Peace Now: Settlement construction down 15%

Group says number of Jewish homes built in 1st half of 2009 significantly less than previous half year.

maaleh adumim construction 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
maaleh adumim construction 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Construction in the Jewish areas of the West Bank dropped 15 percent in the first half of 2009, compared to the second half of 2008, according to a report by Peace Now issued Saturday night. Peace Now's use of the term "structures" in its report differs from that of the government, which counts only legal housing units in permanent structures, not modular homes or construction in outposts. Thus, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics, there was a 39% percent drop in the number of new housing starts in Judea and Samaria in the first quarter of 2009, the latest government statistic available, compared to the first quarter of 2008. In the first quarter of 2009, work was begun on 342 new apartment units, compared to 560 in the same period last year, the CBS reported. Overall, the media has estimated that work is now under way on 2,500 legal new apartment units. According to the Peace Now report, which defines "construction" more broadly, settlers erected 596 new structures in the West Bank in the first half of 2009, compared with 705 in the second half of 2008. Out of those, there were 372 new permanent structures and 204 modular homes in the first half of 2009, compared with 344 permanent homes and 361 modular homes in the second half of 2008. Overall 35%, or 208 of the structures, were outside of the route of the security barrier, where as 65%, or 388 of the structures, were inside the security barrier. Out of the 596 new structures, 500 were in settlements and industrial areas and 96 were in outposts. In the settlements, work was begun on 351 permanent structures, and 131 modular homes were completed. Work was also begun on 10 industrial buildings. In the outposts, 73 of the new structures were modular homes, 19 were permanent structures and four were industrial and or agricultural structures. The number includes new structures placed in 10 of the 26 outposts built after March 2001, which Israel has promised the United States it would remove. Included in that are new homes in the Migron outpost, which the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip has made a deal with the government to remove. Outside of construction work that is under way in the settlements of Ma'aleh Adumim, Betar Illit, Modi'in Illit and Givat Ze'ev, which are all close to the Green Line, there are also additional projects in Kochav Hashahar, Matityahu, Ma'aleh Michmash, Tekoa, Elkana, Na'aleh, Kfar Etzion, Barkan, Yitzhar, Beit Aryeh, Kfar Adumim, Revava and Nokdim. Peace Now took issue in its report with complaints by settlers and right-wing politicians against a de-facto freeze on new permits for construction projects. It argued that settlers can still build based on old permits, some of which go back to the 1980s. It charged that according to a 2004 Defense Ministry report done by Baruch Spiegel, some 40,000 apartment units in West Bank settlements could still be built from old permits. The Council of Jewish Communities dismissed this claim, saying that new Jewish construction has effectively been frozen in the West Bank. It added that Vice Premier Moshe Ya'alon was correct last week when he characterized Peace Now as a virus. The settlement of Yitzhar added in a statement that Peace Now was worse than a virus, because while a virus is indiscriminate, Peace Now attacks Israel and supports its enemies.