Israel green-lights plans for 1,300 settlement homes, hundreds more pending

Defense Ministry panel holds 2-day session to approve West Bank homes while many Western governments that typically condemn such construction are on Christmas holiday

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

A crane is used at the construction site in the West Bank settlement of Amichai on September 7, 2018. (AFP/Thomas Coex)
A crane is used at the construction site in the West Bank settlement of Amichai on September 7, 2018. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

The Defense Ministry committee responsible for authorizing settlement construction on Tuesday advanced plans for over 1,300 homes in the West Bank, with some 800 more slated for approval in an additional session scheduled for Wednesday.

Of the 1,352 homes green-lighted by the Civil Administration’s High Planning Subcommittee in 23 different projects, 807 gained final approval for construction while 545 homes had their plans cleared ahead of being considered for a final okay.

On Wednesday, 839 homes are slated to be okayed by the High Planning Subcommittee, with 352 gaining final approval for construction and 487 clearing the earlier planning stage.

In total 2,191 settlement homes are expected to be advanced this week, of which 1,038 will gain final building approval.

The sessions were scheduled on December 25 and 26, when many of the governments who typically release statements of concern over settlement building were off for the Christmas holiday.

The meetings also came a day after coalition leaders announced that Israel would be heading to elections on April 9 in a move largely believed to have been orchestrated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Among the plans advanced through the earlier planning stage Tuesday was a project for 82 homes in Ofra. Following a terror attack earlier this month at a bus stop outside the central West Bank settlement, Netanyahu vowed that he would advance building in the community.

Netanyahu also said he had directed the Defense Ministry to advance construction of industrial zones in Beitar Illit and Avnei Hefetz. These plans, which were already in the works before the attack, were slated to be green-lighted at the Wednesday High Planning Subcommittee session. Each of the plans that Netanyahu vowed to approve were already in the works before this month’s spate of Palestinian attacks took place.

Sixteen of the 23 projects advanced Tuesday were for homes that will be built east of the West Bank separation barrier and beyond the so-called settlement blocs that most Israeli believed will be retained in any peace agreement with the Palestinians.

A photograph of the construction work being done for a new neighborhood in the Ma’ale Amos settlement on June 18, 2017. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)

The communities that saw plans given a final okay included Adora (18), Tene (135), Ma’ale Michmash (62), Givat Ze’ev (220), Neve Daniel (180), and Carmei Tzur (120).

Beit Haggai (94), Shiloh (75), and Halamish (100) all had plans clear the earlier stage.

Among the communities slated to have plans approved on Wednesday are the northern West Bank settlements of Yitzhar, Rehalim, Shavei Shomron, and Har Bracha, though the majority of these projects are not yet up for final approval.

The Civil Administration’s Tuesday and Wednesday sessions are among the quarterly gatherings the Defense Ministry body holds following a reported agreement with the White House upon US President Donald Trump’s entry to office.

At its last meeting in August, the Civil Administration advanced plans for over 1,000 homes in the West Bank, with nearly 400 of them gaining final approval for construction. This in addition to hundreds more that were simultaneously placed on the market by the Housing Ministry.

The UN’s Mideast peace envoy earlier this month pointed to figures showing a slowdown in settlement housing starts over the last quarter, though that did not include the homes up for approval this week.

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