Peace Now News Flash: So How Much was Built in the Settlements? ICBS and Peace Now Data Discrepancy Explained

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?

In order to understand the differences between Peace Now’s figures and the CBS’ figures one must understand the methods for data collection of each of these institutions. The CBS calculates construction starts based on the date a construction permit is issued by the local authority. In reality, the time that passes between the date in which the permit is granted and the beginning of construction changes from one project to another; sometimes, it takes days until the bulldozers start the construction on the ground, and sometimes it takes weeks and even months. Peace Now’s count is based on all visible construction starts on the date the aerial photos are taken. All new construction starts that aren’t visible in the previous years’ aerial photos count as new construction starts.

In addition, the CBS publishes its figures every three months, while Peace Now usually conducts an aerial survey once a year. Thus, it can be said that Peace Now’s figures are more accurate in terms of the situation on the ground but are less accurate in terms of their actual date within the year. Peace Now’s data for 2013 and 2014 was in fact mid-year data, and included half of the previous year and half of the actual year. If we compare the CBS figures to Peace Now’s figures in the same time period, Peace Now’s data will indicate 2,243 construction starts in 2013 and the CBS data will indicate 2,706. As for 2014, Peace Now’s data will show 3,100 construction starts and the CBS data will show 2,101. Calculating the total of each, the difference is of 536 housing units. (2243+3100=5,343 according to Peace Now and 2706+2101=4,807 according to the CBS). This is a reasonable difference which can be explained by the illegal construction and the mobile homes in the settlements that are not being counted by the CBS and by additional methodological differences listed below.

So how much was actually built in the settlements? It is safe to say that in the past two years construction starts for approx. 5,000 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 2014 the speed of construction starts was rather equal to that of the last few years. This jump was reflected in Peace Now’s data only in 2014.

The following are some additional differences between the data of CBS and that of Peace Now:

1.    Data compilation method – The CBS relies mainly on local authority reports regarding the number of issued construction permits and does not conduct a count in the field. Peace Now counts the construction starts individually by comparing aerial photos.

2.    Data quality – CBS Definitions demonstrate that local authority figures for the settlements are partial and problematic: “Construction figures for Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, with populations of up to 10,000 residents, are presented as a summary due to the low-quality of the data in some of the settlements.”

3.    Illegal construction– The CBS does not count illegal construction: “Construction figures do not include caravans, trailers…outposts in Judea and Samaria, construction for which the CBS received no reports on construction permits. Illegal residential construction that was not included in the Ministry of the Interior report (CBS Definitions).

4.    Delayed data update – The CBS continues to compile and receive local authority reports after publishing quarterly figures, updating the numbers retroactively. Every quarter, along with the figures for the new quarter, a report is published with updates for previous quarters. As such, the CBS figure for 2014 will be updated and increased.