70% Rise in Building Starts in West Bank Settlements During 2016-17

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Workers carrying material at a construction site in the West Bank settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim, January 2017.
Workers carrying material at a construction site in the West Bank settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim, January 2017.Credit: Mahmoud Illean/AP

There was a 70 percent increase in the number of building starts in the settlements in 2016-17 compared to the previous 12 months, according to data published Monday by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics.

There were 2,758 building starts in West Bank settlements between April 2016 and March 2017, compared to 1,619 in the same period between 2015 and 2016.

According to the data, since the beginning of this year there were 344 building starts in the West Bank. These follow the 839 homes started between October and December 2016; 478 units started between July and September 2016; and 1,097 units started between April and June 2016. Since the beginning of 2017, 403 housing units in the territories have been completed.

By contrast, almost every district in Israel proper saw a drop in building starts for the comparable period (April 2016 to March 2017), the CBS said. In the Central and Northern districts, housing starts dropped 6.5 percent; there was a 4 percent drop in the Jerusalem district, and around 1 percent in the south. The only area bucking the trend was the Haifa district, which saw a 6.5 percent rise in building starts.

The Peace Now nongovernmental organization called the data “worrisome,” saying it indicated that “the Netanyahu government is abandoning the periphery” while providing for the “extremist minority beyond the Green Line,” referring to Israel’s pre-1967 borders.

According to the NGO’s own data, which was published last month and is based on fieldwork by its monitoring team and not official statistics, there were 1,814 building starts in the territories in 2016 – a rise of 34 percent compared to 2015.

Peace Now said 70 percent of the new housing starts were “in isolated settlements that Israel will have to evacuate as part of a permanent [peace] settlement,” and that its count included illegal construction.

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