In 2011, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government agreed to issue the largest number of West Bank settlement tenders — 1,577 units — more than were published in any of the last eight years, according to data issued Tuesday by Peace Now.

“2011 will be remembered as the year of the settlers,” Peace Now Executive Director Yariv Oppenheimer said at a Jerusalem press conference about the report.

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The number of tenders published mark a dramatic policy change from the first two years of Netanyahu’s government, when no tenders were issued, said Oppenheimer. “Netanyahu broke his own record.”

According to Hagit Ofran of Peace Now, the last time the numbers were higher was in 2003, under former prime minister Ariel Sharon.

In that year, which was prior to the announcement of the Gaza withdrawal, the government issued 1,917 tenders, Ofran said.

In the subsequent years the following number of tenders were issued: 912 in 2004; 1,154 in 2005; 919 in 2006; 65 in 2007; 539 in 2008; and zero in 2009 and 2010, according to Peace Now data.

When looking at the 2011 data, Ofran said, it is important to note that while the government in 2011 has published its intent to issue 1,577 tenders, contractors can only bid on 673 units in West Bank settlements. These include: 277 in Efrat; 277 in Ariel; 40 in Ma’aleh Adumim; and 79 in Har Adar.

The Ministry of Construction and Housing has also published its intent to issue tenders in the following West Bank settlements: 642 in Beitar Illit; 42 in Karnei Shomron; and 180 in Givat Ze’ev.

The Beitar Illit figure includes a 294-unit project that was publicized earlier this year and an additional 348 units the ministry issued a notice about only last month.

All the tenders were issued in the last seven months of 2011, but talk of new construction began in March after the terrorists infiltrated the Itamar settlement and stabled to death five members of the Fogel family.

At the start of November the Septet agreed to accelerate Jewish construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem as a retaliatory measure to protest continued Palestinian pursuit of unilateral statehood at the United Nations.

The decision came just one day after the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization accepted the Palestinian Authority’s bid to become its 195th member.

Most of the tenders – 1,201 units – were publicized and bid on only in the last two months of the year.

The sudden burst of construction tenders followed a two-year period in which there was both a de facto freeze on the authorization of new West Bank settlement construction and a 10-month moratorium on new settlement housing starts from November 2009 to September 2010.

In response, the Prime Minister’s Office pointed to actual construction numbers and not tenders, noting the number of new settlement housing starts had gone down dramatically during Netanyahu’s tenure in office.

“The current Israeli government has been attacked by the leadership of the settlement movement for being the ‘worst government in Israel’s history,’ when it comes to settlement construction,” the prime minister’s spokesman Mark Regev said.

“It is indeed true that we have shown more restraint on the issue of settlement than any previous Israeli government,” he said. “We initiated the unprecedented 10-month moratorium and even since the conclusion of that moratorium, we continue to exercise great restraint.”

Figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics published at the end of November show the number of West Bank settler-housing starts in the third quarter of 2011 was as low as it had been in that same period in 2010, when a government- imposed moratorium existed on such activity.

According to the CBS, there were 712 settler-housing starts in the first three quarters of this year.

In contrast, Peace Now on Tuesday, said that based on its data for the entire year, there were actually 1,592 housing starts in 2011.

According to the CBS there were 1,518 new settler starts in 2006, 1,471 in 2007, 2,324 in 2008, 1,962 in 2009 and 676 in 2010. The bulk of new construction in 2010, 488 units, occurred in the last quarter, after the 10-month moratorium was over.

Settlers have bitterly complained in the last years about Netanyahu’s construction freezes and argued his government needs to authorize more housing.

Still, its leadership on Tuesday did not attack the Peace Now report.

“We are committed to supplying Peace Now with a lot of material for its coming reports as long as the division of work is that we build and it writes reports,” said Dani Dayan who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.

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