West Bank settler construction is at its lowest point since US President Donald Trump took office in 2017, dropping by a third (34%) in the first three quarters of this year as compared to the same period last year, according to data published Thursday by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS).
The data showed that ground was broken for 1,167 homes from January to September of this year, the lowest such number in at least five years. In contrast, there were 1,772 settler housing starts in the first nine months of 2018.
Similarly, the number of finishes is down by 30%, with construction completed on 1,133 Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria in the first nine months of this year, compared with 1,625 homes in the same period last year.
The last time it was this low was in 2014, when there were 1,134 finishes.
The downward trend runs contrary to the national one, which showed a 3.7% spike in housing starts and a 2.3% increase in housing finishes.
Overall, there has been less settler construction in the first two years of the Trump administration with its 3,913 housing starts than in the last two years of the Obama administration when ground was broken on 5,189 such units.
The CBS report comes just a day after Nickolay Mladenov, United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, reported to the Security Council that plans for 22,000 Jewish homes had been advanced in West Bank settlements and east Jerusalem. The CBS data on settlement building does not include Jerusalem.
Yesha Council CEO Yigal Dilmoni blamed the drop on the low number of plans that were advanced in the last few years of the Obama administration prior to Trump.
“We are paying now for the freeze from before,” he said. What could be built, has been largely been built, and now the focus is on planning, so that “we won’t be in the same position in the future,” he said.
The time is now to plan and build, he added, especially in light of the Trump administration, which holds that Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria is legal under international law.