11/03/2021, 19.29
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Janus-faced, the Bennett-Lapid government authorises more settlements while making concessions to Bedouins

Israel’s Peace Now group reports on the first six months of the new government, noting that it is not living up to its pledge not to change the status quo. Instead, settlement activities in the Occupied Territories are up, and so is settler violence. in order to keep an Arab party on board, the government is authorising more housing and electricity for Bedouin communities.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Israel’s government is planning new housing for Jewish settlements, more than the former administration led by Benjamin Netanyahu while making some concessions to Israel’s Bedouin communities.

Since taking power five months ago, the Bennett-Lapid coalition government has shown (few) lights and (many) shadows.

While many controversies plagued the old administration, especially internationally, the new government has already failed to live up to its pledge to maintain the status quo.

After looking at the period from 13 June to 26 October, Israel’s Peace Now movement found that Israeli authorities have “actively worked to promote settlements and deepen the Israeli occupation of the territories.”

For some observers, the government is pursuing a two-pronged policy. On the one hand, it is pushing for new housing in the settlements in order to keep the settlers on its side, while, on the other, it is making some concessions to Israeli Arabs, especially the Bedouin communities in the south of the country.

In fact, three new towns in the Negev were approved today. This comes on top of what was agreed with the United Arab List (Heb: Ra'am), a party led by Mansour Abbas, whereby unauthorised Bedouin settlements built before 2018 would get electrical power.

The government had pledged to increase funding for and improve the overall conditions of Bedouin communities in exchange of parliamentary support from the conservative Islamist party.

Yet, Peace Now points out that the government is going to build 3,000 new housing units on the Palestinian side of the old Green Line, directly on land that would be part of any future Palestinian state, if a two-state solution were ever to be implemented.

In fact, the government is pressing with its plans to expand the settlements of Ariel, Atarot and Revava in the occupied West Bank, with new tenders and approvals.

In addition, in the week of 20 October, construction began on 31 new housing units in the heart of the Palestinian city of Hebron (the first such development since the 1980s), approved under Netanyahu but sanctioned by the current administration.

In parallel to new settlements and outposts (especially farms), Peace Now reports an exponential rise in violence by Jewish settlers, so much so that “There is hardly a day without” new clashes, attacks and damages involving Palestinians.

Palestinian agriculture, especially olive trees, is the main target since many Palestinians depend on revenue from olive oil, with Israeli authorities showing little or no interest in stopping the violence.

For Peace Now, Israeli ministers have said precious little “against those acts which must not be passed over in silence.”

The Israeli anti-occupation group goes further. Reporting on the demolition of Palestinian homes, it says that the practice “is rising dramatically” with 260 homes destroyed in Area C between June and October.

Last but not least, while the settlement budget is up, there is also the still open question of the thousands of disputed houses in the Jerusalem neighbourhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan, which triggered, among other things, the last violent flareup in Gaza.

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