(photo credit: Courtesy)
Welcome to the parallel universe of the Israeli settlement
Your key to entry is Nahi Eyal’s recent op-ed in The
Jerusalem Post (“The real root of the housing shortage,” July 26 p.14) in which
he constructs an alternate reality that provides him and his ideological
brethren shelter from all the real-world facts standing in the way of their
arguments for continued settlement expansion.
In Mr. Eyal’s alternate
reality, the supposed lack of settlement construction in the West Bank is the
primary reason for the housing shortage in Israel, and the widespread protests
it has prompted. In Eyal’s eyes, this dearth of settlement construction is due
to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s fear of Peace Now and other organizations
on the left that oppose settlement construction.
In Eyal’s universe, the
results of this fear include the prime minister’s abstention “from even
permitting building tenders in Jerusalem,” while instituting a “building
cessation” in the West Bank.
Unfortunately, in the real world, these
examples of Netanyahu’s submission to the will of Peace Now (although actually
serving Israel’s own best interests) are nowhere to be found.
one can be forgiven for seeing fear of Israeli civil society organizations in
the actions of the Netanyahu government.
Why else would it be pushing for
new laws intended to shut down protest against settlements, and other lines of
dissent? Why else would it take every opportunity to attack and demonize these
groups, with members of his government going so far as to call them terrorist
However, in the real world, building tenders for 238 housing
units in East Jerusalem have been published this year, according to Jerusalem
expert Daniel Seidemann. Over 2,100 units in East Jerusalem have been included
in plans deposited for public review (the last step before approval and
validation) this year. Meanwhile, in the West Bank, construction has started on
some 2,000 housing units in 75 different settlements since September 2010, with
11,000 more able to be built without any further government
Other unfortunate facts highlight Eyal’s flight to his own
parallel universe. There, all the undeveloped land within sovereign Israel
appears to be permanently unavailable for housing construction. Maybe it has all
been designated a grazing area in order to increase cottage cheese production?
Regardless, Eyal’s only option for new real estate development is the West
In his eyes, the government’s refusal to massively develop this
land for Israeli residential use is at the root of the increased housing prices
in settlements as well.
Back here in the real world, we know that, over
the past decade, 50 percent of public building has occurred in the West Bank,
while only three percent has been within Israel proper. Moreover, anyone wishing
to move to a settlement deemed to be within a “preferred development area” can
count on a range of subsidies and incentives from six different government
ministries. Furthermore, there is plenty of land to build on inside Israel, if
the government of Israel so desires.
Returning to Eyal’s reality, we are
told in his piece that the typical student protester who also supports Peace Now
“doesn’t understand” that this organization is partly to blame for the housing
crisis. But in reality, supporters of Peace Now understand all too well that
resources have been invested in the settlement enterprise at the expense of
providing housing in Israel proper. We understand that maintaining the
settlement enterprise costs Israel civilians an estimated NIS 8 billion
We understand how the settlement enterprise further entrenches
an occupation which threatens Israel’s existence as a secure, Jewish and
democratic state. We also understand that, unlike Mr. Eyal, we don’t have the
luxury of creating our own parallel universe.Aaron Mann is a graduate research assistant with Americans for Peace Now.