Potential plans for the construction of 20,000 new Jewish homes in the
West Bank, if executed, would create the first new settlement blocs in
close to two decades, and for the first time ever, place them outside
the route of the security barrier.
It would also have expanded
the planning scope of the internationally controversial E1 project in
the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement, also known as a bloc, from 3,500
projected homes to 4,700. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, however, on Tuesday immediately froze attempts to expand the E1 project.
at least the last decade Israel’s governments have focused most of their
attention on building in the settlement blocs, in areas it believes will
remain part of the country in any final status agreement. Those areas
are all within the route of the security barrier, which has often also
marked Israeli thinking with regard to West Bank areas that it would
In the first half of this year, for example, 75%
of the housing starts, 1,100 units, were located within the five
largest West Bank settlements all located within the route of the
security barrier. According to the Central Bureau of Statics in 2012,
half of the settler population, lived in these five settlements.
Ministry of Construction and Housing’s new plans for which technical
design tenders were published late last month and made public on
Tuesday, mark a shift from that policy. The plans focus mostly on
building up areas of the West Bank whose status has been more tenuous,
that is, areas outside the route of the barrier, which also means that
the areas marked for construction are outside of the blocs and further
away from the pre-1967 lines.
There are 14,866 homes in these plans slated for areas outside the barrier route.
Israel has in the past approved building in isolated settlements
outside the barrier, those plans have not been on the same scale as
those the ministry is now contemplating and which Netanyahu has asked the ministry to put on hold.
executed, the plans would change the geography of how Jewish growth and
building occurs in the West Bank, and place large population centers far
away from the pre-1967 lines.
The Construction and Housing
Ministry has explained that it has preliminary designs for 650,000
homes across the country, of which only a fraction will ever see the
light of day. That is particularly true for West Bank settlements, where
many plans are shelved and even those which are advanced are still
rarely approved.Ma’aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel
has tried unsuccessfully for the last two decades, for example, to gain
approval to build in E1 and the technical planning phase of that
project is light years ahead of these new 20,0000 homes.
the technical work for these homes were approved, it would still take
years before the projects were ready to build and would need additional
approvals from the prime minister.
But once the homes in the
plans were fully built up, two new settlement blocs would have been
created, both in the Binyamin region.
The new plans include
designs to build 7,500 homes in the Kochav Ya’akov settlement, located
outside of Ramallah, in the Binyamin Region, 7.7 kilometers from the
Such a plan, once approved and totally built up,
could add 30,000 people into the Kochav Ya’akov settlement that now has
a population of 6,467, transforming it into a fifth West Bank Jewish
A second bloc would be created by the combination of new
construction in the Shiloh settlement, located 27.1 kilometers from the
pre-1967 lines, and the nearby Eli settlement, located 23.7 kilometers
into the West Bank.
The Shiloh plans call for 2,500 new homes, a
move that could add 10,000 people to a settlement with a population, as
of 2012, of 2,706.
In Eli the plans would add 2,000 new homes, a
move that could see 8,000 people move into the community which has a
population of 3,521.
In addition, there are a number of other
plans which would double and triple the size of existing West Bank
settlements outside the route of the security barrier.
Yeriho, the plans would add 1,000 new homes, a move that could add
4,000 people into a settlement with a population of 2,115. Mitzpe
Yeriho is located 15.3 kilometers from the pre-1967 lines in the
In the Gush Etzion region, 8.4 kilometers away
from the pre-1967 lines, the plans call for building 1,182 homes in the
Tekoa settlement, a move that would add close to 5,000 people into a
settlement with a population of 2,518.
Also in the Gush Etzion
region, 6.5 kilometers from the pre-1967 lines, there are plans to add
840 homes to an area of the Efrat settlement, that is located outside
the planned route of the barrier, that cuts through the 7,812 member
Within the route of the barrier, there were three
large plans of note. The ministry is looking to build 1,000 homes in
an unbuilt area of Gush Etzion called Gevaot, that technically falls
within the municipal boundaries of the Alon Shvut settlement.
present there is almost nothing there save for an educational facility.
In December the Defense Ministry advanced plans to build 523 homes at
the site, where the Gush Etzion Regional Council hopes to eventually
secure permits to build a city with thousands of housing units.
Ma’aleh Adumim, the third largest West Bank settlement, with a
population of 36,862, there are plans to add 2,500 news homes, including
through an environmental program that would destroy small structures in
favor of large apartment buildings. Included in the plans would be
designs to build up the empty area next to the Mishor Adumim
Separately, the ministry sought a way to push
forward the E1 project, located in an unbuilt area of the settlement,
which is slated for the development of 3,500 homes. Last year, Netanyahu
approved to deposit plans for those homes, which Kashriel says have
since been frozen. The ministry now wants to expand the scope of that
project, by adding in another 1,200 homes. Netanyahu immediately froze
those plans. E1 has been a particularly internationally controversial project
because the Palestinians want to develop that area as part of a
corridor that would swing down from east Jerusalem to Jericho, and
sideways both toward Ramallah and Bethlehem.
Israel sees the area
as important to preserving a united Jerusalem and believes development
of E1 would not harm the Palestinian plans. But in light of
international pressure, it has not approved construction there.
projects the ministry included in its plans for 20,000 homes are: 600
for Neve Tzuf, 500 for Ma’aleh Levona, 358 for Ma’aleh Amos, 350 for
Nahliel, 300 for Dolev, 300 for Nili, 200 for Psagot, 200 for Bat Ayin,
150 for Kochav Hashahar, 160 for Asfar, Nokdim 146 and 100 for Rimonim.
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