Construction in West Bank settlement of Efrat, April 29, 2014..
(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
The number of West Bank housing starts dropped by 76.4 percent in the first quarter of 2014, compared to the same period last year.
That drop was much more dramatic than the 16% countrywide decrease in starts in the first three months of this year.
Overall there were 2,580 new starts in West Bank settlements in 2013, a sharp rise from 1,190 starts in 2012. But the largest number of starts – 981 – occurred in the first quarter of 2013.
In the first three months of 2014, in contrast, there were only 232 housing starts in settlements.
The number of finished homes also fell, dropping by 38.9%, from 257 in the first quarter of 2013 to 157 in the first three months of this year. Again that number was vastly different from the 2% nationwide dip in the number of finished homes.
Palestinians and the international community have charged that settlement building is a stumbling block to the peace process and have consistently called on Israel to halt such activity.
Israel has rejected that charge, insisting that it has a right to build in Judea and Samaria.
Settlers said that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ordered a halt to building planning and the issuance of tenders in settlements.
Late Wednesday night they met with Netanyahu to discuss the matter but did not reach a resolution. It was the first such meeting in over two years.
Efrat Council head Oded Revivi said: “We described to him the difficulties that we are facing. Some of the things he was aware of and other things that he was not aware of.”
Revivi added that the prime minister said he would keep an ongoing dialogue with the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria.
Revivi added that there was no clear freeze in planning and the issuance of tenders, but that certainly the process could be much faster.
The meeting was very technical, said one participant.
Council heads discussed problems with the planning process and proposed solutions.
“The prime minister listened very attentively and was active during the meeting,” the participant said.
But Netanyahu was careful not to acknowledge that a freeze in planning and issuance of tenders was in place, the participant said.
When pressed, the prime minister said that “there are constraints and pressures from the outside,” according to the participant.