CBS report: W. Bank housing starts rise

Work began on 593 Jewish homes from October through December, despite freeze.

The number of housing starts in the settlements rose in the fourth quarter of 2009, precisely when the government-ordered freeze on such activity should have pushed the numbers down.
Work was begun on 593 Jewish West Bank homes from October through December, a 73.3-percent jump over the first three months of 2009, when ground was broken on 342 homes, according to numbers released this week by the Central Bureau of Statistics.
The increase is even more dramatic – 84.7% – when the fourth quarter of last year is compared with the second, when work was commenced on 321 homes.
The tide, however, turned sharply in the third quarter, when work was started on 447 homes.
The numbers continued to rise in the fourth quarter, even though Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the cabinet imposed a 10-month moratorium on new settlement construction that took effect on November 29, which should have prevented any housing starts in December, and thus kept the fourth quarter tally down.
It was impossible from the CBS data to know how many new homes were begun in December. As of press time, the CBS had not responded to a Jerusalem Post query to clarify the matter.
These initial numbers represent the first official data on the impact of the freeze. It only covers one month of the freeze. The impact will be more apparent in May, when the CBS plans to release data on the first quarter of 2010.
Overall, according to CBS statistics, new settlement construction in the year 2009 fell within the overall pattern of past years.
The 1,703 housing starts in the settlements in 2009 marked a 19% drop from 2,107 in 2008. But that number was still higher than the 1,471 starts in 2007 and the 1,518 in 2006.
Out of the 1,703 housing starts last year, only 33.6%, 573, were public construction, and 1,130 were private. It was a drop from 2008, when 37.8% of the new construction was public.
Since the moratorium was put in place, inspectors from the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria have gone to all the settlements to monitor and ensure compliance. In some places they were initially met with stiff resistance by settlers who tried to block their entry by closing the community gates or by rallying in the middle of the road.
Last month, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i said 29 settlements were in violation of the freeze.
The civil administration and the IDF have handed demolition notices in cases of illegal construction and have threatened to demolish such work sites.
But to date, they have destroyed construction at only three sites where work was ongoing in violation of the freeze.
According to the terms of the moratorium, work was halted on all homesthat lacked a foundation. But work was allowed to continue on 3,000homes that did have foundations in place.
According to the CBS, the number of homes completed in the settlementsalso rose in 2009, to 2,077 homes, a 29.7% hike from the 1,601 WestBank Jewish homes that were finished in 2008. In 2007, 1,747 homes werefinished and in 2006, 2,167 homes were completed.