Israel green-lights 2,000 settlement homes; half are outside blocs

Among the 1,957 houses advanced, 696 gain final approval; over 1,000 more expected to be marketed by Housing Ministry in coming weeks

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

A view of construction in the West Bank settlement of Efrat on January 26, 2017. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)
A view of construction in the West Bank settlement of Efrat on January 26, 2017. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

The Defense Ministry committee responsible for authorizing settlement construction advanced plans for nearly 2,000 homes in the West Bank on Wednesday.

Of the 1,957 homes green-lighted by the Civil Administration’s High Planning subcommittee, 696 gained final approval for construction while 1,262 cleared an earlier planning stage known as a “deposit.”

Roughly half of the homes advanced will be located in isolated settlements, outside the so-called settlement blocs that most Israeli leaders argue will remain part of the Jewish state in any peace deal with the Palestinians.

Among the plans that gained final approval for construction was a 102-home project in the South Hebron Hills settlement of Negohot.

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A map pinpointing the settlements where building plans received final approval.

The South Hebron Hills regional council chairman Yochai Damari thanked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman in a Wednesday statement.

“In recent years, we have been working with the help of government ministers to build and develop the communities of the South Hebron Hills into a strong and well-established settlement bloc that maintains thousands of acres of state land and constitutes a security buffer protecting southern Israel,” Damari said.

Other projects that gained final approval for construction included a 54-home plan in the northern West Bank settlement of Har Bracha, an 84-home plan in the Etzion Bloc settlement of Nokdim, and a 70-home plan in the central West Bank settlement of Ateret.

Among the plans green-lighted through the “deposit” stage was a project of 189 homes in the settlement of Talmon, northeast of Ramallah. However, the slated neighborhood is not contiguous with the built-up area of the community, leading the left-wing NGO Peace Now to label it a new settlement entirely.

Other projects that advanced through the “deposit” planning stage included a 136-home project in the southern West Bank settlement of Tene Omarim, a 206-home project in Tzufim, and a 166-home project in Alei Zahav.

The number of homes advanced Wednesday differed starkly from the 3,900 units that Liberman pledged would be approved in a statement last week. Part of the reason for the discrepancy had to do with the fact that roughly a quarter (1,195) of the houses the defense minister mentioned are up for approval through a stage called “marketing.”

In this extra step in the planning process, homes are marketed by the Housing Ministry to private contractors, who are then responsible for carrying out the construction. However, this is not an approval that the High Planning subcommittee convenes to grant. It is likely that those 1,195 homes in city-settlements such as Ariel and Ma’ale Adumim will be marketed in the coming weeks.

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A map pinpointing the settlements where building plans were advanced through the “deposit” planning stage.

The remaining discrepancy between Liberman’s numbers and the amount of homes approved Wednesday arose from the fact that the defense minister appeared to recount some 700 homes that had already been approved in previous Civil Administration meetings.

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