Housing starts in West Bank settlements increased by 96% in the last year, as settler leaders warned of a de facto planning freeze.
Ground was broken for 2,526 settler homes in 2021 compared with 1,286 the previous year, according to data published by the Central Bureau of Statistics on Sunday.
The data showed that work has begun on more new settlement homes in the first year of US Joe Biden’s presidency than in any single year under former US President Donald Trump’s tenure.
The spike also comes after such construction had plummeted in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. New settler housing starts were particularly high in the last quarter of 2021, when ground was broken on 960 homes – the highest number in a single quarter period since 2016.
There was also a 16% rise in the number of homes completed in West Bank settlements in 2021. Some 2,092 settler homes were finished compared with 1,802 in 2020.
The increase in housing comes amid a 70% decrease in the Civil Administration’s advancement of plans for new settler housing.
Plans for 12,159 settler homes were advanced in 2020 compared to the advancement of plans for 3,645 in 2021, according to the left-wing NGO Peace Now.
The Civil Administration’s Higher Planning Council, which is scheduled to advance such housing four times a year, has met less frequently, convening for the last time in October 2021. No date has been set for a new meeting.
Israel is under pressure from the United States not to advance plans for settlement construction.
US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides told Peace Now last week that he had intervened to prevent the advancement of a 3,500-unit project, known as E1, that is set to be located in the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement just outside of Jerusalem.
Nides said that settlement construction “infuriates” him and that his job is to halt such “stupid activity,” which would impede the realization of a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.