New housing spiked only in West Bank settlements and Tel Aviv in 2018

On a percentage basis, West Bank settlements also saw the largest spike in housing finishes, 28% compared to the 3% increase in 2018 the rest of the country.

FILE PHOTO: General view shows houses in Shvut Rachel, a West Bank Jewish settlement located close to the Jewish settlement of Shilo, near Ramallah October 6, 2016 (photo credit: REUTERS/BAZ RATNER)
FILE PHOTO: General view shows houses in Shvut Rachel, a West Bank Jewish settlement located close to the Jewish settlement of Shilo, near Ramallah October 6, 2016
(photo credit: REUTERS/BAZ RATNER)
The only two regions of the country to see any increase in housing starts during 2018 were the West Bank settlements and Tel Aviv, according to data published by the Central Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday.
 
The settlements saw a 21% spike in housing starts and Tel Aviv saw a 10% rise when compared to the previous year, when there was a nationwide 10% decrease.
 
On a percentage basis, West Bank settlements also saw the largest spike in housing finishes – 28% – compared to a 3% increase in the rest of the country.
 
When looked at in real numbers, of course, the ground that was broken on 2,066 settler homes last year makes up only 4.3% of the nationwide total of 47,427 housing starts and a quarter (24.4%) of Tel Aviv’s 10,101 starts.
 
The quarterly release of construction data comes in the midst of the election campaign, in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is looking to hammer home the point to right-wing voters that his government has strengthened the settlement movement in Judea and Samaria.
 
The 2018 data marked the third-highest number of settlement starts under Netanyahu’s government recorded in any single year since he took office in 2009.
 
But the 2018 data still fell way below the high number of 3,143 settler housing starts that the CBS recorded in 2016, when former US president Barack Obama was in office.
 
Obama had a no-tolerance attitude toward the settlements and often condemned such activity. The administration of US President Donald Trump has repeatedly failed to criticize Israel over settlement activity.
 
With Trump in office, settler leaders had expected to see a dramatic rise in building in Judea and Samaria, and have been frustrated that the number of housing starts has not exceeded that of 2016.
 
On Tuesday, they spoke with Netanyahu in a closed-door meeting about the need for more building. The Yesha Council wants to see a million Jews living in Judea and Samaria within the next decade. Ariel Mayor Eli Shaviro believes that as part of that drive, his settlement city can grow from over 20,000 to 100,000.
 
According to CBS data for 2017, there are over 413,400 settlers in Area C of the West Bank.
 
Yesha Council deputy head Yigal Dilmoni said he was pleased to see an increase in settler building on a percentage basis.
But the real number of units, 2,066 starts, is the lowest number in the country, Dilmoni said.
 
“The pace of building doesn’t come close to our needs,” he said. “There are thousands of young couples that are waiting for new homes in Judea and Samaria,” he added.
 
Hagit Ofran, of Peace Now, said, “The Netanyahu government is continuing to build and to destroy the chance of two states.”
 
She added that the data show that the settlers’ claim that he is not building is incorrect.