Israeli settlement construction down 23% amid cries of freeze

“There has not been, nor will there will be, a better government for settlements than ours,” Netanyahu said.

A CONSTRUCTION site in the West Bank settlement of Givat Ze’ev, near Jerusalem [File] (photo credit: REUTERS)
A CONSTRUCTION site in the West Bank settlement of Givat Ze’ev, near Jerusalem [File]
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In the midst of a right-wing political campaign for more Jewish building in the West Bank, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported Monday that settlement construction dropped in the first quarter.
Among other more general requests for increased building is a specific effort by the Beit El settlement for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to approve 300 homes he promised to the community five years ago.
Education Minister and Bayit Yehudi Party head Naftali Bennett on Monday called for Netanyahu to keep his word as he addressed a small rally on Beit El’s behalf outside the Knesset.
“Our vision is the application of Israeli sovereignty on Judea and Samaria, but the way to get there is through actions. Our expectations from the prime minister are not [unrealistic]. You must keep your promises you have made, not once, but a number of times to build these units,” Bennett said.
MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) called on coalition parliamentarians to boycott Knesset votes on legislation until the homes are authorized.
According to Beit El spokeswoman Yael Ben Yasher, the only step left in the process is for Netanyahu to authorize the Ministry of Housing and Construction to market the units.
Beit El Regional Council head Shai Elon threatened to turn to the High Court of Justice to force Netanyahu to approve the project.
The issue was raised at the faction meeting, as well. Netanyahu defended his record with regard to the settlements and construction within them.
“There has not been, nor will there will be, a better government for settlements than ours,” Netanyahu said.
“We are building in all areas of the land. We are doing it with determination, systematically and wisely.”
Netanyahu reminded the Right of mistakes it made in toppling other right-wing governments, leading to election wins by Labor Party prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak.
“There is no bigger mistake than toppling a government from the Right, and I am sure this mistake will not be repeated,” he said.
But settlers have argued that Netanyahu must do more for construction.
Israel announces plans to build 2,500 new West Bank housing units
CBS data showed that, for the first three months of this year, ground was broken on only 344 new homes in West Bank settlements compared with 477 for that same period last year and 723 such units in the first quarter of 2015.
This represents a 59% drop compared with 839 starts in the last quarter of 2016.
Similarly, the number of completed settler homes declined 34% to 403 in the first quarter from 611 in the first three months of 2016.
The numbers provide the first concrete data of settlement building under the administration of US President Donald Trump, who took office January 20. Since then, Israel has advanced or authorized more than 8,000 settlement homes, according to Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.
That sharp increase in approvals has not had time to translate into action on the ground, however.
Last year, there were 2,861 housing starts, a 51% increase over 2015 when ground was broken on 1,895 such units.
The CBS in 2017 began calculating annual data based on a trailing 12-month period rather than calendar year. Thus, data indicate 2,758 starts for the 12 months ended March 31 compared with 1,619 from April 2015 through March 2016 – a 70% increase.
“Instead of working to solve the Israeli housing crisis, the government prioritizes a radical minority living beyond the boundaries of the state.
"Yet, the highest price to be paid for the sharp increase in construction starts beyond the Green Line is a political price as such construction continues to distance us from the only way to end the Israeli Palestinian conflict – a two-state solution,” Peace Now said in response.