Successive Israeli governments have argued for years that settlements are not an obstacle to peace. The data tells a different story.
Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics revealed earlier this week that 2013 was a record year in settlement construction, while 2014 has seen the beginning of construction of 2,534 housing projects - a rise of 123 percent from 2013.
Settlement construction took place all over the West Bank – in the so-called settlement blocs, which could be annexed to Israel in a two-state framework; in isolated settlements that are slated to be evacuated under such an agreement; on the western side of Israel’s separation barrier (which was built inside the West Bank, rather than on the internationally-recognized border), as well as on its eastern side.
Those numbers do not include, however, significant “unofficial” construction taking place in “illegal” outposts, or construction in annexed East Jerusalem, which is not measured separately by the CBS.
When last year’s figures were published in Israel, there was a considerable pushback from the right, which claimed that the rise in construction projects for Jews in the occupied territories was meant to compensate for an unofficial settlement freeze in 2012. However, the rise in construction last year is just as high when compared to 2011 or 2010. In fact, 2013′s figure is the highest since the CBS started publishing this data in 2001.
Most of the construction (1,710 projects) is government-sponsored, a figure that says a lot the Netanyahu’s government’s effort at changing the reality on the ground.
The only other years in which the number of building projects surpassed 2,000 structures were 2003, 2005 and 2008. The interesting thing is that aside from 2003, these were all years in which there was so-called “progress” made between Israel and the Palestinian Authority vis-a-vis peace negotiations. For example, 2005 was the year of the disengagement, while 2008 saw direct negotiations between Mahmoud Abbas and Ehud Olmert (the Annapolis summit, which began the process, took place in November 2007).
And while there is no earlier...Read More