In line with their decision announced in Munich on 12 February 2016 and underlining their commitment to support a comprehensive, just, and lasting resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the representatives of the Middle East Quartet (MEQ) has issued its 2016 report today. The report issued by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, United States Secretary of State John Kerry, European Union High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon presents the situation on the ground, focusing on major threats to achieving a negotiated peace and offering recommendations to advance the two-state solution.
This report does not provide a complete review of the humanitarian, political, legal, and
security aspects of the situation, nor does it address final-status issues. It focuses only on the major threats to achieving a negotiated peace. It repeats the same recommendations of previous statements that the MEQ agrees would advance a two-state solution.
However, the MEQ remains silent about any action on the part of its four members, and offers none. The report also does not address its members own international law obligations to take effective measures to resolve the illegal situation, while states forming the MEQ are also parties to it.
The Quartet merely “invites” both parties to engage with it on implementing its recommendations and creating the conditions for the resumption of meaningful negotiations that resolve all final status issues.
The following is an excerpt of the MEQ report summary on the issues related to housing, land and habitat issues:
II. Settlement Expansion, Land Designations, and Denial of Palestinian Development
The continuing policy of settlement construction and expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, designation of land for exclusive Israeli use, and denial of Palestinian development, including the recent high rate of demolitions, is steadily eroding the viability of the two-state solution. This raises legitimate questions about Israel’s long-term intentions, which are compounded by the statements of some Israeli ministers that there should never be a Palestinian state. In fact, the transfer of greater powers and responsibilities to Palestinian civil authority in Area C contemplated by commitments in prior agreements has effectively been stopped, and in some ways reversed, and should be resumed to advance the two-state solution and prevent a one-state reality from taking hold.
Designating Land for Exclusive Israeli Use. Area C comprises 60 percent of the West Bank and includes the majority of agricultural lands, natural resources, and land reserves. Some 70 percent of Area C has been unilaterally taken for exclusive Israeli use, mostly through inclusion in the boundaries of local and regional settlement councils
or designations of state land. Nearly all of the remaining 30 percent of Area C, much of which is private Palestinian property, is effectively off limits for Palestinian development because it requires permits from the Israeli military authorities that are almost never granted.
The process of designating additional “state land” in Area C, which potentially impacts any land that cannot clearly be established as Palestinian private property, is ongoing.
In March of 2016, over 2,000 dunams south of Jericho were declared state land, and in August 2014, nearly 4,000 dunams west of Bethlehem were declared state land.
Settlement Construction and Expansion
Since the beginning of the Oslo process in 1993, the population of settlements has more than doubled, with a threefold increase in Area C alone. There are currently at least 370,000 Israelis living in some 130 settlements in Area C, including at least 85,000 deep in the West Bank. Combined with some 200,000 in East Jerusalem, this brings the total settler population to at least 570,000.
The policy of steadily constructing and expanding settlements and related infrastructure continues. Between 2009 and 2014, the West Bank settler population increased by over 80,000, including at least 16,000 deep in the West Bank. During this period, construction began on over 9,000 new settlement units in Area C and over 3,000 in East Jerusalem. Since mid-2014, there has been a marked slowdown in the advancement of plans and issuance of tenders for West Bank settlement units. However, the rate of construction starts during this period has remained consistent, as there are previously approved plans and tenders that allow building to continue even in the absence of new approvals.
Moreover, the process of retroactively “legalizing outposts has the practical impact of expanding the footprint of existing settlements, if not effectively creating new ones.
Approximately 100 settlement outposts in Area C have been built without formal Israeli Government approval. Under Israeli law, these outposts are illegal and must eventually either be retroactively authorized or removed. The Government’s approach has been to pursue “legalization when possible. Over the past decade, 19 outposts have been “legalized and 13 others are reportedly in that process, including several that were explicitly supposed to have been dismantled under the Quartet Road Map. The rest remain pending government action. Dismantling of these outposts has been very rare, and in cases where the court has ordered their removal, the Government has sometimes provided land for relocation in Area C.
Denying Palestinian Development
The Israel military retains full authority over development in Area C, including planning and zoning for housing, industrial zones, tourism sites, and essential infrastructure, such as roads and electricity lines. While settlements have continued to grow, there has been a near complete cessation of issuance of approvals for private Palestinian development or construction in Area C. In fact, only one permit for Palestinian housing construction in Area C was reportedly approved in 2014, and there do not appear to have been any in 2015. In the five-year period from 2009 to 2013, only 34 building permits were approved for Palestinians in Area C, out of at least 2,000 submissions.
All structures lacking permits from the Israeli authorities in Area C and East Jerusalem are potentially subject to demolition orders. There are over 5,000 demolition orders
pending against Israeli structures in Area C, and over 11,000 demolition orders pending against Palestinian structures, three-quarters of which are on private Palestinian land. Only a small percentage are executed every year. However, as Palestinians are consistently denied permits to build legally, they are left with few options but to build without permits.
There was a significant increase in the number of Palestinian structures demolished across the West Bank in the first four months of this year, with some 500 demolitions of Palestinian structures by the Israeli authorities and nearly 800 Palestinians displaced,
more than in all of 2015. In East Jerusalem, 64 Palestinian structures were demolished from January to June of 2016. Vulnerable Bedouin and farming communities are most
heavily impacted by these demolitions. Although many of these were not dwellings, the loss of structures such as water wells, solar panels, and animal shelters has impacted the livelihoods of over 2,500 people since the beginning of the year.
Palestinian development is also constrained by complex physical and administrative restrictions on the movement of people and goods, which Israel justifies as necessary
for its security, including of settlements. These restrictions, including temporary and longstanding checkpoints, add costs to importers and exporters, limit access to natural
resources and agricultural land, and discourage private sector investment. While some restrictions have been eased and the number of temporary permits for work in Israel has increased to nearly 70,000 in 2016, Palestinians still face substantial difficulties in accessing basic services and employment opportunities. Moreover, these restrictions amplify the humiliation of living under military occupation and frustrate many aspects of Palestinians daily life, including going to school, seeking medical attention, or attending family gatherings. […]
Download the complete MEQ statement with summary.