announced plans, are we facing an escalation in settlement projects in conjunction with the ongoing aggression against Gaza since October 7?

The answer is no, there is no change in the settlement pattern, which does not stop in the first place. Rather, the current Israeli government takes advantage of the various opportunities and events in order to implement all the projects that already exist.

In other words, approvals for these projects exist and were completed during 2023, but within the program of the current Israeli government, the necessary legal procedures, approvals and approvals for them are being accelerated.

Sometimes the political level stops or postpones some projects as a result of international pressure, but what we are witnessing today is an acceleration in the construction process, not only in the West Bank, but in the city of Jerusalem as well, especially with the increasing media talk about the issue of the Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. The Israeli side is beginning to In accelerating these processes until a fait accompli is imposed, and so that a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital is not established.

  • If we compare the settlement data under the most extremist government in Israel and dominated by settlers, with previous governments, are there any differences in the size of the settlements?

There is no difference between the Israeli left and right on the issue of settlement, and in Jerusalem specifically, the one that laid the foundation stone for settlement and developed the plan of Yigal Allon (an Israeli politician) in 1967 is the Israeli left, specifically the Labor Party.

Therefore, the Israeli left and right agree on one strategic program regarding settlement, but the difference is that the left acts silently and does not speak, while the right speaks publicly and acts.

The "Allon" project is an official plan of the Labor Party, and is based on establishing settlement projects in the Jordan Valley and the eastern slopes of the West Bank highlands, most of which are empty.

During the year 2023, approximately 13,000 settlement units were announced, going through 3 stages: announcing the settlement plan, approving the plans, and inviting bids, and this is usually undertaken by the Israeli Ministry of Housing.

Map of the colonial outposts established and approved in 2023 (Palestinian Wall Resistance Authority)

  • What about the areas excised from the West Bank for settlement?

The actual built-up areas of settlements occupy about 1.6% of the area of ​​the West Bank, while the announced structural plans for those settlements constitute about 6% of the area of ​​the West Bank, equivalent to an area of ​​2,967 square kilometers out of the area of ​​historical Palestine, which amounts to about 27 thousand square kilometers.

As for the areas of influence of the settlements, they amount to about 60%, that is, the total area of ​​​​Area classified as “C” and under full Israeli control, according to the Oslo Accords, which also divided the West Bank into Areas “A,” which constitutes about 18% and was subject to full Palestinian control before its reoccupation in 2022. Area B is under Israeli and Palestinian civil security control.

  • In the last two years, what are known as pastoral settlement outposts have spread, and some settlers have turned into sheep herders who spread out on mountaintops and chase Palestinian shepherds. What is their impact and role?

The goal of the pastoral outposts in practice is to control lands that are within the Israeli program but are not exploited, for fear that any political process will lead to their return to the Palestinians.

They began to establish these pastoral outposts to dominate the largest area of ​​land with the smallest population.

Pastoral outposts spread in several areas, but they were concentrated in the Jordan Valley area in the north of the West Bank and Masafer Yatta in the south, thus controlling the land by imposing a fait accompli.

When the number of settlers in the West Bank was 110,000, they were unable to do anything. Today, their number has exceeded half a million, in addition to about 230,000 in Jerusalem. Therefore, increasing their number means increasing their attacks on Palestinian villages and attacks on Palestinians.

  • In the last two years, it has been observed that the West Bank has turned into a workshop in terms of infrastructure and streets implemented by the occupation. To what extent does it serve the Palestinians?

These infrastructure works, especially the streets, come within Military Order No. 50 of 1983, which stipulates the establishment of a network of longitudinal and transverse roads, primarily serving the settlements, and cutting off the West Bank, both longitudinally and transversely.

The plan also aims to gain security control over Palestinian communities, surround them with streets and bridges, limit their urban expansion and thus dominate more lands.

Map of the distribution of communities that were forcibly transferred in 2023 (Palestinian Wall Resistance Authority)

  • We move to the city of Jerusalem, what remains of it for the Palestinians?

The situation of Jerusalem is different, and it is not possible to talk about areas of influence of the settlements. Rather, 87% of the city’s area is now subject to direct Israeli control and policies.

The remaining percentage, which is 13%, the occupation continues to invade by spreading settlement outposts there, meaning that they dominate 87% and seek to share the remaining percentage with the Palestinians.

  • Where will the Palestinian state be within the two-state solution that the Palestinians demand?

I believe that it is not possible to establish a Palestinian state with geographical contiguity within the current situation and settlement expansion, and so far there is no map for that state and no clear borders for it, and whether it will be established in accordance with Security Council Resolution No. 242, 338, or 181.

Talking about a Palestinian state and what is being proposed now in Europe and America are all empty talk. Whoever wants to establish a state must define its borders, areas of sovereignty, and a timetable for its establishment. In contrast, what we hear from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is that there is no Palestinian state, but only one state, which is Israel between the sea. The Mediterranean and the Jordan River.

  • Are there any nearby settlement projects, other than the units announced on Friday?

What is new is what was announced last week, which is inviting tenders to establish gas stations in a large number of settlements. The exact purpose of this is not known, but it may fall under the provision of providing the needs of each settlement individually to be independent in its services.

Source: Al Jazeera