peace now 88.
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The construction of 3,000 new housing units now under way in the West Bank has made it hard to enact a two-state solution, Peace Now director-general Yariv Oppenheimer told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
On the same day that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke of his support for a Palestinian state, Peace Now took reporters into the West Bank to show them how continued state-sanctioned construction there was thwarting that vision.
Such building "does not indicate an intention to withdraw from any part of the West Bank," Peace Now said in its annual report, which it distributed outside an unauthorized outpost.
It had hoped to bring reporters into the small hill top community, Alt. 468, outside of Nofei Prat. But border policemen and a few settler security officers prevented the group from entering the unauthorized outpost.
Under the bright midday sun, Dror Etkes of Peace Now, which monitors settlement activity, pointed to the ring of continuing settlement growth on adjoining hilltops, which he said would make it hard to provide contiguous territory for a Palestinian state.
Oppenheimer said that there had been some improvements in the issue of settlement expansion. For the second year in a row, no new outposts have been built, compared to the 50 such unauthorized communities established from March 2001 to 2005.
But he said growth continued both within the unauthorized outposts and the settlements themselves.
The report noted that the government had demolished nine empty permanent homes at the Amona outpost at the end of January 2006. It had, however,left intact the outpost itself where families still live in caravan homes on the site that includes a synagogue, a playground and a bus stop.
According to the report, "since February 2006 the government of Israel has taken no concrete action to dismantle outposts or even to curtail the illegal construction taking place in them."
Outpost expansion occurred in five communities slated for evacuation such as Mitzpe Lachish, T Junction-Givat Asaf, Ramat Gilad, Ma'ale Rehav'am and Mitzpe Yitzhar, the report said.
Overall 90 caravans were added to the 102 unauthorized outposts scattered throughout the West Bank. Permanent construction is ongoing in 30 of these outposts, according to the report.
Most of these changes occurred in outposts located in the area of the Binyamin Regional Council. Roads were paved in seven outposts: Kida, Hahar-Avnei Hefetz, Adei Ad, Nofei Nehemia, Magen Dan, Givat Sal'it and Hayovel. Overall, according to the report, some 2,000 settlers live in unauthorized outposts.
Within the authorized 121 settlements, construction has also continued, particularly in the larger ones such as Ma'ale Adumim, Modi'in Illit and Betar Illit.
Overall, according to the report, 952 housing tenders were published in 2006 compared to 1,184 in 2005. In the first three quarters of 2006, a total of 1,272 construction starts were recorded. In 2005, there were 1,727 construction starts in the West Bank.
Peace Now also noted that the number of settlers living in Judea and Samaria had also grown at almost three times the rate of the overall Israeli population, which rose by 1.8 percent from 2005 to 2006. In contrast, Peace Now said, the settler population grew by some 5 to 6%. The report noted that formal figures had yet to be released from the Central Bureau of Statistics and as such it had relied on preliminary ones from the Interior Ministry, which listed the settler population at 267,163 in 2006 compared with 253,748 in 2005.
The government had no response to the Peace Now report. The Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip noted only that it was continuing to grow, develop and live in the West Bank in spite of all the efforts of the Israeli left wing to destroy their movement.