Following the Oslo agreement, Israel made a commitment to the United States that it would not build new settlements or expand existing ones, except to meet “natural growth.” This narrow allowance, never defined, was utilized by Israel to greatly expand settlements and build new settlements, such as Modi'in Ilit.
In April 2003, Israel for the first time undertook to freeze settlement activity, including natural growth. The commitment was made in the framework of the “road map” agreed to by Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and the Quartet (the US, the European Union, the UN, and Russia), which provides an outline for achieving a two-state permanent resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In November 2007, at the joint declaration made at the Annapolis Conference, in which Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the Quartet, and Arab League states took part, Israel confirmed its commitment to the road map's principles.
Despite its commitment to freeze building in settlements, protocols of the Supreme Planning Committee, in the Civil Administration, reveal plans for substantial expansion of settlements. The relevant protocols, of the Supreme Planning Committee's Environment Subcommittee, were made in 2007 and 2008 and dealt with the treatment of sewage of settlements. B'Tselem received these protocols under the Freedom of Information Act. The plans uncovered also relate to anticipated expansion of settlements lying east of the route of the Separation Barrier, which Israeli politicians present as Israel's future border. These plans are in their initial planning stage, and none have been approved by the political echelon. However, the fact that the primary planning body in the West Bank considered plans to build thousands of housing units in settlements indicates that the West Bank's planning bodies flout the official Israeli commitment not to expand settlements in the coming years.
The settlement of Gevaot. Photo: Eyal Hareuveni, B'Tselem.
Examples of settlement-expansion planning follow.
- In the Eztion Bloc, a neighborhood, containing 550 apartments, is planned for the Gevaot area of the Alon Shvut settlement. Plans for building in this area, which currently is home to only twelve families, call for the building of 4,450 apartments. The construction has not yet been approved by the Defense Ministry, but the Environmental Subcommittee approved construction of a sewage-treatment facility, intended for 800 to 1,000 apartments, for the new neighborhood. At the hearing, it was also decided that the facility would treat the sewage from the adjacent Beit Ayin settlement. According to the protocol, 2,000 new apartments are planned for construction in Beit Ayin, which currently has some 120 families.
- In the Rimonim and Einav settlements, which lie east of the Separation Barrier, sewage treatment has been arranged as a first stage in advancing building plans. In Rimonim, 254 new apartments are planned, and in Einav, two plans for additional construction. The jurisdiction area of the settlement Mevo Dotan which is also east of the barrier, is expected to expand.
- The Ma'aleh Adumim municipality prepared a sewage-treatment plan for the settlement, including the planned construction of 3,500 apartments in E-1, in the framework of treatment of the sewage from SHAI [Samaria and Judea] Police Headquarters, which was moved to E-1.
- In Kfar Adumim, the Subcommittee approved a sewage-treatment plan based on a projected doubling in size of the settlement, to 5,600 residents, in “the coming years.”
- The Civil Administration's planning office instructed the Eshkolot settlement to treat its sewage in accordance with the “full occupancy” plans of the settlement, which are expected to quintuple the settlement's population.
Building of settlements breaches international humanitarian law, which prohibits the occupying power to transfer its population to occupied territory and to make permanent changes there.
Establishment and expansion of the settlements result in continuous and extensive infringement of Palestinian rights, among them the right to self-determination, the right to equality, the right of property, the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to water, the right to sanitation and the right to freedom of movement.