Apartheid Israel’s hilltop strategy
I. Mount Sabih
Mount Sabih is located south of Nablus and comprises 30% of Beita’s land area. After the settlers faced heavy resistance from the people of Beita, the Israeli government came to rescue.
To ensure a tightened control over Mount Sabih, the newly formed Israeli coalition government headed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett reached an agreement with the settlers who established the settler outpost of Eviatar on Mount Sabih more than a month ago. Based on the agreement, the settlers left the outpost on 2nd July, while the structures they built remained under army protection.
The Israeli government is now in the process of finding ways to declare the area as state land. The Israeli authorities will then build a Jewish religious school and a military base for the Israeli occupation army on the hilltop.
The construction of settler outposts on Mount Sabih is not the first of its kind. Palestinian resistance had already in the past successfully protested against an outpost. Israel has also attempted to construct a military base on the hilltop.
II. Mount Al-Arma
A few months ago, the Israeli occupation forces erected another settler outpost on Mount Al-Arma, to the north of Beita.
Attempts to take over Mount Al-Arma have started in the 1980s; but all of these attempts failed due to Palestinian popular protests. Latest of which was on March, 2020 when protesters succeeded in warding off Israeli Jewish settlers from the area. After more than a month of protesting, during which the Israeli occupation murdered two Palestinian minors that Palestinians could achieve this victory. Yet, recently, settlers have constructed another settler outpost on Mount Al-Arma.
Both Mount Sabih and Mount Al-Arma enjoy a strategic location as they overlook the Jordan Valley, a fertile land threatened with Israeli annexation. Seizing the two hilltops represents a panoptical defensive tool as they would grant the Israeli occupation with a panoramic view over the Jordan Valley and the whole district of Nablus. This is why the Israeli occupation authorities have assigned them a place in its settlement expansion project.
Palestinians there are well-aware of the detrimental consequences if Israeli forces were to take over Mount Sabih and Mount Al-Arma as it paves the way for more Israeli settlement expansion inside the village of Beita. This is part of a larger settler project through which Israeli apartheid regime aims at connecting the settlements of Elon Moreh, Yitzhar, Itamar and Har Brakha together.
Adding to this, the inauguration of an apartheid bypass road on lands belonging to Beita and the surrounding villages of Huwara and Yatma will disrupt the geographic contiguity between Beita and the surrounding Palestinian villages.
III. Beit Dajan: Another Israeli-made open-air prison
The seizure of the hilly area located north-east of the village of Beit Dajan in the eastern Nablus province is another measure through which Israel seeks to tighten the grip over the Jordan Valley. On the hilltop belonging to Beit Dajan, an Israeli settler constructed an outpost in 2020. In a few hours, the outpost was connected to water from the settlement of Alon Moreh, built on stolen Palestinian lands in the province of Nablus.
The settler outpost on the lands of Beit Dajan will literally make the village an open-air prison, where the movement of its residents is entirely under the control of the Israeli occupation.
Al-Najma Road, the western entrance to the village has been closed by the Israeli occupation since the eruption of the second Intifada in 2000. To the east of Beit Dajan lies the Palestinian village of Beit Fourik. Yet, the residents there cannot access Beit Fourik and other Palestinian communities easily as Israel has been setting up a military checkpoint between the two villages.
The residents of Beit Dajan have been relying on Maraqa road to leave and enter their village freely, as well as to access the Jordan Valley. However, as part of the construction of the settler outpost last October, the occupation authorities blocked Maraqa road with earthen mounds to fortify the settler outpost and wall off Beit Dajan.
In addition, if the settler outpost is turned into a settlement, Palestinians of Beit Dajan will lose 25,000 dunums of grazing land, which will badly affect animal husbandry in the area, a main source of income for many Palestinians there.
Farmers in the area have already lost hundreds of olive trees uprooted by Israeli bulldozers when the settler outpost was constructed.
Of course, this is not the first time that Palestinians in Beit Dajan lose their lands to Israeli settlement expansion project. Israeli occupation had taken over large swathes of the village lands when it constructed the illegal settlement of Al-Hamra and Mehola, east and south east of the village in 1971 and 1973, respectively.
IV. The aims of the hilltop strategy
- The construction of Jewish-only settlements on the three hilly areas in Beit Dajan and Beita allows the Israeli occupation to isolate the Jordan Valley as this separates it from the Nablus province and the rest of the northern part of the West Bank.
- The apartheid bypass road under construction on Beita’s lands will connect all three settlements. This is part of the settlement project to connect the settlements located in the Nablus province with those built in the Jericho district, which is part of the Jordan Valley.
- Creating geographic contiguity between Israeli illegal settlements entails the isolation and fragmentation of Palestinian towns and villages.