The Annapolis Conference took place on 27 November 2007.
To read the whole report, click here.
“The territorial question will be discussed as part of the final peace agreement. In the meantime, we have no intention to build new settlements or of expropriating additional land for existing settlements.” These words were pronounced by the Israeli Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, during his much-anticipated policy speech on 14 June 2009. A naive listener could be satisfied by this statement and think that Netanyahu wants to find a real solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But, as often happens in this conflict, the facts on the ground are radically different—and more important—than all the speeches and rhetoric.
According to a recent article published by the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, 3,200 housing units were built in settlements between the beginning of 2008 and to June 2009.1 And according to researchers at the Applied Research Institute—Jerusalem, the data for the 2008 settlement expansion is an even higher number.
Since November 2007, 104 Palestinian houses were demolished in the West Bank governorates. Between 2003 and 2009, 93 outposts were built in the West Bank, increasing the number of outposts here to 232 (ARIJ GIS database 2009).
Later we will analyze more deeply the settlement expansion numbers, but first it is important to focus on the meaning of this expansion in the so-called peace process. This will help us understand the real meaning behind Netanyahu’s words.
We cited numbers from the beginning of 2008 for a specific reason: the last international stage of the peace process was the Annapolis Conference of November 2007. This was a moment defined in Annapolis’ statement of joint understanding as the beginning of a “new era of peace, based on freedom, security, justice, dignity, respect and mutual recognition; to propagate a culture of peace and nonviolence.”4 Those agreeing to the joint understanding further committed themselves to immediately implement their respective obligations under the Roadmap.5 And the Roadmap of 2003 was very clear on the settlement issue, particularly in the section dedicated to the “Phase I”: “Israel also freezes all settlement activities, consistent to the Mitchell Report.” And, again, in the section dedicated to the settlements: “Consistent with the Mitchell Report, (Israel) freezes all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements).”
In the Mitchell Report of 2001, the connection between settlement expansion and the violence of the Palestinian’s reaction was underlined. The report also quotes United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1397, which demands an immediate cessation of all acts of violence, including all acts of terror, provocation, incitement and destruction.
There are several UNSC Resolutions mentioned by the Roadmap that demand withdrawal of Israeli forces and an end to their control over the Occupied Palestinian Territories (among others Resolutions 242, 338, and 1397), all of which are included in the 2003 Roadmap. In addition to all of these elements, it is important to bear in mind that settlements are a breach of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the protection of civilian persons in time of war:
“The occupying power shall not deport or transfer part of its own population into the territories it occupies.”
Therefore the concept of “freezing the settlements” is not an invention of the participants of the Annapolis Conference, or of the Quartet (UN, EU, US and Russia) which endorsed the Roadmap. It is a crucial point of the peace process that is grounded in international law, UN resolutions, and only as a consequence, included in political agreements developed over the years. The facts on the ground created by Israeli policy are ongoing breaches of international law, even if the speeches and words of Israeli leaders appear to point in a different direction.
International law is also the framework in which the Alternative Information Center (AIC), as a joint Palestinian/Israeli organization, works in order to build a just peace. Ten years ago we began our Settlement Watch Project, reporting on land confiscations, illegal building, the expansion of settlements, construction of bypass roads, uprooting of trees, violence of settlers and the resistance by and impact of this on Palestinian communities throughout the OPT. Through our analyses we can affirm that in spite of the peace conferences, the Roadmap, and speeches, the Israeli Government has not fulfilled its commitments and the settlement project continues to rapidly increase, presenting one of the major obstacles to peace. The settlement issue is the reason for the big question mark on the future direction of the peace process.
This report provides the AIC’s analysis of the Annapolis process 18 months after it took place. The aim of the publication is to provide a realistic picture of the situation on the ground, creating a tool for those interested in promoting a real and just peace between Palestinians and Israelis.
In the following pages we will present data and details of the settlement project that increasingly affects the lives of the people of the region, destroying the possibility of a hopeful future.
One and a half years after the Annapolis Conference of November 2007, it is possible to analyze the settlement issue according to three different perspectives that are affecting both the so-called peace process and daily life for Palestinians: the ongoing expansion of the settlements, the impact and the effects of the Separation Wall, and settler violence.
To read the whole report, click here.