Construction permits, investment in settlements dramatically up

Increased settlement activity comes as Jordan Valley launches political campaign to get Blue and White Party to join effort to annex West Bank region

A general view shows the Israeli settlement of Beitar Illit in the West Bank April 7, 2019 (photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS)
A general view shows the Israeli settlement of Beitar Illit in the West Bank April 7, 2019
(photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS)
Building permits in settlements in the Samaria district have increased by 50% over the past five years, the head of the Samaria Regional Council Yossi said on Wednesday.
His comments, made at the Eilat Real Estate Conference, corroborate the recent trend dramatic increases in the approval of settlement housing construction plans in the West Bank settlements in general, according to Peace Now.
And while construction planning is increasing, the discretionary funds the government is investing in the settlements has also increased significantly in recent years, in which the annual average for such spending over the past two years is approximately 50% higher than the average over the past 15 years.
At the same time, the Jordan Valley Regional Council has launched political campaign to get the Blue and White Party to join effort to annex the West Bank region.
This heightened settlement activity is thought to be connected to the much softer stance the Trump administration has taken towards the issue, a policy which was underlined last month when the US reversed a previous policy stance to determine that Israel’s West Bank settlements are not illegal.
“One of the clear signs of the change that is happening in Judea and Samaria, and the understanding of more and more investors, is that Samaria is not the next thing but is the thing, is that the number of building permits that has gone up significantly in recent years,” said Dagan, noting the 50% increase over the last five years.
According to Peace Now, the number of plans for housing units in Judea and Samaria as a whole that have received initial or final approval since the beginning of the Trump administration has risen threefold over the figures for the latter years of the Obama administration.
The average number of housing units approved in the three years since Trump was elected is some 6,899 housing units, almost twice the average of some 3,635 units in the three years preceding him.
In addition, Peace Now issued a report on Tuesday demonstrating that discretionary spending by the government in the settlements has increased by 50% in the last two years.
Included in this spending is expenditure by various ministries outside the general budget, including from the Interior, Housing, Education, and Energy and Water ministries, as well as the National Roads Authority.
These funds go towards housing unit construction, as well as for internal roads, buildings for educational, social and religious purposes, commercial centers and industrial parks.
Along with the increased planning approval for new housing units and the increased government investment in the settlements are greater political demands for annexing portions of the West Bank, calls which increased on Wednesday.
Head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council David Elhayani said that recent developments of a “tectonic shift” in opinion towards the settlements, including the US policy that the settlements are not illegal, are an “opportunity not to be missed,” and announced a new public advocacy campaign for the annexation of the Jordan Valley region.
The campaign appears to be spawned by the current political paralysis, Elhayani saying that “local politics must not be allowed to harm the window of opportunity that we have received,” and adding said that time is running out.
Elhayani pointed specifically to the Blue and White Party as “the last obstacle” for the application of Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, and said that he expected that party leader Benny Gantz to “show leadership” and assist in this endeavor.
During the September election campaign, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to apply Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley, while Blue and White leader Benny Gantz said the Jordan Valley would always remain under Israeli control.
A spokesperson for Blue and White did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new campaign.