A recent article in Foreign Affairs by Brookings fellow Natan Sachs is getting a lot of attention: Why Israel waits: Anti-Solutionism as a strategy. (Full disclosure: Sachs is a friend and someone for whom I have great professional respect.)
The piece offers some valuable insights into how Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and those around him
justify their approach on national security issues. However, the analysis suffers from an important omission with
respect to the Israeli government's approach to the Palestinians, and offers a policy recommendation that, if
adopted, would be disastrous.
Rejecting any claim that settlements play a part in the current violence, Netanyahu has adopted data showing
he's built less than his predecessors. But don't believe the statistics.
Jointly authored by Lara Friedman, APN (USA) and Hagit Ofran, Peace Now (Israel)
Defenders of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu have seized on a recent report in Haaretz to argue that Netanyahu’s record shows that he has, in fact, been less pro-settlements than his detractors (including Peace Now) have suggested. Their argument hinges on a single statistic raised in that story: the average number of construction starts in settlements per year, as counted by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS), across the 6 years Netanyahu has been in office, compared to that same number for previous prime ministers over the past 20 years. But as is often the case when it comes to statistics, the devil is in the details, and a single statistic taken in isolation will always obscure more than it reveals.
1. Netanyahu announces intention to build bypass roads in the West Bank (our estimates and a case study of the Lieberman Road showcasing the impact of bypass roads on settlement development)
2. Pending violent eviction of a Palestinian family in Silwan
The murders of toddler Ali Dawabsha and his father Saed generated an uproar. The fire set to the house in the Palestinian village of Duma with its dwellers inside, led to the death of two and the mortal injury of two others. However, this horrid act was not committed in a void. Since 1999, when the illegal outposts began appearing in the nearby “Shiloh Valley,” the region has undergone a process of increased Israeli control and Palestinian ousting.
This objective is often achieved through violence as a political tool for altering the status quo in favor of the settlers. This process is made possible, inter alia, by the fact that the region is a lawless area. Throughout the years, wild outposts’ settlers have enjoyed ongoing support from the authorities, whether by act or omission: a local authority allocating financial support, government offices build and provide infrastructure, enforcement agencies avoid enforcing the planning and construction laws, security forces do not only protect illegal outpost settlers but also help them remove Palestinians from the farmlands, even when it is their personal land. Changes in this area in the years after the wild outposts were established demonstrate that the settlers’ presence in the area leads to ongoing thievery and acts of violence.
The sub-committee for settlements of the higher planning committee of the military’s Civil Administration met
yesterday to discuss 15 plans, at various planning stages and in different settlements. In total, the committee
discussed plans that regard 1,065 housing units. Of these housing units, the plan approved 541 new housing units,
retroactively legalized 228 existing housing units, and approved the development of infrastructure for a plan that
consists of 296 housing units, while further approval will be needed before construction of the housing units can
It is safe to say that in the past two years construction starts for approximately 5,000 housing units
took place in the settlements. This huge jump in construction starts took place, according
to the CBS, mainly in the beginning of 2013, whereas in Peace Now’s data it was reflected only in 2014.
On March 10, 2015 the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS or CBS) published the number of construction starts for 2014. According to the CBS, 1,344 new housing units started to be built in the settlements in 2014 and 2,829 units in 2013. Peace Now, who conducted a count of all construction starts based on aerial photos, reported a higher figure for 2014 (3,100 housing units) and lower one for 2013 (2,243 housing units). So how much was actually built?