PM meets with settler mayor who called him a liar
Netanyahu promises protesting Beit El residents construction is coming soon; new statistics show 70% rise in West Bank building
Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu granted the mayor of the Beit El settlement a meeting Monday, hours after the latter accused him of lying to him about West Bank construction permits.
A statement from the Beit El municipality following the sit-down said that Netanyahu assured Mayor Shai Alon that within a year he would fulfill his past promise to approve 300 new housing units in the settlement.
The prime minister had publicly pledged to do so in June 2012 following the destruction of five houses in Beit El’s Givat Ulpana neighborhood. The High Court of Justice had ordered the demolition of the buildings due to their construction on private Palestinian land.
Alon told the prime minister that he expected the issue to be raised before the cabinet by the end of the 2017 calendar year.
Sitting at a protest tent outside the Prime Minister’s Office earlier Monday, the mayor told reporters, “I hate it most when I’m lied to… Netanyahu promised… to build 300 homes in Beit El, but where are they? We have not gotten answers.”
A new campaign video released Sunday by Beit El residents featured five-year-old footage of Netanyahu pledging to expand the settlement with the words “You cheated us” flashing across the screen. The clip concluded with the threat: “If there is no building in Beit El, we have nothing more to say to you.”
During a contentious Monday Likud faction meeting, Netanyahu assured fellow lawmakers of his intentions to fulfill his promise to Beit El residents. “It will not take ten years and it won’t take a year either.” He went on to imply that there were outside forces that had prevented him from fulfilling his promise until now.
“I will write in my memoirs what caused the delays,” he said.
In a statement of his own following the Likud meeting, Jewish Home party head Naftali Bennett said “we expect the prime minister to honor his commitment, which he repeated not once or twice, but several times, to build units in Beit El.”
But as settlers lament the perceived lack of West Bank construction, data published by Israel’s Central Bureau for Statistics showed that there has been a 70% increase in building since last year.
From April 2016 to the end of March 2017, construction of 2,758 housing units began in the settlements compared to 1,619 construction launches the year prior, according to the CBS. Meanwhile all districts within the Green Line saw decreases in building across the board.
Notably, when it came to building completions, West Bank settlements saw a 26% decrease since last year, as opposed to Israel-proper districts which largely enjoyed increases.
In a statement responding to the findings, the settlement watchdog Peace Now said that “Instead of working to solve the Israeli housing crisis, the government prioritizes a radical minority living beyond the boundaries of the state.”