Defense Minister Approved 3,000 New West Bank Homes in First Four Months of Term

Despite Israel's declarations, construction was not limited only to settlement blocs; Barak approved 6,200 West Bank housing units during his last four months in office.

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon furthered the construction of 3,000 housing units in West Bank settlements during the first four months of his term, according to Defense Ministry figures.

The figures, which were made available to Peace Now under the Freedom of Information Act, relate to the period of March to July of this year. During that period, Ya’alon approved the construction of 386 housing units in Beit El - in compensation for the state’s demolition of houses in the Ulpana neighborhood - 277 units in Elei Zahav, 290 units in the Har Ephraim neighborhood of Kedumim, 550 units in Talmon, and a total of 984 units in two areas of Givat Ze’ev.

The information follows an Haaretz report Monday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had reiterated to the United States that he did not intend to advance construction in the settlements.

Ya’alon also approved expanding the municipal boundaries of the settlement of Shiloh, making further construction there possible, and a nature reserve was appended to the settlement of Negohot. The Civil Administration is now considering whether to change the definition of the area as a nature reserve, which would enable construction on the land.

A look at the map reveals that, despite the state’s declaration that construction would be restricted to settlement blocs, there are plans for all the settlements, including those along road 60 and those distant from the separation barrier. For example, Talmon, which is isolated, is one of the settlements where new housing has been approved.

The defense minister did not approve housing plans in the controversial E1 area near Ma’aleh Adumim east of Jerusalem, where Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Atias has been seeking approval for new construction.

Ya’alon is a frequent and welcome visitor to West Bank settlements. Davidi Perl, chairman of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, has called him “a true friend of the settlements." By contrast, former defense minister Ehud Barak, who enabled twice as many housing units as Ya’alon, is considered an opponent of the settlements.

The figures provided by the Defense Ministry also pertain to approvals given by Ehud Barak from November 2012 last year until his term ended in March 2013. Barak approved a total of 6,200 housing units in 15 different settlements. Among them were 550 units in Kfar Adumim, 40 units in the outpost of El Matan, 839 units in Ariel, 720 units in Alfei Menashe, 48 units in Kiryat Arba (to be built by Amana, the settlement movement of Gush Emunim,) 42 units in Almon, 150 units in Adam and 260 units in Tzofim.

According to Lior Amihai, of Peace Now’s settlement watchdog team, “the defense minister has become a rubber stamp of the Yesha Council of Settlements and the settlers. Despite attempts to conceal most of the information, we were able to uncover a wave of construction authorizations by means of the Freedom of Information Law, as well as plans for 9,000 housing units in nine months.”

Amihai added that while Justice Minister Tzipi Livni is promoting a peace plan, “behind the scenes, Ya’alon and Ariel and continuing to promote construction plans, which, if they are fully realized, will change the map of the West Bank significantly. The prime minister must instruct Ya’alon to stop advancing the plans.”

Construction at the West Bank settlement Mitzpe Dani.Credit: Emil Salman

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