Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday that plans to build 3,651 settler homes in the West Bank were approved last week, adding that the number of units slated for construction is at its highest since 1992.
Of the 3,651 units approved on June 6 and 7, 671 are meant for immediate construction, Lieberman said at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting.
"What we've approved on June 6 and 7 is the maximum that can be approved," Lieberman said, snapping at settler leaders who have claimed there is a "de facto freeze" of settlement construction. Further building would "stretch the rope beyond its limit, and thus put the entire settlement enterprise at risk," Lieberman said.
The defense minister said that since January 1, Israel has approved the construction of 8,345 settler homes, including 3,066 that are slated for immediate construction. "The numbers for the first half of 2017 are the highest since 1992," he said.
"I am aware more than anyone else of the construction needs in the settlements, and I am also well aware of the restrictions and the pressure that come from the international political community," he said. "This is why we took action, the prime minister and I, in a transparent and responsible manner.
"There isn't and there hasn't been a better government to take care of the Jewish settlement in Judea and Samara and to develop it," he said. referring to the West Bank.
Yossi Dagan, the head of the Samaria Regional Council, said that the figures Lieberman cited aren't precise.
"I respect the defense minister very much but unfortunately the numbers he mentioned aren't correct," he said. "The vast majority of the housing units in question are counted five or six times. The real number is less than 2,000 housing units in Judea and Samaria, in contrast to 20,000 housing units approved by the cabinet for the Arabs of Judea and Samaria, in Area C. This is why I'm asking this government to stop the de facto planning freeze."
An examination of the agenda of the subcommittee in charge of planning in the settlements in fact indicates that last week, plans to build some 2,000 homes were advanced. But according to the Civil Administration, the plans, which are at different stages, include almost 2,700 homes. The discrepancy might be explained by the fact that some of the plans are in early stages and may later include more housing units that will bring the number closer to 2,700. In addition to these, the government separately approved the construction of 700 homes.
Together these figures do approach the figure mentioned by Lieberman. However, the settlers are protesting the fact that most of these plans have only moved forward in the bureaucratic order, while few are close to actually being built.
According to the left-wing organization Peace Now, which keeps track of building in the settlements, this really is a significant year for construction in the territories – and these may be the most productive six months for the settlers since 1992, as Lieberman claims.
Netanyahu met with settler leaders to discuss their concerns on Wednesday. Sources who participated in the discussion between Netanyahu and the West Bank regional council heads described it as "an anger management workshop," and said that Netanyahu didn't really make any promises.
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