RAMALLAH, December 23 (JMCC) - The three months since the end of the settlement construction freeze has seen a building boom. This is especially true in remote communities, located deep in the West Bank, that are unlikely to be part of Israel in a two-state peace deal with Palestinians.
This means that if negotiations ever get back on track, there will be thousands more Israeli settlers who will have to relocate into Israel, posing new problems over how to accommodate them while creating a Palestinian state on the land where many of them are living now.
In addition to West Bank settlement building, construction for predominantly Jewish housing in East Jerusalem, where the Palestinians hope to make their future capital, has been rapidly growing after a break of half a year, with hundreds of units approved and thousands more planned.
On a tour of West Bank construction sites, Dror Etkes, an anti-settlement advocate who has spent the past nine years chronicling their growth, said he doubted whether there had been such a burst in settlement construction in at least a decade.
Hagit Ofran, a settlement opponent who monitors their growth for Peace Now, said, “We can say firmly that this is the most active period in many years.” She said there were 2,000 housing units being built now and a total of 13,000 in the pipeline that did not require additional permits. In each of the past three years, about 3,000 units have been built.
While government data on the building will not be published until the new year, settler leaders did not contradict these assessments.
“The freeze is over, and we are filling in the gap of need that was postponed,” said David Ha’Ivri, spokesman for the Samaria Regional Council in the northern West Bank. “The Peace Now numbers are reliable. Their count seems to be correct. The only difference is that they see it as negative, and we see it as positive.”
Naftali Bennett, executive director of the Yesha Council, the settlers’ umbrella organization, said he had information only on where there was a lack of building, not where there was construction in progress. He said his group wanted government tenders for an additional 4,000 badly needed units, mostly in large settlements.
Read more at the New York Times…