UN: Israeli Construction in West Bank Settlements at a Record Low

UN Mideast envoy Nickolay Mladenov says June to August 2018 saw the lowest number of units built in settlements since the UN resolution two years ago monitoring construction

Construction site at Ramat Shlomo in East Jerusalem, August 2018.
Emil Salman

The United Nations envoy to the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov, said that the fourth quarter of 2018 had set a record low for the expansion of West Bank settlements and construction in East Jerusalem since the UN Security Council passed a resolution monitoring Israeli settlements, in 2016.  

Resolution 2334 passed following the increase in Israeli construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Between June and August, Israeli authorities approved or advanced plans for about 2,200 housing units in Jewish settlements, Mladenov wrote. Most of these, about 2,000, were in East Jerusalem and 200 were in Area C of the West Bank.

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"This is the lowest number of quarterly advancements and approvals recorded since the resolution was adopted," he wrote. 

His count does not include government declarations on the intent to construct, such as the ones recently made regarding the settlement of Ofra following the shooting attack that claimed a baby's life and seriously wounded his mother.

However, Mladenov stressed, "All settlement activities are a violation under international law and a major obstacle to peace."

The envoy also emphasized that approval for 31 housing units had also passed in Hebron, as first reported by Haaretz. It is the first new construction in Hebron in 16 years, Mladenov reported.

Despite the UN data, the government has been making moves to retroactively legalize unpermitted construction in the West Bank. Just last week, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit approved using a complex and controversial legal mechanism that would legitimize around 2,000 illegally constructed buildings in the West Bank.