Washington, DC -Americans for Peace Now (APN) is alarmed by the huge increase in West Bank settlement construction, and joins its Israeli sister organization, Peace Now, in calling on the government of Israel to immediately stop settlement construction.
APN praises its Israeli sister organization, Shalom Achshav (Peace Now) for breaking the news about this sharp increase in settlement construction, based on official Israeli government data.
APN's President and CEO Debra DeLee said: "Thanks to Peace Now's diligent scrutiny of settlement construction data, we know that while Israeli leaders talk the talk about a two-state solution, their policies undermine it. Through building settlements in the West Bank, where the Palestinian state is to be established, the Israeli government is undermining the Obama administration's efforts to secure the Israeli-Palestinian peace accord that Israelis want and deserve, and which the United States needs in order to advance its interest in the Middle East and beyond."
DeLee said: "We join our colleagues at Israel's Peace Now movement in calling on the Israeli government to stop settlement construction. As Peace Now points out, 'Any government committed to peace would not allow, nor continue, to build settlements that inevitably harm the chances for peace.'"
Last week, Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, a government agency, issued new data showing that in the first quarter of 2013, construction in the West Bank increased by 335% in comparison to the last quarter of 2012, and reached a seven-year high. Between January and March 2013, construction of 865 new housing units began in the West Bank. Many of the construction sites are east of the Separation Barrier, outside of so-called "settlement blocs," deep inside the West Bank, in areas that Israel would have to cede to Palestinian control in the context of any future Israeli-Palestinian peace accord.
Construction Starts in Settlements Reach 7 Year High; Inside Israel Construction Starts Decrease.
According to recent Israel Central Bureau of Statistics data, construction starts in the West Bank skyrocketed during the first quarter of 2013. Despite the fabled 'settlement freeze' or 'restraint', construction continued uninterrupted. Between January 2013 and March 2013 construction of 865 new housing units began. This is three times as many construction starts compared to the same quarter last year (January-March 2012). If compared to the final quarter of last year (October-December 2012), this is an astonishing 355% increase.
Quarterly Construction Starts in Settlements (Data from the Israeli CBS)
Peace Now: So long as there is no full settlement freeze settlements will continue to grow wildly. A government committed to peace would not allow nor continue to build settlements, which inevitably harms the chances for peace. These findings provide further evidence of a continuing government policy of prioritizing settlement expansion, at the expense of the majority of Israeli citizens. Settler populations are a mere 4% of the population but received 176% increase in construction starts, while the other 96% of Israeli citizens received an 8.9% decrease in construction starts.
Construction starts in the same period inside Israel decreased 8.9% despite continued public outcry over increasing economic hardship and the cost of housing. Meanwhile, construction starts in the West Bank increased 176%.
The CBS statistics does not provide a breakdown of all construction starts by location so it is unclear exactly how many units were begun in each location. However, the CBS data does note that many of the units are located in Modiin Illit (241 units) and Beitar Illit (265 units). According to our research construction is taking place in many settlements east and west of the separation barrier.