Despite the Israeli government’s declarations of widespread Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in reality only 46 of the over 3,000 housing units announced as being put out for bidding in 2017, according to the United Nations.
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The figures, revealed on Monday by Nickolay Mladenov, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process at a session of the UN Security Council in New York, show that for the first time in seven years, not a single new bidding process was completed for new Jewish settlement construction in traditionally Arab East Jerusalem.
The figures Mladenov presented to the Security Council also show that most of the construction in the Israeli settlements in the West Bank was concentrated in the “settlement blocs,” those areas of the West Bank most likely to remain under Israeli control in any future peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Some 80 percent of the construction announced by the government – even if the building has not yet begun – is concentrated in the settlement blocs, the main Jewish population centers in the West Bank, while the other approximately 20 percent of construction was in isolated locations, deep in the West Bank, said Mladenov.
Peace Now’s Settlement Watch project confirmed that only two construction bids were completed in the West Bank over this period. One was for the construction of 46 housing units in Ma’aleh Adumim, and the other – for three units in Ariel – was canceled after the bidding process began, apparently because of a lack of interest because of the bid’s conditions.
All the other bids, for 3,105 housing units, were postponed time after time.
No new bids were issued in East Jerusalem, but one earlier bidding process for 130 units of assisted living housing for the elderly in the Har Homa neighborhood that had been completed in the past was reissued.
But the postponement of the various tenders does not necessarily mean the units will never be built with new conditions in the future.
Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as their future capital and were incensed by U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent declaration recognizing the entire city as Israel’s capital, setting off the most recent wave of tension in the region. Continued Jewish settlement construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, annexed by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War, is considered illegal by the international community. It's also considered by the Palestinians and most of the international community as one of the major obstacles to eventually ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Jewish settlers, however, view it as their Biblical birthight to live there.
Mladenov’s figures also show somewhat of a decrease in violent attacks in the West Bank. In 2017 there were 109 incidents of shooting, stabbing and battery – compared to 223 such incidents in 2016. These incidents include those in which Israelis and Palestinians were injured.
In 2017, 72 Palestinians and 15 Israelis were killed in shootings or other attacks. It seems the UN figures include Palestinians who were shot during clashes with Isrsaeli security forces. In 2016, 109 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed in similar conflict related violence, reported Mladenov.