Israel advances plans for over 2,300 settlement homes, most deep in West Bank
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Israel advances plans for over 2,300 settlement homes, most deep in West Bank

Left-wing group blasts approval of project to be constructed right along security barrier after government demolished Palestinian homes in Wadi Hummus built just as close to wall

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

Men work on a new housing project in the West Bank settlement of Naale, January 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Men work on a new housing project in the West Bank settlement of Naale, January 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The Defense Ministry body responsible for authorizing settlement construction has advanced plans for over 2,300 West Bank homes.

During sessions on Monday and Tuesday, the Civil Administration’s High Planning Subcommittee cleared 1,466 homes through an early planning stage while 838 homes received final approval for construction throughout the West Bank.

The majority of the homes advanced will be located deep in the West Bank, beyond the so-called settlement blocs.

The batch of approvals followed the security cabinet last month okaying a plan to grant 715 building permits for Palestinians in Israel-controlled Area C in the West Bank, where for decades only several dozen homes have been green-lighted for construction. Due to the political ramifications of the approval, several ministers insisted it be conditioned on the parallel granting of 6,000 building permits for Israeli settlers.

Among the plans approved by the Civil Administration this week were three projects in wildcat outposts, thus granting the outposts retroactive legalization: Givat Salit in the northern Jordan Valley, where 94 homes received final construction approval, Ibei Hanahal southeast of Bethlehem, where 98 homes were given final approval; and Haroeh Ha’ivri east of Jerusalem where an educational campus was given final approval. Haroeh Ha’ivri is located several hundred meters from Khan al-Ahmar, a Bedouin hamlet that the state has declared it intends to demolish because it was built without the necessary permits.

A view of houses in the Etzion bloc settlement of Efrat on November 27, 2018. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Also given final approval was a plan for 194 homes in the Ganei Modiin settlement adjacent to the West Bank security barrier near the Israeli city of Modiin.

The Peace Now settlement watchdog blasted the government’s decision to authorize the plan when just last month it demolished several buildings in Wadi Hummus, including a number in Palestinian-controlled areas A and B of the West bank, because they were considered to have been built too close to the security barrier.

“The linkage of thousands of housing permits for settlers and a negligible number of housing units for Palestinians cannot hide the government’s discrimination policy,” Peace Now said.

A map showing the proximity of a new building project in the Ganei Modi’in settlement to the West Bank security barrier. (Peace Now)

Seventy-seven percent of the homes approved Monday and Tuesday will be located beyond the planned or built route of the West Bank security barrier.

In 2018, only 37 percent of the of the 2,100 Israeli construction starts in the West Bank were beyond the barrier and outside of the so-called settlement blocs that most Israelis believed will be retained in any peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Speaking at the inauguration of a promenade in the Efrat settlement last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that “no settlement or settler will be uprooted. That is over…What you’re doing here is forever.”

There have been some 20,000 starts of settler homes in the West Bank during the past decade, while Netanyahu has been premier.

In a pre-April election pledge, Netanyahu vowed to annex parts of the West Bank if re-elected and asserted that he would not differentiate between the blocs and isolated settlements. “From my perspective, each of those settlement points is Israeli. We have responsibility [for them] as the government of Israel,” he told Channel 12.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inaugurates a new promenade in the West Bank settlement of Efrat on July 31, 2019, alongside Efrat Mayor Oded Revevi. (Igur Osdetchi)

Most of the international community opposes Israel’s military and civilian presence in the West Bank, which it considers to be part of the territory of a future Palestinian state.

The last time the Civil Administration convened to authorize settlement homes, in April, it green-lighted 3,659 houses — the most since US President Donald Trump took office two and a half years ago.

Under unofficial settlement guidelines coordinated with the White House when Trump took office, Israel agreed that the Civil Administration committee would meet once every three months instead of once every month.

Breaking from its predecessors, the Trump administration has avoided criticizing settlement construction. Special envoy Jason Greenblatt says he refers to Israeli localities over the Green Line as “neighborhoods and cities” while US Ambassador David Friedman has said he does not see anything wrong with Israel maintaining control over parts of the West Bank.

However, both have stated that Israel should hold off on annexation plans for the time being while Washington is gearing up to introduce the political portion of its peace plan.

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