Heavy machinery work on a field as they begin construction work of Amichai, a new settlement which will house some 300 Jewish settlers evicted in February from the settlement of Amona, in the West Bank June 20, 2017..
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
The number of settler housing starts rose by 187% in the second quarter of 2018 compared to the first quarter, in what could be the first sign of an upward turn of actual West Bank settler construction in the era of the Trump administration.
According to data released on Monday by the Central Bureau of Statistics, ground was broken on 794 new homes from April to June of this year, compared with the work that was initiated on 279 such units from January to March of this year.
Until this quarter, actual settlement building had appeared to take a downward turn under the Trump administration, even though there has been a sharp increase in construction planning.
US President Donald Trump has also refused to condemn settlement building as his predecessor Barack Obama did
Still, in spite of the Obama administration’s no-tolerance policy for settlement building, the 3,121 settler housing starts in 2016 marked the highest number since the year 2000, when former Labor Party prime minister Ehud Barak was in office.
That number fell under Trump to 1,688 housing starts during the first quarter of 2018, dropping even lower than any single quarter in 2017.
The 2018 second-quarter housing starts are therefore 66% higher than the 476 housing starts in the same period of 2017.
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Settler housing starts in Judea and Samaria made for 7% of the 11,228 housing starts in the second quarter country-wide. The number of Israeli housing starts rose throughout the country in the second quarter of 2018 by 12.8%, when compared with the first quarter of the year.
The number of settler housing finishes in 2018 rose by 19% between the first and second quarters, from 489 in the first quarter, to 586 in the second quarter. The 2018 second-quarter data also marks a 66% increase over finishes in the second quarter of 2017.
Likewise, country-wide housing finishes in the second quarter rose by 11% from the first quarter in 2018.
“The government of Netanyahu continues to destroy the chances for peace and a two-state solution by building in settlements,” said left-wing group Peace Now in response to the data. “Unfortunately, we see that since the Trump administration, there is an increase in approvals in construction and now we start to see it on the ground.”
Yesha director-general Yigal Dilmoni said that the numbers were low relative to the needs of the settler population, which is growing more rapidly than in the rest of the country.
“We are talking about a few hundreds units, which is very little, relative to thousands built throughout the country,” he said. “Judea and Samaria still have the low building numbers, we expect and hope that we will be given more building permits.”
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