November 9, 2020 – Israel’s policy in the West Bank is determined by the Israeli government, yet the United States’ influence on this policy is paramount. In President Donald J. Trump’s four years in office, there have been far-reaching changes in the American position on Israeli settlements that have shattered the international consensus around a two-state solution, and which have promoted annexation in all but name. The de facto annexation has manifested itself in high levels of settlement unit approvals, transgressions of informal international red lines in highly sensitive areas like the Jerusalem environs and Hebron, and the building of over 30 new outposts. Consequently, de jure annexation became a legitimate topic in the Israeli and American governments, while Israel has created for itself and the Palestinians a near permanent, undemocratic one-state reality. 

Peace Now:
“The Trump administration lent the power of the United States to the benefit of the narrow interests of a small, radical group of settlers, and has done enormous damage to Israel. We expect the incoming administration of President-Elect Biden to be attentive to the peace-seeking majority in Israel and to restore the United States to its status as a constructive intermediary for a two-state solution.”

Main findings

  • The number of plans promoted in the settlements increased 2.5 times compared to the previous four years – 26,331 housing units were promoted in the settlements in the years 2017-2020, compared to 10,331 housing units in the years 2013-2016.
  • The number of tenders in the settlements doubled – tenders were published for 2,425 housing units in the settlements, compared with 1,164 housing units in the previous four years.
  • Infrastructure and road projects were designed to add another million settlers – In recent years, the Israeli government has begun infrastructure and road projects designed to form the development axis for settlements with an investment of billions of shekels.
    These roads include, among others: doubling “the Tunnels Road” (bypassing Bethlehem), Al-Arroub bypass (completing a four-lane road from Jerusalem to Hebron), the Eastern Ring Road from A-Za’ayyim and Anata (AKA “the Apartheid Road), Hawara bypass (south of Nablus), the Qalandiya underpass, Nabi Eliyas bypass and other roads. 
  • Construction was promoted in particularly destructive places for the prospects of peace (i.e. places which were considered an Israeli and international taboo):
  • Promoted plans will add 100,000 settlers in settlements that Israel will have to evacuate – 78% of the promoted plans (20,629 housing units) are in settlements that Israel will have to evacuate under a two-state agreement (according to the Geneva Initiative model). Major developments include:
    • E1 – Plans were deposited for 3,401 housing units.
    • Givat Hamatos – A tender was published for 1,077 housing units.
    • Hebron – The government has approved the construction of about 100 housing units that will double the number of settlers in the Palestinian city.
    • Large expansions in the heart of the West Bank: 1,103 units for settlements surrounding Nablus (Bracha, Elon Moreh, Itamar, Yizhar, Shavei Shomron); 2,687 units in settlements surrounding Ramallah (Beit El, Ofra, Psagot, Kochav Yaacov, Dolev, Talmon and its outposts); 2,279 units in settlements between Ramallah and Nablus (Eli, Shilo, Shvut Rachel and the new settlement of Amihai). 
  • Outposts – At least 31 new outposts were established during the Trump administration (compared to 9 in the previous four years). In addition, 10 outposts were retroactively legalized (their “regularization” plan took effect), compared to 7 outposts in the previous four years.
  • Undermining the Israeli, Palestinian, and international consensus on the parameters for solving the conflict’s core issues and presenting a plan for annexation: moving the embassy to Jerusalem while taking the issue “off the table,” canceling UNRWA support implying that the Palestinian refugees issue is no longer a problem, and legally legitimizing settlements. The Trump Plan, published in January 2020, presents a model for Israeli annexation without even minimal Palestinian independence.
  • Evacuation of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem in favor of settlers – In the four years of the Trump administration, about 6 Palestinian families in the Muslim Quarter and Sheikh Jarrah were evicted (based on restitution of Jewish property before 1948, while such laws are not afforded to Palestinians), compared to only one family in Silwan in the previous four years. (Evacuation of families on the grounds of settler acquisition claims continued both in previous years and under the Trump administration).
  • Changing the rules of the game to de facto annexation: allowing land expropriation and applying Knesset laws into the West Bank (“from occupation to apartheid”) – A series of legal opinions approving the expropriation of Palestinian land contrary to previous rulings and legal positions that expropriation of land in favor of the occupying population is strictly prohibited. Legislative procedures of laws enacted by the Knesset or under government directive led Israel to apply administrative laws and procedures over the Green Line in the West Bank, despite it not being officially part of Israel.