The expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, with a sustained population increase of 42% since 2010 to reach 440,000 inhabitants, has been strongly encouraged with state subsidies under the chained mandates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In 2019 alone, the colonies grew by 3.2%, almost double the national average for Israel. The subsidies are focused on the acquisition of houses to stimulate the transfer of Jewish settlers to the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, but also on the relocation of companies in industrial estates and the colonization of land for agriculture and livestock, in order to establish a population on the rise.
The Investigation Report This is ours, and this too: Israel's settlement policy in the West Bank, published on Tuesday by the Israeli NGOs B'Tselem and Kerem Navot, concludes that so far in the 21st century, the Jewish state has been “more determined than ever to perpetuate an apartheid regime in the (Palestinian) area under its control (…) thanks to massive investments to establish itself in the long term ”. "Millions of Palestinians," consider the authors of the study promoted by both pacifist organizations, "are denied their rights, without the ability to influence their own future."
Religious nationalists, who settle out of ideological conviction in what they call in biblical terms Judea and Samaria, and the ultra-Orthodox impoverished, who seek cheap and spacious houses for their large families, are the Israeli communities that have shown the greatest preference for moving to the settlements. Both are an essential part of the voting ground that sustains the conservative Netanyahu at the polls, who in two weeks will be playing for re-election in the fourth legislative elections called in the country in just two years.
"Starting in 2009, coinciding with the coming to power of Netanyahu, the government began to directly apply Israeli legislation in the colonies," says researcher Eyal Hareveni, co-author of the report. “In addition to the cost of infrastructure and security, the State indirectly subsidizes the homes of the settlers, by guaranteeing their mortgages 100%. The rest of the citizens, meanwhile, have to deal with the banks ”, points out this expert.
Other incentives come in the form of exemption from the canon for occupation of industrial land and subsidies for job creation for entrepreneurs who resettle in occupied territory, as well as through long-term agricultural land concessions. To all this are added the tax benefits that settlers receive for living in a “national priority area” and the supplements that are offered to officials, such as teachers and health workers, to provide service to Israeli families in the West Bank.
In settlements fiefdom of the ultra-religious, such as Modiin Illit and Beitar Illit, the population has increased by 62% over the past decade, reaching 140,000 inhabitants. "They cross the border of the Green Line (which separates Israel and the West Bank) for socio-economic and not ideological reasons, and today they already represent 40% of the settlers," the researcher on occupation issues Yehuda Shaul highlighted in another recent report.
The Netanyahu government appears to be taking advantage of the Jaredis' demographic boom – and their growing housing problems – to vigorously push the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. "We are facing a very well organized state project," says the director of B'Tselem, Hagai Elad. "What began in 1967 as a temporary military occupation has become a permanent civil apartheid program, of which the Army is the ultimate guarantor, with devastating consequences for the daily lives of the Palestinians," he adds.
Two blocks of colonies divide the occupied territory
The report This is ours, and this too It also warns that the occupation doped with huge State funds has left two deep territorial cuts in the West Bank, which threaten the viability of a future State of Palestine. The demographic impact of the settlement blocs that cross the occupied territory at the height of the colonies of Ariel, north of Jerusalem, and Gush Etzion, south of Bethlehem, now exceeds 120,000 inhabitants. The government finalizes plans to resettle tens of thousands more.
"The situation on the ground is very different from the official maps on paper," details researcher Dron Etkes, another of the study's co-authors. "Images taken by satellite clearly confirm the birth of the two large blocks, which extend from the Green Line to the Jordan River or the Dead Sea," he adds, "and you can already observe in detail the expansion of houses and buildings. cultivated fields on lands of neighboring Palestinian populations ”.
Although the annexation of right that Netanyahu planned over 30% of the West Bank (settlements and Jordan Valley) has not taken place, an annexation is taking place in fact, the report highlights. Housing construction and infrastructure development, such as roads closed to the Palestinians, have advanced on an unprecedented scale in the last decade with the stated goal of reaching one million settlers in the West Bank.