Settlement construction declining

But number of settlers living in Judea and Samaria has risen faster than country's population.

construction tekoa 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
construction tekoa 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
New construction by Jews in Judea and Samaria has dropped more quickly than the national average, even as the number of settlers living there has risen faster than the country's population as a whole. The number of newly completed housing units in Judea and Samaria went down by 29 percent in 2007 compared to 2006. For the rest of the country, the fall was 7.2%, according to information released by the Central Bureau of Statistics. Similarly, new housing starts decreased by 8.7% in Judea and Samaria last year, compared with an overall decline of 4.2%. While 19,115 apartment units were completed in Judea and Samaria in the past seven years, the annual number of starts and finishes went down each year. In 2000, for example, 3,801 apartment units were completed, compared to 1,539 in 2007, according to the bureau. At the same time, according to the Interior Ministry, the number of settlers in Judea and Samaria rose by 5.6% last year, compared to 1.7% for Israel as a whole. That discrepancy between population and housing is likely to grow in the coming years, said Pinhas Wallerstein, director-general of the Council of Jewish Communities. Wallerstein blames the drop in new housing on the government and not the market, which he said, could bear a much larger number of units in Judea and Samaria. He and other settler leaders have complained that the government has stopped issuing construction permits in Judea and Samaria in recent months. Work could begin on 1,390 new units this year based on previously issued permits, said Wallerstein. No new permits are being issued, Wallerstein said, so if no change is made, construction in Judea and Samaria will grind to a halt. He added that this was true even in the large settlement blocs that the government has said it wants to retain in a final-status deal with the Palestinians. The freeze in new permits has been one of the sticking points in the negotiations between settlers and the Defense Ministry over the fate of the 105 unauthorized outposts. Last fall, settlers broke off talks over the lack of new permits for authorized settlements. Recently, they resumed the talks in hopes that they would lead to the legalization of many of the outposts and thus pave the way for renewed construction. The media this week reported a possible "mini-deal," in which some small outposts would be moved and others legalized as part efforts to build mutual confidence. But at the Migron outpost, which, according to the government, is slated for removal, residents told The Jerusalem Post they had no intention of going anywhere. The Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, said one Migron spokesman, did not represent them. This weekend, the Migron families plan to send an informational pamphlet to synagogues to help people learn about their community. The outpost is a 20-minute drive from Jerusalem.