settlements - Nir Kafri - October 22 2010
Construction in the settlement of Yakir after the freeze’s end in September 2010. Photo by Nir Kafri
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Construction began on 1,850 housing units in the West Bank in 2011, a 20 percent increase over the previous year, according to a report published yesterday by Peace Now.

But the figure for 2010 was unusually low, because a construction freeze was in place until the end of September of that year.

Of the new units on which work began last year, 35 percent lie east of the separation fence. But the majority were in major settlements that Israel seeks to keep under any agreement with the Palestinians, including 642 in Betar Ilit, 317 in Efrat and 277 in Ariel.

The government also promised last year to retroactively legalize some 600 houses in 11 illegal outposts. However, it's not clear when this will actually happen.

"2011 was a good year for the settlers," Peace Now Secretary General Yariv Oppenheimer told a press conference yesterday. "Despite the fact that the media talked a lot about [outpost] evacuations, the Netanyahu government legalized a record number of buildings."

Danny Dayan, chairman of the Yesha Council of settlements, responded that the settlers "promise to make every effort to give [Oppenheimer] material for many more hefty reports on construction."