Construction in a Leshem, a new neighborhood of the Alei Zahav settlement.
(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
The number of homes built in the West Bank increased 54.8% in the first half of this year, compared with the first six months of last year, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported on Wednesday.
Similarly, there was a 49.6% jump in the number of housing starts in the same period, the CBS said.
Its quarterly release of data comes as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu headed to London to speak with his British counterpart, David Cameron, about the Quartet’s new push to revive the peace process, which has been frozen since April 2014.
Palestinians insist that they will not hold talks with Israel until it halts all building in West Bank settlements and east Jerusalem. Israel contends that such construction has no impact on a final status agreement for a two-state solution.
In the first two quarters of 2014, ground was broken on 657 new West Bank homes, and an additional 657 units were completed.
In terms of real numbers, the 983 construction starts in the West Bank make up only 3.9% of the 25,099 new housing units nationwide in the first half of 2015. Similarly, the 1,017 finished homes from January to June of this year equal only 4.7 of the overall 21,470 housing units completed the first half of this year.
Still, the growth rate for new construction in the West Bank significantly outpaces that of new building nationwide, which registered a 7.9% increase in housing starts and a 6.9% rise in finishes in the first half of this year, compared to the same time period last year.
Only the southern part of the country, which registered a 78.1 percent leap in new housing starts, outpaced building in Judea and Samaria.
Yigal Dilmoni, the deputy head of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria, says that he welcomes all news of construction growth, but that this is still not enough to provide adequate housing for the nearly15,000 new people who move into communities there annually.
The new building in these areas was authorized as part of the agreement Israel made with the PA to release “murderous terrorists” in exchange for settlement growth, Dilmoni said.
“We must be able to build in Judea and Samaria without freeing prisoners,” he adds.
For the past year, residents in Judea and Samaria have persistently complained about a freeze in construction, noting that, while there is growth in some communities, many others are frozen.
Peace Now executive head Yariv Oppenheimer says that the CBS data shows that “all complaining about a settlement freeze is an illusion and a spin. On the ground, things are being built all the time.”
Such building, he says, destroys the possibly of a two state resolution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.
“So this will be another year in which we are moving forward to a bi-national state,” Oppenheimer says.