Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that despite claims to the contrary, it is not the construction in the settlements that has led to the latest wave of terrorism since new building in the settlements is actually declining.
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"There are people who will not like these figures, but there is no push but a decline," the prime minister said in his speech to the 37th World Zionist Congress on Tuesday morning in Jerusalem.
Netanyahu noted that 3,000 housing units were built on average in the settlements every year during his first term as prime minister. In comparison, 5,000 housing units a year were built in the settlements during Ehud Barak's term. Further, 1,900 units were built per year under Ariel Sharon and 1,700 a year under Ehud Olmert.
"In light of the circumstances in my recent terms the number of housing units built every year is 1,500 on average," Netanyahu said, adding that "we can talk about the reasons another time, but facts are facts."
Last week, in response to criticism against him because of the wave of terror attacks, Netanyahu told a meeting of the Likud Knesset faction that the number of settlers on the West Bank grew by 120,000 people during his first term as prime minister.
In recordings revealed by Army Radio, Netanyahu can be heard saying: "They accuse us from the left that from 280,000 we increased to 400,000, and that was during years we were told the official policy of the United States was 'not even a single brick.'" Netanyahu also told his MKs: "Thank God these things are not far from reality. This is the largest growth in our world."
Nonetheless, the increase Netanyahu discussed came from natural population growth and not new construction. An analysis of the data on internal migration from the Central Bureau of Statistics shows that 74 percent of the population growth in the settlements from 2009 to 2014 stemmed from natural growth. In 2014, the settler population grew by 14,200 people, out of which 11,800 were a result of births (after taking into account those who died that year in the settlements), or 83 percent of the growth. The rest were new immigrants or those who moved from elsewhere in Israel. In 2012, a year in which the contribution of natural growth was the lowest in recent years, it still made up 68 percent of the increase in the settler population.
The director general of the Foreign Ministry Dore Gold said Israel is committed to preserving the status quo on the Temple Mount. Gold addressed a conference of the Organization for Security and Co operation in Europe (OSCE) held in Amman, Jordan on Tuesday in which a number of Arab foreign ministers attended. In his speech, Gold said Israel is also committed to the peace agreement with Jordan, which states that the Hashemite Kingdom will have a special status on the Temple Mount.
Gold emphasized the need to fight incitement as one part of the war on terror, which harms all the countries represented at the conference. Times of crisis cannot serve as an excuse for not holding a dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians and Arab nations, he said.