Peace Now: Settler construction is coming back strong

New report suggests that ‘1,126 foundations have been laid in 45 days, compared to 1,888 for all of ’09’; data relies on aerial footage.

Barkan settlement 311 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Barkan settlement 311
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Settlers have built foundations for 1,126 new homes in the seven weeks since the moratorium on such activity expired, but have yet to reach 2009’s level of building, according to data released by Peace Now on Saturday night.
Ground has been prepared for another 523 homes, but the foundations for these units have not yet been laid, the NGO added.
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The organization’s report, which relies in part on aerial footage, is the most comprehensive data to date on settlement construction in the aftermath of the freeze.
Governmental data on settlement construction for all of 2010 is not likely to be available until the end of February.
No full calculation was ever presented regarding the number of housing units on which work was suspended from November 26, 2009, to September 26, 2010. But based on past figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics, it was likely that work on anywhere from 1,000 to 1,600 housing units was affected.
According to the CBS, there were 2,107 housing starts in West Bank settlements in 2008 and 1,888 in 2009.
If settlers hope to reach the same level of activity in 2010, they would have to lay between 762 and 981 foundations in the next seven weeks.
Peace Now called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to renew the moratorium on new construction.
“The freeze had turned into a 10-month delay. If it is not followed by a second freeze, it will become irrelevant,” said Hagit Ofran, who heads the Peace Now Settlement Watch Team.
The Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip bitterly attacked the report and said it only wished that the “hallucinatory figures” were true.
Peace Now never misses an opportunity to “sabotage” Israel’s diplomatic interests, council head Dani Dayan said.
With this “garbled” report, Peace Now is trying to “incite” a disagreement between the United States and Israel, Dayan said.
It represents a “nasty and transparent” attempt by Peace Now to force the government to adopt an extremist left-wing policy, he said.
According to Peace Now, there are new housing starts in 61 out of the 121 settlements.
It added that 34 percent of the new construction was in settlements located outside the route of the West Bank security barrier.
The bulk of new work involves small projects of less than 50 units, according to the report. The largest new project, of 216 units, is in Betar Illit, the second largest Jewish West Bank community.
Leaders of that settlement – which typically contributes to a fair amount of new housing – have said that they are out of construction permits and cannot build beyond this project.
Construction numbers were low, 94 units, in Modi’in Illit, which is the largest settlement and normally builds hundreds of apartments every year. Similarly, the third largest settlement, Ma’aleh Adumim, has only registered 24 new homes since the moratorium expired.
Like Betar Illit, it has also said that it is out of construction permits.