Israel set to green-light over 1,300 settlement homes next week

Among plans are retroactive building permits for 11 of the 15 homes sanctioned for demolition in illegal Netiv Ha’avot outpost

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

An illustrative photo of the construction of new houses in the West Bank settlement of Ma'ale Adumim, on September 25, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
An illustrative photo of the construction of new houses in the West Bank settlement of Ma'ale Adumim, on September 25, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Defense Ministry committee responsible for authorizing construction in the West Bank published on Friday building plans for over 1,300 Israeli settlement homes that it intends to push through the various planning stages when it meets next Wednesday.

Of the 1,329 homes set to be green-lighted, 361 of them are slated for final approval and 968 are set to be advanced through an earlier planning stage known as a “deposit.”

Among those to be sent to the deposit stage is a package of building permits for 11 of the 15 homes sanctioned for demolition in the illegal Netiv Ha’avot outpost next March.

The plan represents a last-ditch attempt by the Defense Ministry to save a majority of the homes after the High Court rejected a compromise proposed by the residents to cut off the “problematic parts” of six homes that only marginally sit on private Palestinian land.

Below is a map pinpointing the settlements where building plans are set to be advanced.  

[mappress mapid=”6264″]

The Netiv Ha’avot residents praised the plan’s inclusion in the Civil Administration committee’s agenda for next week, but expressed frustration that the government did not consult with them on the idea.

The largest plan slated to be advanced through the deposit stage was one for 289 housing units in the Alon neighborhood of the Kfar Adumim settlement.

A third of the expansion plans on Wednesday’s agenda are additions to already-existing ones.

But nearly two-thirds of the homes sit outside the so-called settlement blocs which Israel insists it would retain in any peace deal with the Palestinians.

Illustrative: Construction of new housing in the Israeli settlement of Kfar Adumim, September 25, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Responding to the Civil Administration committee’s agenda, the Peace Now settlement watchdog said that “the government continues to act irresponsibly by promoting settlement construction, including in areas that Israel will have to evacuate under a final status agreement.”

“Since US President Donald Trump took office, the Israeli government has abandoned all restraint and is doing everything in its power to destroy the chances for a two-state solution,” the statement said.  

The Yesha settlement umbrella council declined to comment.

Separately on Thursday, the government approved 420 housing units in the city of Ariel for marketing. These homes have already received approval for construction, but the plan’s location in a larger settlement required it to receive an additional authorization from the Prime Minister’s Office. Ariel Mayor Eli Shaviro thanked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman for their efforts in a video statement.

The Civil Administration High Planning subcommittee last met in October when it advanced 2,646 Israeli housing units; 1,323 earned final approval for construction.

A quarter of the houses that gained final approval belong to projects for evacuees of the illegally built outposts of Ulpana (in Beit El), Migron and Amona, which were demolished — in June 2012, September 2012 and February 2017, respectively — after the High Court of Justice ruled they had been built on private Palestinian land.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Yesha Council leaders at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on September 27, 2017. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

The High Planning subcommittee also dedicated over half of its October approvals to settlement homes located far beyond the large built-up areas along the pre-1967 Green Line.

This came after a September meeting with settler leaders where the prime minister Netanyahu boasted of having successfully convinced the Trump administration to drop its distinction between settlement blocs and so-called isolated settlements.

However, statistics revealed by United Nations Special Coordinator Nikolay Mladenov for the Middle East Peace Process last month showed that despite the final approval granted to over 3,000 West Bank housing units for marketing in 2017, just 46 have actually been built.

Under unofficial settlement guidelines coordinated with the White House when US President Donald Trump took office, Israel agreed that the Civil Administration committee would meet once every three months instead of once every month. In addition, Israel was told it could add an unlimited number of housing units to any settlement in the West Bank as long as it does not dramatically expand the community’s existing “footprint.”

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