settlements

Netanyahu backs major expansion of Jerusalem to include nearby settlements

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicated on Wednesday that he would give his backing for a proposal to absorb four West Bank settlements and a settlement bloc into the Jerusalem municipality, while also removing around 100,000 Palestinians from the city’s census.

The settlements in question are Ma’ale Adumim, Givat Ze’ev, Beitar Illit and Efrat, along with the Etzion bloc of settlements. Some are fairly deep in the West Bank, more than 10 kilometers (six miles) from Jerusalem, and are currently home to some 130,000 Israelis.

According to the proposal, initiated by Likud MK Yoav Kisch and backed by Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz, residents of those settlements would be able to vote in Jerusalem municipal elections, but the settlements would not be under full Israeli sovereignty.

The move would make Jerusalem’s official demographic balance significantly more Jewish and would “bring back Jerusalem’s status as a symbol,” according to the proposal’s preamble.

Kisch said residents of the settlements in question would maintain municipal autonomy through independent regional councils. He indicated they would vote in four local elections: for Jerusalem mayor, for a Jerusalem municipality council, for the head of their regional council and for members of said council.

Under the same proposal, around 100,000 people living in Palestinian neighborhoods outside the security barrier surrounding the city would be removed from the city’s census, with a new municipality built for them.

Netanyahu reportedly told Kisch to move ahead with the proposal following the Knesset summer recess, Haaretz reported Wednesday.

A view of construction in the West Bank settlement of Efrat on January 26, 2017. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Israel captured East Jerusalem, the Old City and the West Bank from Jordan in 1967, and extended sovereignty to the Old City and East Jerusalem in 198 in a move never recognized by the international community.

Most also consider the West Bank settlements illegal under international law, as well as the formal annexation of land seized during war. Israel has maintained that the settlements are not illegal, saying that the land is disputed. Israel has controlled the West Bank since capturing it in the 1967 Six Day War, but has never moved to annex any of the territory beyond extending sovereignty to East Jerusalem. It did later apply Israeli law to the Golan Heights, captured from Syria.

Most Israeli leaders maintain that the largest settlement blocs in the West Bank will become part of Israel in any future peace deal.

The proposal comes amid tensions in Jerusalem over the Temple Mount. Following the July 14 terror attack at the holy site by Arab Israeli gunmen that killed two Israeli policemen, Israel closed the compound for two days and set up metal detectors around the site to bolster security. That move was fiercely protested by Palestinians, who have held daily demonstrations around the compound.

On Tuesday, Israel removed the metal detectors. On Wednesday, it removed the rest of the security measures, including metal railings and scaffolding, answering a list of demands by Muslim authorities who administer the holy site.

Netanyahu has come under fire by the right-wing for agreeing to take down the security measures, moving instead to install high-resolution cameras capable of detecting hidden objects at the holy site.

The anger was most evident on the front page of the free daily Israel Hayom, which has for years backed Netanyahu, with a headline castigating the premier’s “display of feebleness” and his “helpless” response to the Temple Mount crisis.

Israel Hayom, which is owned by US billionaire Sheldon Adelson, has for years been staunchly loyal to Netanyahu until recently when it appeared, according to media analysts, to give more favorable coverage to Netanyahu rival Naftali Bennett, the head of the nationalistic Jewish Home party.

Earlier Wednesday, Knesset lawmakers approved in its first reading a bill that would require a special two-thirds support of the Knesset to relinquish any part of Jerusalem to the Palestinians under a future peace accord.

After hours of debates, and as the Knesset wrapped up its spring session Wednesday ahead of its three-month summer break, the bill proposed by Jewish Home MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli cleared the plenum with 51 MKs in favor, 41 opposed.

The bill, an amendment to the Basic Law on Jerusalem, would make it harder for any government to divide the city by requiring 80 of the 120 MKs to support giving up any part of Jerusalem to the sovereignty of a foreign power.

“This bill was designed to protect the unity of Jerusalem in the face of delusional, messianic steps from the left side of the [political] map,” said Moalem-Refaeli on Wednesday.

Jewish Home MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli speaks during a Knesset session on July 26, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The bill prevents “the possibility of concessions in Jerusalem, even parts [of the city],” she said. “Jerusalem will not be on the negotiating table.”

Currently, the Jerusalem Law, passed in 1980 and amended in 2000, states: “No authority that is stipulated in the law of the State of Israel or of the Jerusalem Municipality may be transferred either permanently or for an allotted period of time to a foreign body, whether political, governmental or to any other similar type of foreign body.”

With no provision in the Basic Law specifying how it can be amended, it currently can be overturned with a simple majority.

The bill must still pass two more readings and at least another committee write-up in the Knesset to become law.

Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett has touted the bill as making the division of Jerusalem “impossible.”

A spokesman for the Jewish Home party said last month that the proposed legislation was intended to strengthen Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s position vis-a-vis the new administration of US President Donald Trump.

In May, hours before Trump arrived in Israel during his first major foray abroad as president, Netanyahu declared that Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem’s holy sites was not up for negotiation and said the city will always be Israel’s capital.

Trump has expressed his desire to reach a Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement, which he has described as the “ultimate deal.”

In recent months the United Nations cultural body UNESCO has passed a series of resolutions that diminish or deny the Jewish connection to Jerusalem and refer to Israel as an occupying power.

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State Department says settlements, ‘lack of hope’ drive Palestinian violence

WASHINGTON — A new US State Department report says a myriad of Israeli policies — such as continued settlement building and aggressive military operations in the West Bank — are driving Palestinian terrorism, while the Palestinian Authority is making substantial efforts to halt such violence.

The report, an annual assessment of worldwide terrorism published this month, detailed a number Palestinian attacks against Israelis in 2016, including through rockets launched from Gaza, gunmen opening fire on civilians in Tel Aviv and numerous stabbing attacks.

“Israel again faced terrorist threats from Palestinian terrorists from Gaza and the West Bank,” said the report, titled Country Reports on Terrorism 2016. “Since 2015, a series of lone-offender attacks by Palestinians in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank has increased tensions between Israel and the Palestinians.”

But it also said that Israel was, in part, spurring these attacks through actions that create a “lack of hope” for Palestinians and motivates them to carry out acts of terror.

“Continued drivers of violence included a lack of hope in achieving Palestinian statehood, Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank, settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, the perception that the Israeli government was changing the status quo on the Haram Al Sharif/Temple Mount, and IDF tactics that the Palestinians considered overly aggressive,” the report said.

That kind of diagnosis is unusual for US President Donald Trump’s administration, which has been reluctant to criticize Israel, let alone suggest it is partly responsible for Palestinian terror.

US President Donald Trump (L) is welcomed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (Thomas COEX / AFP)

Trump has, however, spoken out against settlements as problematic toward reaching an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. He told the Sheldon Adelson-owned Hebrew-language daily Israel Hayom in February that settlements “don’t help the process … every time you take land for settlements, there is less land left.”

And at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House the next day, he said he wanted Israel to “hold back on settlements for a little bit.”

The State Department’s report also gave PA President Mahmoud Abbas high credit for alleviating tensions in the West Bank, cooperating with Israeli security forces and tamping down on incitement. It did not cast blame on Palestinian leadership for terror attacks.

The PA, it said, “has taken significant steps during President Abbas’ tenure (2005 to date) to ensure that official institutions in the West Bank under its control do not create or disseminate content that incites violence.”

“While some PA leaders have made provocative and inflammatory comments, the PA has made progress in reducing official rhetoric that could be considered incitement to violence,” the report continued. “Explicit calls for violence against Israelis, direct exhortations against Jews, and categorical denials by the PA of the possibility of peace with Israel are rare and the leadership does not generally tolerate it.”

That description flies in the face of Capitol Hill Republicans who have been urging the administration to take a harder stance on Palestinian incitement, particularly its practice of providing social welfare payments to the families of terrorists who kill Israelis.

Working its way through the Senate now is the Taylor Force Act, which would cut US funding to the Palestinians over salaries paid to terrorists and their families. On Wednesday, the White House took its first public position on the bill, saying it supports its objective but stopped short of full-out endorsing it.

Vanderbilt University held a campus memorial service for Taylor Force, above, on March 18, 2016. (Facebook)

“While the administration agrees with the high-level goals of the Taylor Force Act, it is currently in Congress’s hands and we will continue to closely monitor the specifics of the legislation,” a senior administration official told The Times of Israel.

Trump himself confronted the Palestinian leader over this practice during their meetings in Washington and Bethlehem. In the latter meeting, he supposedly yelled at Abbas. “You tricked me in DC! You talked there about your commitment to peace, but the Israelis showed me your involvement in incitement,” he reportedly said.

(Trump was referring to remarks Abbas made standing alongside him in Washington two weeks earlier. “We are raising our youth on a culture of peace,” he said.)

The day before that exchange, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed Trump in Jerusalem a video montage of Abbas, in which he made comments that encouraged violence against Israel, according toThe Washington Post.

US President Donald Trump, left, and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas shake hands during a joint press conference at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (AFP/MANDEL NGAN)

In the State Department report, Abbas was recognized for ensuring West Bank religious leaders do not urge or support terrorism.

“The PA maintains control over the content of Friday sermons delivered in approximately 1,800 West Bank mosques to ensure that they do not endorse incitement to violence,” it said. “Weekly, the PA Minister of Awqaf and Religious Affairs distributes approved themes and prohibits incitement to violence.”

At least one Jewish organization criticized the Department’s assessment of the situation. B’nai Brith International said it was “deeply concerned at the pro-Palestinian bias” it saw reflected in the document.

“Israel is not driving the violence committed by the Palestinians. It’s Palestinian leadership — Fatah and Hamas — that incites violence against Israelis on a daily basis,” it said in a statement Thursday. “The Palestinian leadership even compensates terrorists and their families with cash as a reward for carrying out an attack on Israelis.”

The group urged the State Department to correct what it described as an “imbalanced narrative.”

Under Trump, settlements are no longer the obsessive center of attention

On March 9, 2010, then-US vice president Joe Biden started a visit to Israel by asserting the administration’s “absolute, total, unvarnished commitment to Israel’s security.”

A few hours later, when it emerged that Israel had approved 1,600 new housing units in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, he denounced “the substance and timing of the announcement,” fuming that it “runs counter to the constructive discussions that I’ve had here in Israel.” The next day, Biden doubled down: “At the request of President [Barack] Obama, I condemn it immediately and unequivocally.”

The crisis continued to grew over the next few days, with Israel’s ambassador in Washington being summoned to the State Department for a dressing down, secretary of state Hillary Clinton telephoning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to convey Obama’s anger, and the president’s chief of staff terming the dispute “a pimple on the ass of US-Israel friendship.”

Today, such DC-Jerusalem drama over Israeli plans to build houses in Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem has become unimaginable. Indeed, since Donald Trump moved into the White House, the international community’s single-issue hyper-focus on Israeli settlements would seem to have been consigned to a past era.

Even the Europeans, who haven’t substantially changed their policies regarding settlements, have toned down their criticism, to some extent, of Israeli building beyond the pre-1967 Green Line.

US President Donald Trump, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands after giving final remarks at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem before Trump's departure, May 23, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

To be sure, Trump in February asked Netanyahu to “hold back on settlements for a little bit.” And White House and State Department spokespeople routinely reiterate the administration’s view that “unrestrained settlement activity does not help advance the peace process.”

And yet, whereas in the recent past, settlements were considered by many as the most important of all core issues, today they have been relegated to one of several bitterly disputed issues that need to be addressed if progress is to be made toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

US Vice President Joe Biden upon his arrival at Ben Gurion airport, March 8, 2010. (Pool/Yariv Katz Flash90)

When Obama in his first year in office sought to restart peace talks, he pressured Israel into a nine-month settlement freeze. This inevitably turned it into a Palestinian precondition for entering negotiations with Israel — since the Palestinians cannot ask for less than the White House — and thus in many respects crowned it the king of all core issues, the key to unlocking the Israeli-Palestinian impasse.

The Israeli government, too, contributed to the central importance given to settlements in recent years.

In 2013, Jerusalem chose to release dozens of Palestinian security prisoners rather than agree to another settlement freeze. In fact, the Netanyahu government adamantly announced the approval of hundreds of new East Jerusalem homes during another round of peace negotiations, initiated by then-secretary of state John Kerry. Kerry later partially blamed the settlement issue for the collapse of the talks in his valedictory “poof” speech.

US Secretary of State John Kerry on December 16, 2014 (Photo credit: Evan Vucci/AFP/pool)

Over eight years, the Obama White House consistently condemned almost every single brick Israel announced the intention to lay down for building outside the pre-1967 lines. The relentless disagreement reached record heights in December 2016, when the US abstained on, and thus allowed the passage of, a United Nations Security Council Resolution that affirmed that Israel’s settlement enterprise “has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to … a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.”

Israel accused the outgoing administration of planning what it termed an ambush against Israel, sparking the worst crisis in bilateral ties in years and insuring that the issue of settlements was firmly center stage.

And there it remained for a while even after Trump took office. Having donated $10,000 to Beit El and having tapped David Friedman, an outspoken advocate for the settlement movement, as his ambassador to Israel, it seemed that the new president’s approach to Israel’s presence in the West Bank would be fundamentally different than that of all his recent predecessors. Some settlers and their political advocates hailed him as a veritable messiah, whose arrival heralded an unprecedented building boom.

Europe’s responses to new building plans appear to have softened

That has not happened, but while Trump asked Israel to rein in settlement expansion, he has not castigated existing settlements as an obstacle to peace. In a sharp contrast to the previous administration, the current White House appears to understand Netanyahu’s political predicament — as hawkish members of his coalition demand more settlement construction — and may even empathize with the settlers’ need for natural growth.

The administration has asked both Israelis and Palestinians to take steps to help create a climate conducive for peace, and therefore it would be problematic if Jerusalem were to dramatically increase settlement construction and build new outposts on hilltop after hilltop across the West Bank, senior US officials make plain in private conversations. But as long as the Israeli government coordinates its moves with the White House and does not embarrass it, the Trump administration will likely refrain from denouncing Israel for plans to expand existing settlements.

This new wind from Washington is clearly being felt by the Palestinians. Tactically determined for the time being to stay on the US president’s good side, they have dropped the demand for a settlement freeze as precondition for talks without much arm-twisting. This shift alone powerfully underlines that Israel’s construction of homes in the West Bank is longer the central point of peace process deadlock.

Rather, the fixation on settlements has been superseded by a focus on a large portfolio of issues that need to be addressed in Trump’s bid for an accord he claims may “not be as difficult as people have thought.” To Ramallah’s great chagrin, those issues include incitement to violence and the Palestinian Authority’s payments to incarcerated terrorists and their families.

US President Donald Trump (L) and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas leave following a joint press conference at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (AFP/ MANDEL NGAN)

The Europeans have not adopted Trump’s more tolerant stance on settlement, still adhering to their traditional opposition to any Israeli building outside the Green Line. However, their formulaic responses to Israeli announcements of settlement expansions appear to have softened.

In July 2016, months before Trump’s election victory, the European Union said Israel’s planned construction of several hundred new housing units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank “calls into question Israel’s commitment to a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians.” Noting that settlements are illegal under international law, the EU urged Israel to “stop this policy and to reverse its recent decision.”

In October, an additional statement on the issue called “into question Israel’s commitment to a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians.”

Fast forward a few months. In early February, days after Trump entered the Oval Office, EU foreign policy czar Federica Mogherini called Israel’s intention to build 3,000 new West Bank housing units “a very worrying trend, posing a direct challenge to the prospects of a viable two-state solution, which is increasingly difficult and risks becoming impossible.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a joint press conference with the European Union's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, in Jerusalem, on November 7, 2014. (Photo credit: Amit Shabi/POOL/FLASH90)

The EU “deeply regrets that Israel is proceeding with this, despite the continuous serious international concern and objections,” she added.

This was certainly still a strong statement, but it did not repeat the previous doubts about Israel’s commitment to peace.

Last Friday, as Israel issued building permits for over 1,500 new housing units in East Jerusalem, the EU produced an even tamer statement, asking the government “to reconsider these decisions.”

Settlements are illegal and undermine “the prospect for a lasting peace,” the statement stressed. But while previous such texts called into question Israel’s desire to reach an agreement — giving the Palestinians a free pass, Israel would often argue — last week’s statement called on “both sides to engage in a meaningful process towards a negotiated two-state solution.”

Most decisionmakers in the Western world still consider unfettered settlement expansion to constitute a major impediment to the creation of a viable Palestinian state, which they see as the only way to reach a durable peace. Even Trump is not giving Israel a carte blanche to build wherever it wants. “Every time you take land for settlements, there is less land left,” the president told the Israel Hayom daily in February.

But nearly a decade after Barack Obama indicated that the path to Israeli-Palestinian peace wound via an indefinite settlement freeze, and the world followed him in prioritizing the issue, settlements are now just one of the many vexing issues that will have to be tackled if Trump is to achieve his self-styled “ultimate deal.”

Likud minister backs absorbing settlements into Jerusalem

Israel’s intelligence minister proposed on Monday to absorb four West Bank settlements and a settlement bloc into the Jerusalem municipality, while also removing around 100,000 Palestinians from the city’s census.

Yisrael Katz said residents of those settlements would be able to vote in Jerusalem municipal elections, but the settlements would not be under full Israeli sovereignty.

For most of the world, the status of Jerusalem is still to be negotiated between Israelis and Palestinians, though Israel considers the city its undivided capital.

Some of the settlements are fairly deep in the West Bank, more than 10 kilometers (six miles) from Jerusalem and are currently home to some 130,000 Israelis.

“Those settlements, those towns — Ma’ale Adumim, the Gush Etzion bloc, Givat Ze’ev, Beitar Illit and Efrat — will become part of Jerusalem but without changing their status — without putting the Israeli sovereignty on those places,” Katz told reporters.

View of the settlement of Givat Ze'ev, near Jerusalem. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Monday’s proposal appeared to be a softened version of an earlier plan put forward by Katz, that would have seen the same settlements formally annexed.

Simultaneously, around 100,000 people living in Palestinian neighborhoods outside the security barrier surrounding the city would be removed from the city’s census, with a new municipality built for them, Katz said.

The move would make Jerusalem’s official demographic balance significantly more Jewish.

Most consider the West Bank settlements illegal under international law, as well as the formal annexation of land seized during war. Israel has maintained that the settlements are not illegal, saying that the land is disputed.

Israel has controlled the West Bank since capturing it in the 1967 Six Day War, but has never moved to annex any of the territory beyond extending sovereignty to East Jerusalem. It did later apply Israeli law to the Golan Heights, captured from Syria.

Most Israeli leaders maintain that the largest settlement blocs in the West Bank will become part of Israel in any future peace deal.

“I am a hawk, but a clever hawk, a humanitarian hawk,” Katz, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party, said.

He said the bill would be discussed this week by the cabinet, but did not as yet have the full support of Netanyahu.

View of the Israeli settlement of Ma'ale Adumin, in the West Bank on January 4, 2017. (Yaniv Nadav/Flash90)

The right-wing Jewish Home party has proposed unilaterally annexing Ma’ale Adumim, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, into Israel, a move that would likely draw firm condemnation from the international community. Unlike Katz’s proposal, the Jewish Home would extend full Israeli sovereignty over Ma’ale Adumim.

Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett has also called for Israel to annex 60% of the West Bank — the territories designated Area C by the Oslo Accords, which include the bulk of Israeli settlements — as have a number of Likud party members.

Katz is also pushing a plan to build a region-wide train network that he says could link Israel and the Palestinians to much of the Arab world.

Katz, who is also the minister of transportation, said Monday that Israel already is pushing forward with plans to extend an existing train line to the Jordanian border and into the West Bank. The projects would give Jordan and the Palestinians greater access to Haifa port. Katz showed a map of a hoped-for rail network stretching through Jordan and Saudi Arabia to the Gulf.

Israel does not have formal relations with Saudi Arabia, but Katz suggested the issue has been quietly raised through back channels. He says the new US administration is “very active” promoting regional “normalization.”

Israeli Settlements: The Real Story

It’s go back 50 years, to mid-July 1967: A jeep arrives at an abandoned Syrian army base in the Golan Heights. A man jumps out. He’s 24, a shepherd from a determinedly secular, left-wing kibbutz in the Galilee. Feeling adventurous, he has joined a group that will establish a new kibbutz in the Heights, part of the territory that Israel conquered a month before.

He’s the first to arrive—which also makes him the first Israeli settler in occupied territory.

So began the Great Entanglement. Today more than 600,000 Israelis live in land conquered in June 1967 in six days of fighting with Egypt, Jordan, and Syria.

The victory created a temporary military occupation and the potential for Israel to negotiate for peace from a position of strength. It’s the settlement enterprise that has chained Israel to occupied territory. It’s settlement that creates a two-tier legal and political regime in the West Bank—Israelis living with the rights of citizens; Palestinians without those rights. It’s settlement that steadily undercuts Israel’s status as a democracy.

Outside of declaring its independence in 1948, starting to settle its citizens in the occupied territories may be the most consequential act in Israel’s history.

The founding of the kibbutz in the Golan Heights makes clear a fundamental fact about the settlement project: It began as an initiative of the left-of-center, secular political forces that dominated Israel in 1967, and later accelerated as a project of the mostly secular right-wing forces that have held power for most of the years since 1977.

There was no ceremony on July 16, 1967, no press release, no media coverage. The moment of beginning went unreported then—and it is still almost entirely absent from the popularly accepted history of settlement, as told in Israel and as reflected in foreign news coverage. This isn’t just an academic dispute: This mis-telling of history warps debate in Israel, and perhaps beyond, about making peace with the Palestinians.

 

IF YOU’D LIKE TO get the classic, inaccurate Israeli narrative of settlement in two hours, watch The Settlers, a documentary released this past year in time for the 50th anniversary of the 1967 war.

The film tells us, correctly, that the “joy of victory … consumed many Israelis” after the Six-Day War. But from there on, The Settlers focuses on the young followers of Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook, the charismatic teacher of a nationalist theology. Kook’s students believed he had prophesied the conquests in a speech he gave a short time before the war, and they saw settling the “liberated territories” as a divine imperative.

The “first settler”—according to the film, apparently quoting earlier versions of the same story—was Hanan Porat, a student of Kook. In late September 1967, Porat led an Orthodox group to settle between Hebron and Bethlehem in the West Bank. They reestablished Kfar Etzion, a religious kibbutz that had fallen to Arab forces on the eve of Israel’s independence. In the film’s portrayal—again, echoing many others—Prime Minister Levi Eshkol was reluctant to allow the project, but approved it when he learned that the settlers had loaded trucks with supplies and planned to go ahead regardless of what he said.

From that opening, the film’s narrative skips ahead to the spring of 1968, when another Kook follower, Rabbi Moshe Levinger, brought a group of religious nationalists to settle in the Palestinian city of Hebron, again overcoming resistance from a weak Israeli government. The chapter after that is set in 1975: The new Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful) movement, led by Porat, Levinger, and others, led illegal settlement attempts near the village of Sebastia in the northern West Bank. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Defense Minister Shimon Peres folded under their pressure and allowed a small group of settlers to remain. Many thousands of Gush Emunim supporters would follow in the years to come, establishing dozens of settlements.

A strange irony of this origin tale is that it recasts some of the icons of Israeli toughness—such as Rabin, Golda Meir, and Moshe Dayan—as nebbishes who cede policy to a fringe group of extremists.

The Settlers, a two-hour film, pauses briefly to tell us about the Allon Plan, the postwar strategy put forward by Labor politician Yigal Allon. The plan called for building Israeli settlements in the sparsely populated area along the Jordan River, while refraining from settling in the more heavily populated mountains of the West Bank. Another brief interlude in the film is devoted to Israelis who move to the West Bank for reasons of comfort rather than ideology. In settlements, they can afford homes much larger than what their money would buy inside the Green Line, the pre-1967 border.

Overwhelmingly, though, the film pictures settlers as religious nationalists, from Porat to today’s far-right extremists. All this fits Israeli popular perceptions. In media debate, “settler” is practically a synonym for Orthodox nationalist. For years, I’ve given a one-question history test to well-informed Israelis, asking them what the first settlement was. With few exceptions, their answer is Kfar Etzion, Hebron, or Sebastia.

The problem with this account is that it mistakes the supporting actors for the stars. Religious nationalists have played a key role in the settlement saga—but as the fractious clients of Israel’s major parties, Labor and the Likud. Those parties, and their leaders, are the main characters in the drama.

Take that first kibbutz in the Golan Heights. Its founders were followers of Yitzhak Tabenkin, the octogenarian ideologue of the Ahdut Ha’avodah (Unity of Labor) Party, then an important faction of the Zionist left. Tabenkin saw rural communes, kibbutzim, as the means to build socialism from the bottom up. Tabenkin also saw the Jewish homeland—the Land of Israel—as extending well beyond the borders of pre-1948 Mandatory Palestine, which were the invention of European imperialists. The narrower borders of independent Israel were even less satisfying. The fighting had barely ended in June 1967 when Tabenkin began urging massive settlement in the newly conquered land.

One of Tabenkin’s disciples was Yigal Allon. After the war, Allon stunned his comrades when he proposed giving up the most populated parts of the West Bank. Allon thought this was necessary to avoid turning Israel into a binational state. At the same time, as a minister in Eshkol’s government, he aggressively pushed for settlement in areas he wanted to keep. He channeled ministry funds to the Golan kibbutz, and pushed for settlement in Hebron.

Allon’s lifelong rival, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, advocated building Israeli towns in precisely the land that Allon wanted to relinquish. He proposed giving West Bank Arabs limited autonomy, or creating an Israeli-Jordanian condominium in that territory. Either way, the goal was to maintain overall Israeli rule and allow settlement without giving citizenship to the Palestinians living there. Dayan’s younger ally, Shimon Peres, held those ideas as well.

Eshkol himself had two immediate priorities after the war in 1967: building Jewish neighborhoods in annexed East Jerusalem, and returning Jews to the handful of spots in the West Bank where they had lived before 1948, including Kfar Etzion. Porat and his religious nationalist friends weren’t overcoming Eshkol’s resistance; they were providing him with the warm bodies needed to carry out his goals.

Early in 1968, three left-of-center parties merged, bringing Eshkol, Allon, and Dayan all into the new Labor Party. The arguments within the party, and within the government it led, were over where to build settlements in occupied territory, not whether to do so. Eshkol, for the most part, agreed with Allon’s strategy. So did his Labor successors as prime minister, Golda Meir and Yitzhak Rabin.

Religious nationalists were just one source of recruits for settlement. The partnership between them and the government was sometimes strained by a public dispute—again, over where to settle. That’s what happened at Sebastia. One reason that Rabin compromised with Gush Emunim is that his own party was in danger of splitting. The Peres faction was closer to Gush Emunim than to Rabin.

In the big picture, though, settlement was a government project. The Allon Plan wasn’t a sidelight; it was Labor governments’ blueprint for settlement-building.

The clash over where to settle had an element of the absurd. Allon was convinced it was possible to reach peace with Jordan on the basis of his map. The religious nationalists wanted to prevent such an agreement by settling in areas that the government seemed willing to give up. Allon’s confidence remained completely undented by his 1968 contacts with Jordan’s King Hussein, the Arab leader most eager to make peace. At a secret meeting with the king in London, Allon presented his maps. Hussein rejected Allon’s idea and, to leave no doubt, followed up with a position paper saying that the proposal was “wholly unacceptable.”

That exchange has defined the real parameters of Israeli-Arab peace contacts ever since. The 1967 war convinced most Arab leaders—some immediately, some later—that Israel’s existence and its pre-1967 borders had to be accepted. King Hussein’s position that any border changes had to be based on a one-to-one exchange of land later became a principle in Israeli–Palestinian negotiations. Under those parameters, Labor’s settlements along the Jordan River were just as much a barrier to peace as Gush Emunim’s settlements elsewhere.

By the time Labor lost power to the Likud in 1977, it had established close to 80 settlements in the West Bank, Gaza, Sinai, and the Golan. The Likud built on that foundation, but built much faster. Its map, drawn by Ariel Sharon, deliberately created bands of settlements between Palestinian cities. The result was that Palestinians lived in enclaves surrounded by settlements.

The Likud used two different kinds of settlements to draw Israelis into the West Bank. One was small, members-only communities, many of them deep in occupied territory. These attracted the Orthodox nationalists who fit the public stereotype of settlers. The other was larger settlements with a classic suburban appeal: A young family could get more home for less money.

The “quality of life” suburbanites can’t be squeezed into the standard settler stereotype. Many are secular. Some are ultra-Orthodox Jews, who don’t buy into the theology of religious nationalism. But with large families and small budgets, they find the cheap housing in settlements irresistible. The two largest settlements are ultra-Orthodox, and account for nearly a fifth of all settlers. For that matter, one-third of all Israelis in occupied territory live in the Jewish neighborhoods of annexed East Jerusalem. In mainstream Israeli discourse, they are almost never referred to as settlers.

What all these people have in common is that they live where they do because of fifty years of government policy.

 

GIVEN THE FACTS, WHAT explains the staying power of the classic narrative of settlement as a religious project?

For one thing, first impressions have staying power. In this case, the first impressions were formed by news coverage in the early months and years of settlement. And the government then tried its best to minimize coverage.

The ruling parties of the Zionist left had a tradition going back to pre-independence days of quietly “establishing facts.” When it came to settlement, Labor’s motto could have been “Speak little and carry a big hoe.” Yisrael Galili, the settlement czar under prime ministers Meir and Rabin, was particularly obsessed with secrecy.

Being in power made acting quietly easier, especially in an era when the Israeli press was much tamer than it is today. Much of the account I’ve given here of Labor’s settlement effort is based on internal government documents that remained classified for 30 years or more. Hanan Porat, the supposed “first settler,” sincerely believed that he’d forced Eshkol’s hand, but wasn’t privy to the prime minister’s office files.

In contrast to the Labor governments, the young religious activists loved publicity and the glory of being rebels. They happily told their version of events. While researching settlement history, I found that most published accounts of the founding of Kfar Etzion could be traced back to Porat and a couple of his activist colleagues.

Quite naturally, confrontations drew media coverage. So the face-off at Sebastia between Gush Emunim and the Rabin government filled the Israeli press in December 1975. Government settlement efforts elsewhere got less attention.

Another factor: The Kulturkampf between ideological secularism and Orthodoxy has always been an intensely emotional feature of Israeli politics. There’s a tendency to map the debate about settlement onto the religious-secular divide. This makes the political picture simpler—and deceptive. The original Labor advocates of settlement fade from sight. Even Likud leaders such as Sharon and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu become enigmas.

There are also valid reasons for paying particular attention to religious settlers today, as long as you don’t ignore the rest. The extremists who have engaged in violence against Palestinians come from the religious camp. And if there is a peace agreement, the most extreme religious settlers pose the greatest risk of violent resistance to evacuation.

 

ONE DUBIOUS ASSUMPTION that pervades Israeli politics, especially the center and center-left of the spectrum, is that the religious settlements would have to go in a two-state agreement with the Palestinians, while quality-of-life settlements, at least those in large “settlement blocs,” could stay put. After all, those settlement blocs are simply too big to evacuate, and don’t intrude too deeply into the West Bank. The reasoning here is that territorial concessions by the Palestinians, or territorial exchanges, would allow Israel to keep those blocs.

By this logic, the religious settlements are the obstacle to peace; the “consensus” settlement blocs are not.

It’s true that small religious settlements are scattered throughout the West Bank, far from the pre-1967 border. They stand in the way of any imaginable peace agreement. But what about the “quality of life” town of Ariel, home to 19,000 Israelis and the anchor of one of those supposed blocs? For Israel to hold Ariel would mean annexing a finger of territory sticking deep into the West Bank. The town of Ma’ale Adumim, east of Jerusalem, has over 37,000 residents and is the core of another such bloc. But connecting it to Israel would mean annexing more land and creating another finger of territory that practically divides the West Bank in two.

The distinction between religious settlements and settlement blocs, then, repeats the error built into the Israeli political debate during the first years of the occupation. Back then, the self-deception was that Allon Plan settlements posed no impediment to peace. Jordan would just have to accept that Israel would keep parts of the West Bank. Now the myth is that Israel will be able to keep the blocs—which means annexing pieces of land outside its pre-1967 borders.

In reality, no one knows which settlements, if any, Israel would be able to retain under a peace agreement. Judging from the brief periods of serious final-status talks over the years, the baseline for new Israeli-Palestinian negotiations will be the Green Line. Negotiations could lead to small exchanges, with Israel giving up bits of its pre-1967 territory in return for equal-sized bits of the West Bank. But even if that happens, the amount of land involved, and the number of settlements saved, is certain to fall far short of the expectations created by the talk of keeping the settlement blocs.

The narrative that focuses exclusively on religious settlement is more than an academic error. It stands in the way of Israel coming to terms with what happened in 1967 and after: Settling Israelis in occupied territory wasn’t imposed by a radical fringe. It was a national policy, for which the country’s major political camps—Labor as much as the Likud—share responsibility.

Even worse, the distorted telling of the past continues to distract attention from the hard political reality of today: Any home, built in any settlement, makes it harder to negotiate peace. It’s one more knot in the Great Entanglement.

In step toward annexation, ministers demand new laws include settlements

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked announced Tuesday that all government legislation will henceforth explicitly mention applicability to residents of West Bank settlements, in an apparent step toward expanding Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank.

MKs were holding a series of committee meetings on improving the lives of Jews living in West Bank settlements — regarding education, immigration absorption, and housing — as the Knesset celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the Six Day War, when Israel captured the West Bank, along with the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem, Gaza and Sinai.

“We are trying to change the reality of legislation in the Knesset,” Shaked, of the right-wing Jewish Home party, told the Knesset House Committee.

“There is no doubt that the lives of residents of Judea and Samaria need to be exactly the same as the lives” of other Israeli citizens, she said, using the biblical name for the West Bank.

The directive by Shaked and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin applies strictly to government-backed laws from June 1 but not to private legislation presented by individual lawmakers. Shaked said she had instructed the ministers to comply with the new instructions, which require “a reference” to West Bank residents on government bills. She said only half a dozen Israeli laws currently mention the settlers, including adoption laws and recent anti-discrimination laws.

Laws will not be required to extend to settlements, but will need to explicitly state whether they do or do not, and an explanation will be needed in cases where they only apply to one side of the Green Line.

Currently, Israeli law is applied to the settlements by issuing individual military orders, a process that Shaked described as cumbersome and selective.

Levin (Likud) said the application of martial orders rather than Israeli law directly to West Bank residents in some cases was “discriminatory and unequal.”

He said it was time to “liberate the residents of Judea and Samaria” from Israeli military orders, some 50 years after the war, by transferring the powers of the Civil Administration, the governing authority in the West Bank, to Israeli ministries.

“I think the rule must be that the law applies [to the settlers], unless there is a good reason not to,” he said. “And not the opposite.”

Israeli Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin seen at the Israeli parliament during a vote on a law changing the structure of the new Israel Broadcast Corporation news division, at the assembly hall of the Israeli parliament, April 25, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“We are not seeking ‘creeping annexation’; we are looking for justice for the residents,” he said.

“And if there are those saying that through legislation we are advancing ‘creeping annexation’ — we won’t argue,” he added.

Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben Dahan (Jewish Home) said he was seeking, by the end of the year, to change the law in the area to allow Jews to legally purchase land in the West Bank from Palestinians.

“The Jews in Judea and Samaria are outsiders, they are not allowed to buy land,” he lamented.

At the hearing, Jewish Home MK Shuli Moallem-Refaeli said she had “no desire to conceal” the government’s intention to annex the West Bank. She added that the process must not be done in a “backdoor” fashion, but rather openly.

There is “total inequality” between Israeli citizens and settlers, she said, as the latter “have same obligations, but they don’t have the same rights.”

“We all know there is no sovereignty in the West Bank,” she said, adding that 50 years on from the war, “we are all working to fix that.”

On housing, the Yesha Council settlement umbrella group presented a plan to another Knesset panel on Tuesday to build 67,000 housing units in the West Bank.

The settler group outlined a bid to expand the Tel Aviv metropolitan area into the West Bank, saying it would drive down housing prices in central Israel. In a presentation to the Knesset Interior Committee, the council proposed a building boom in the West Bank areas adjacent to the densely populated Gush Dan region, from the settlement of Alfei Menashe in the north to Modiin Illit in the south, and Ariel in the east — overall, a 40 percent increase of built-up territory.

The West Bank settlement of Alfei Menashe (Wikimedia Commons/Jonathan Schilling/CC BY-SA 3.0)

With tens of thousands of housing units in this eastern corridor, the cost of living in central Israel would drop considerably, the settlement council told lawmakers, in a session attended by Housing Minister Yoav Galant.

Galant responded with a call to build in various settlements in those areas.

“The entire expanse from Avnei Hefetz, Oranit, Nili, Naale, Gush Halamish, Talmonim, from Kfar Saba to Ben Gurion Airport, is essential for life in Gush Dan,” said Galant. “Settling this area will offer a security, strategic solution.”

Housing Minister Yoav Galant calls for the assassination of Syrian President Bashar Assad at a conference in Latrun, near Jerusalem, on May 16, 2017. (Miriam Tzachi/Office of Yoav Gallant)

Chairing the meeting, Likud MK David Amsalem implored Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to increase West Bank construction.

“A city that does not go forward goes backward,” he said. “If there is no building in Ma’ale Adumin and Jerusalem, they will turn into old age homes.”

“Not building is a form of expulsion,” he added. “A child who grew up somewhere and you are not allowing him to live there as an adult [because of lack of housing] — you are in effect removing him from that place.”

Meanwhile, the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee held a “festive” meeting celebrating the outcome of the war, though most of its members were in Washington.

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP WILL CONTINUE TALKING TO NETANYAHU ABOUT SETTLEMENTS

 

http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/White-House-Trump-will-continue-talking-to-Netanyahu-about-settlements-489505

 

President Donald Trump will continue to talk to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about Israeli settlement activity, the White House said on Monday following reports that Israel plans to build 15,000 new settlement homes in east Jerusalem.

“I’m sure that we’ll continue to have conversations with the prime minister and … that’ll be something that the president will continue to discuss,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told a news briefing after being asked if Netanyahu was snubbing the US president.

 

Trump, who has vowed to work for a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, told Netanyahu during a news conference in February that he would like to see Israel “hold back on settlements for a little bit.”

While Spicer did not elaborate further, the White House’s declared intention to continue holding talks with the Israeli premier seems more significant than ever as Israel braces for Tuesday’s UNESCO vote on a resolution that seeks to reject the country’s sovereignty in Jerusalem.

Spicer’s comment regarding President Trump’s clear intention to continue discussing the issue of Israel’s settlements enterprise come a mere week after a White House official confirmed to The Jerusalem Post that the American president was considering paying a visit to Israel in late May or in early June. “We are exploring the possibility of a future visit to Israel,” the official told the Post in a confirmation that further emphasized for both leaders to discuss several pressing issues, including Trump’s plan to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the capital of Jerusalem.

Should Trump make the visit to Israel in the upcoming month it’s timing will be especially crucial; on June 1, a waiver on a Congressional mandate to move the embassy in Israel will finally expire.

And while the US president has mostly been perceived so far as supportive of Israel in his public statements, just this past February a senior administration official told the Post that “we urge all parties to refrain from taking unilateral actions that could undermine our ability to make progress, including settlement announcements. The administration needs to have the chance to fully consult with all parties on the way forward.”

REPORT: US-ISRAEL TALKS ON SETTLEMENTS SUSPENDED AFTER NO PROGRESS MADE

 

Negotiations between Israel and the United States on limiting building in the settlements reportedly has been suspended after representatives of the two countries failed to reach an agreement.

Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s international envoy and an Orthodox Jew, has traveled in recent weeks to the Middle East for meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

 

Representatives of the Netanyahu government, the prime minister’s chief of staff, Yoav Horowitz, and Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, met in Washington late last month with Greenblatt to follow up on his meetings with Netanyahu in Israel earlier in the month.

Israel Radio reported on Sunday that the discussions between the Israeli envoys and Greenblatt had been suspended due to a lack of progress.

News of the suspension comes after Israel’s security cabinet on Thursday approved the first new settlement in decades for families evicted from the razed West Bank outpost of Amona, followed by Netanyahu saying at the same meeting that any future West Bank construction would be limited to existing settlement boundaries or adjacent to them, and that Israel will prevent the construction of any new illegal outposts.

On Thursday, Greenblatt held meetings with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the foreign ministers of Qatar and Egypt on the sidelines of the Arab League summit in Jordan. Abbas, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi also reportedly huddled to coordinate their positions ahead of their meetings with Trump at the White House in coming weeks.

According to anonymously sourced Israeli media reports, Greenblatt told Netanyahu during talks in Israel earlier this month that Trump wanted substantial restriction on settlement construction. Netanyahu reportedly expressed reservations about the proposal, particularly an official moratorium on construction outside the major settlements, mainly because of anticipated opposition from within his right-wing government.

The Prime Minister’s Office subsequently denied the reports, but no understandings were announced.

When Netanyahu visited the White house in February, Trump said he would like to see Israel “hold back on settlements a little bit.” Earlier in the month, Trump said settlement expansion “may not be helpful” in achieving peace.

Bill O’Reilly (White Freemason) Thrives at Fox News, Even as Harassment Settlements Add Up

For nearly two decades, Bill O’Reilly has been Fox News’s top asset, building the No. 1 program in cable news for a network that has pulled in billions of dollars in revenues for its parent company, 21st Century Fox.

Behind the scenes, the company has repeatedly stood by Mr. O’Reilly as he faced a series of allegations of sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior.

An investigation by The New York Times has found a total of five women who have received payouts from either Mr. O’Reilly or the company in exchange for agreeing to not pursue litigation or speak about their accusations against him. The agreements totaled about $13 million.

Two settlements came after the network’s former chairman, Roger Ailes, was dismissed last summer in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal, when the company said it did not tolerate behavior that “disrespects women or contributes to an uncomfortable work environment.”

The women who made allegations against Mr. O’Reilly either worked for him or appeared on his show. They have complained about a wide range of behavior, including verbal abuse, lewd comments, unwanted advances and phone calls in which it sounded as if Mr. O’Reilly was masturbating, according to documents and interviews.

The reporting suggests a pattern: As an influential figure in the newsroom, Mr. O’Reilly would create a bond with some women by offering advice and promising to help them professionally. He then would pursue sexual relationships with them, causing some to fear that if they rebuffed him, their careers would stall.

Of the five settlements, two were previously known — one for about $9 million in 2004 with a producer, and another struck last year with a former on-air personality, which The Times reported on in January. The Times has learned new details related to those cases.

Wendy Walsh had been a guest on “The O’Reilly Factor.” She said Mr. O’Reilly broke his promise to make her a contributor when she declined an invitation to his hotel suite in 2013. CreditChristina Gandolfo for The New York Times

The three other settlements were uncovered by The Times. Two involved sexual harassment claims against Mr. O’Reilly, and the other was for verbal abuse related to an episode in which he berated a young producer in front of newsroom colleagues.

Besides the women who reached settlements, two other women have spoken of inappropriate behavior by the host. A former regular guest on his show, Wendy Walsh, told The Times that after she rebuffed an advance from him he didn’t follow through on a verbal offer to secure her a lucrative position at the network. And a former Fox News host named Andrea Tantaros said Mr. O’Reilly sexually harassed her in a lawsuit she filed last summer against the network and Mr. Ailes.

Representatives for 21st Century Fox would not discuss specific accusations against Mr. O’Reilly, but in a written statement to The Times the company acknowledged it had addressed the issue with him.

“21st Century Fox takes matters of workplace behavior very seriously,” the statement said. “Notwithstanding the fact that no current or former Fox News employee ever took advantage of the 21st Century Fox hotline to raise a concern about Bill O’Reilly, even anonymously, we have looked into these matters over the last few months and discussed them with Mr. O’Reilly. While he denies the merits of these claims, Mr. O’Reilly has resolved those he regarded as his personal responsibility. Mr. O’Reilly is fully committed to supporting our efforts to improve the environment for all our employees at Fox News.”

According to legal experts, companies occasionally settle disputes that they believe have little merit because it is less risky than taking the matters to trial, which can be costly and create a string of embarrassing headlines.

The revelations about Mr. O’Reilly, 67, come after sexual harassment accusations against Mr. Ailes led to an internal investigation that found women at Fox News faced harassment. Current and former Fox News employees told The Times that they feared making complaints to network executives or the human resources department.

Mr. Ailes, who has denied the allegations against him, received $40 million as part of his exit package. The company has reached settlements with at least six women who accused Mr. Ailes of sexual harassment, according to a person briefed on the agreements.

At the time of Mr. Ailes’s departure, 21st Century Fox’s top executives, James and Lachlan Murdoch, the sons of the executive chairman, Rupert Murdoch, said the company was committed to “maintaining a work environment based on trust and respect.”

Since then, the company has struck two settlements involving Mr. O’Reilly, and learned of one Mr. O’Reilly reached secretly in 2011.

Growing Importance to Fox

Bill O’Reilly is an essential asset to Fox News. His No. 1 cable news show made about $178 million in advertising revenue in 2015, and gained viewers in the prelude to the election and since. Meanwhile, Fox News’s financial contribution to its parent company, 21st Century Fox, has also been growing.

The company declined to answer questions about whether Mr. O’Reilly had ever been disciplined.

Mr. O’Reilly has thrived since joining Fox News in 1996. He earns an annual salary of about $18 million as the host of “The O’Reilly Factor.” Every weeknight at 8 p.m., he presents a pugnacious, anti-political-correctness viewpoint and a fervent strain of patriotism that appeals to conservative viewers.

His value to the company is enormous. From 2014 through 2016, the show generated more than $446 million in advertising revenues, according to the research firm Kantar Media.

This is a sensitive time for Fox News as it continues to deal with the fallout of the Ailes scandal. The network is facing an investigation by the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan, which is looking into how the company structured settlements. Fox News has said that neither it nor 21st Century Fox has received a subpoena but that they have “been in communication with the U.S. attorney’s office for months.”

Details on the allegations against Mr. O’Reilly and the company’s handling of them are based on more than five dozen interviews with current and former employees of Fox News and its former and current parent companies, News Corporation and 21st Century Fox; representatives for the network; and people close to Mr. O’Reilly and the women. Most spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing confidentiality agreements and fear of retaliation. The Times also examined more than 100 pages of documents and court filings related to the complaints.

Ms. Walsh, the former guest on Mr. O’Reilly’s show, said his offer to make her a contributor never materialized after she declined an invitation to go to his hotel suite after a dinner in 2013. “I feel bad that some of these old guys are using mating strategies that were acceptable in the 1950s and are not acceptable now,” she said. “I hope young men can learn from this.”

She said romantic relationships at the workplace “should never happen when there is an imbalance of power and colleagues shouldn’t unwittingly be manipulated into obtaining sex for somebody.”

Just over a week ago, Mr. O’Reilly hired the crisis communications expert Mark Fabiani — who worked in the Clinton White House — to respond to The Times. In a statement, Mr. O’Reilly suggested that his prominence made him a target.

“Just like other prominent and controversial people,” the statement read, “I’m vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity. In my more than 20 years at Fox News Channel, no one has ever filed a complaint about me with the Human Resources Department, even on the anonymous hotline.

“But most importantly, I’m a father who cares deeply for my children and who would do anything to avoid hurting them in any way. And so I have put to rest any controversies to spare my children.

Below are five women who received payouts after accusing Bill O’Reilly of sexual harassment or verbal abuse. While the first dates back to 2002, two of the deals were struck in the months since the network’s chairman was dismissed last year. Combined, the settlements totaled about $13 million.

Rachel Witlieb Bernstein

Junior producer at Fox News

SETTLEMENT DATE2002

Andrea Mackris

A producer on “The O’Reilly Factor”

SETTLEMENT DATE2004

Rebecca Gomez Diamond

A host on Fox Business Network

SETTLEMENT DATE2011

Laurie Dhue

Anchor at Fox News

SETTLEMENT DATE2016

Juliet Huddy

On-air personality at Fox News

SETTLEMENT DATE2016

“The worst part of my job is being a target for those who would harm me and my employer, the Fox News Channel. Those of us in the arena are constantly at risk, as are our families and children. My primary efforts will continue to be to put forth an honest TV program and to protect those close to me.”

Fredric S. Newman, a lawyer for Mr. O’Reilly, said in a statement Friday evening, “We are now seriously considering legal action to defend Mr. O’Reilly’s reputation.”

Lurid Claims Burst Into View

Fox News has been aware of complaints about inappropriate behavior by Mr. O’Reilly since at least 2002, when Mr. O’Reilly stormed into the newsroom and screamed at a young producer, according to current and former employees, some of whom witnessed the incident.

Shortly thereafter, the woman, Rachel Witlieb Bernstein, left the network with a payout and bound by a confidentiality agreement, people familiar with the deal said. The exact amount she was paid is not known, but it was far less than the other settlements. The case did not involve sexual harassment.

Two years later, allegations about Mr. O’Reilly entered the public arena in lurid fashion when a producer on his show, Andrea Mackris, then 33, filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against him. In the suit, she said he had told her to buy a vibrator, called her at times when it sounded as if he was masturbating and described sexual fantasies involving her. Ms. Mackris had recorded some of the conversations, people familiar with the case said.

Ms. Mackris also said in the suit that Mr. O’Reilly, who was married at the time (he and his wife divorced in 2011), threatened her, saying he would make any woman who complained about his behavior “pay so dearly that she’ll wish she’d never been born.”

Fox News and Mr. O’Reilly adopted an aggressive strategy that served as a stark warning of what could happen to women if they came forward with complaints, current and former employees told The Times.

Before Ms. Mackris even filed suit, Fox News and Mr. O’Reilly surprised her with a pre-emptive suit of their own, asserting she was seeking to extort $60 million in return for not going public with “scandalous and scurrilous” claims about him.

“This is the single most evil thing I have ever experienced, and I have seen a lot,” he said on his show the day both suits were filed. “But these people picked the wrong guy.”

Andrea Mackris, a former producer at Fox News, sued Mr. O’Reilly in 2004 for sexual harassment. The case was settled for around $9 million. CreditChristopher Gregory for The New York Times

A public relations firm was hired to help shape the narrative in Mr. O’Reilly’s favor, and the private investigator Bo Dietl was retained to dig up information on Ms. Mackris. The goal was to depict her as a promiscuous woman, deeply in debt, who was trying to shake down Mr. O’Reilly, according to people briefed on the strategy. Several unflattering stories about her appeared in the tabloids.

After two weeks of sensational headlines, the two sides settled, and Mr. O’Reilly agreed to pay Ms. Mackris about $9 million, according to people briefed on the agreement. The parties agreed to issue a public statement that “no wrongdoing whatsoever” had occurred.

Settling Behind Closed Doors

In the years that followed, Mr. O’Reilly and Fox News dealt with sexual harassment allegations in private, striking agreements with three more women.

In 2011, Rebecca Gomez Diamond, who had hosted a show on the Fox Business Network — also supervised by Mr. Ailes — was told the network was not renewing her contract. Similar to Ms. Mackris, she had recorded conversations with Mr. O’Reilly, according to people familiar with the case. Armed with the recordings, her lawyers went to the company and outlined her complaints against him.

Ms. Diamond left the network, bound by a confidentiality agreement, and Mr. O’Reilly paid the settlement, two of the people said. The exact amount of the payout is not known.

Although that deal was made nearly six years ago, Fox News’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, learned of it only in late 2016 when it conducted an investigation into Fox News under Mr. Ailes’s tenure, according to another person familiar with the matter.

In the aftermath of Mr. Ailes’s ouster last summer, as 21st Century Fox was completing settlements and trying to put the scandal behind it, it reached deals with two women who had complained about sexual harassment by Mr. O’Reilly.

One was Laurie Dhue, a Fox News anchor from 2000 to 2008. Though Ms. Dhue had not raised sexual harassment issues during her tenure or upon her departure, her lawyers went to the company to outline her harassment claims against Mr. O’Reilly and Mr. Ailes, according to people briefed on the complaints. In response, 21st Century Fox reached a settlement with her for over $1 million, according to a person briefed on the agreement.

In September, 21st Century Fox reached a settlement worth $1.6 million with Juliet Huddy, who had made regular appearances on Mr. O’Reilly’s show, according to people familiar with the matter. Ms. Huddy’s lawyers had told the company that Mr. O’Reilly pursued a sexual relationship in 2011, at a time he exerted significant influence over her airtime.

Roger Ailes, the former chairman of Fox News, was ousted last summer after Gretchen Carlson, an anchor, accused him of sexual harassment. The network’s parent company later paid $20 million to settle the suit.CreditReed Saxon/Associated Press

Among Ms. Huddy’s complaints was that he made inappropriate phone calls, the lawyers said in correspondence obtained by The Times. The letter said that when he tried to kiss her, she pulled away and fell to the ground and he didn’t help her up.

When she rebuffed him, he tried to blunt her career prospects, the letter said.

Ms. Huddy was eventually moved to an early morning show on WNYW, an affiliate station, where she worked until she left the company in September.

Before Ms. Huddy reached an agreement with 21st Century Fox, Mr. Newman, Mr. O’Reilly’s lawyer, sent a letter to her lawyer outlining some embarrassing personal issues he said Ms. Huddy had. He stated that she would “face significant credibility concerns if she tries to pursue a claim against Mr. O’Reilly.” The letter, which was obtained by The Times, said that if she were to follow through with a claim against Mr. O’Reilly, he would pursue legal action “to hold Ms. Huddy, and all who have assisted her, personally liable for any damage suffered by him or his family.”

In January, when The Times and others reported on Ms. Huddy’s settlement, representatives for Fox News and Mr. O’Reilly dismissed the allegations.

Fox News is now in a legal battle with Ms. Tantaros, the former on-air personality who is suing the network and Mr. Ailes after turning down a settlement offer of nearly $1 million. Mr. O’Reilly is not a defendant, but in the suit Ms. Tantaros said that in early 2016 Mr. O’Reilly had asked “her to come to stay with him on Long Island where it would be ‘very private,’” and told her “on more than one occasion that he could ‘see [her] as a wild girl,’” according to court documents.

In an affidavit filed under oath, Ms. Tantaros’s psychologist, Michele Berdy, who treated her from 2013 to 2016, said she recalled “a number of occasions when Andrea complained to me about recurring unwanted advances from Bill O’Reilly.”

Fox News said it investigated Ms. Tantaros’s claims and found them baseless. The company explained her departure by saying she published a book that violated company policy. In court papers, the network said that she “is not a victim; she is an opportunist” and that her allegations bore “all the hallmarks of the wannabe.”

Ms. Walsh, the former guest on “The O’Reilly Factor,” told The Times she was propositioned by Mr. O’Reilly in 2013 but did not lodge a complaint because she did not want to harm her career prospects.

Ms. Walsh said that she met Mr. O’Reilly for a dinner, arranged by his secretary, at the restaurant in the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles. During the dinner, she said, he told her he was friends with Mr. Ailes, and promised to make her a network contributor — a job that can pay several hundred thousand dollars a year.

Mr. O’Reilly at his desk at Fox News studios. He has contended that, like other prominent people, he has been the target of people seeking payouts to avoid negative publicity. CreditRichard Perry/The New York Times

After dinner, she said, Mr. O’Reilly invited her to his hotel suite. Ms. Walsh said she declined. Trying to remain cordial, she suggested that they go to the hotel bar instead. Once there, she said, he became hostile, telling her that she could forget any career advice he had given her and that she was on her own. He also told her that her black leather purse was ugly.

Ms. Walsh continued to appear on his show for about four months, but she said she sensed that he had become cold toward her on camera. Then, a producer for “The O’Reilly Factor” told Ms. Walsh that she would no longer appear on the show. She was never made a contributor.

“I knew my hopes of a career at Fox News were in jeopardy after that evening,” said Ms. Walsh, now an adjunct professor of psychology at California State University, Channel Islands, and a radio host at KFI AM 640 in Los Angeles.

A person briefed on the network’s decision said that Ms. Walsh was removed from the broadcast because the program’s ratings declined during her segments.

Shadowing Another’s Exile

Ms. Mackris, the producer who sued Mr. O’Reilly in 2004, never worked in television news again.

In the years after the dispute, she suffered from post-traumatic stress and spent years seeing a therapist, struggling to figure out how to create a new life, according to interviews with people close to her at the time.

Ms. Mackris’s settlement prevents her from talking about Fox News and her dispute with Mr. O’Reilly, according to people briefed on the deal. But she is allowed to talk about her life now.

Today, Ms. Mackris lives with her cats in an art-filled condo in her hometown, St. Louis, where she keeps bowls of colorful gumballs on tabletops. Her family is close by. She has traveled the world, volunteered, returned to school, discovered prayer and meditation, and started writing.

She is working on a book she researched and wrote over the past four years about a woman who fled Romania during World War II.

“A few years ago, I heard about a pair of natural pearl earrings forgotten in a drawer for 35 years that had just sold for millions at auction,” Ms. Mackris said. “They’d been given to a woman named Elena Lupescu by the king of Romania who ruled up until World War II, and I was immediately and completely taken by her story.”

“She lived in exile,” Ms. Mackris continued. “She lived in silence. And I got really curious about three things: How did she live with it all? Did she forgive them? And was she free?”

At Fox News, Mr. O’Reilly has continued his dominance. In the months since the presidential election, as the network has pulled in record ratings, his show has averaged 3.9 million viewers a night, according to Nielsen. Since September, he has released three books, including one for children, adding to his growing publishing empire. And in February, Mr. O’Reilly landed a coveted interview with President Trump before the Super Bowl.

Mr. O’Reilly was an early defender of Mr. Ailes and Fox News during that sexual harassment scandal last summer. His support remained resolute into the fall, after the company had reached agreements to settle the harassment claims from Ms. Huddy and Ms. Dhue. In November, he chided Megyn Kelly, his colleague at the time, after she described being sexually harassed by Mr. Ailes in her memoir.

“If somebody is paying you a wage, you owe that person or company allegiance,” he said on his nightly show, without mentioning Ms. Kelly by name. “You don’t like what’s happening in the workplace, go to human resources or leave.”

In second week of US-Israel talks, Trump ‘concerns’ on settlements remain

WASHINGTON (JTA) — After a lengthy session of U.S.-Israel talks, Israeli negotiators said they would take into account Trump administration “concerns” about settlement building, a sign that the issue continues to dog relations between the countries.

The joint statement released Thursday night after four days of talks between top officials said the issues are “exceptionally complicated,” a signal that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s optimism about a renewed diplomatic closeness with the United States after eight years of tension with the Obama administration may be fading.

“The United States delegation reiterated President Trump’s concerns regarding settlement activity in the context of moving towards a peace agreement,” the statement said. “The Israeli delegation made clear that Israel’s intent going forward is to adopt a policy regarding settlement activity that takes those concerns into consideration.”

While the statement mentioned progress in areas like facilitating economic growth in the West Bank and allowing humanitarian relief into the Gaza Strip, it was clear the settlements issue is far from resolved.

“The talks were serious and constructive, and they are ongoing,” the statement said.

Leading the talks were Jason Greenblatt, a longtime adviser to President Donald Trump whom he has tapped to oversee the renewal of peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and Yoav Horowitz, Netanyahu’s chief of staff, and Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States.

The talks come after Greenblatt’s visit to the region last week, which featured two long meetings with Netanyahu and a meeting with Palestinian leaders. Trump last month asked Netanyahu during a news conference at an otherwise friendly White House summit to stop settlement building for the time being. Netanyahu earlier Thursday denied reports that the Trump administration wanted a settlement freeze.

Reports have suggested that the Trump team is ready to be less censorious on settlements than the Obama administration, countenancing for instance building in eastern Jerusalem and in settlements that likely would be annexed to Israel in a final-status agreement.

Netanyahu, under pressure from his government’s right flank, wants room to continue building in other areas as well.