Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been reducing approvals of construction within the settlements, according to Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel from the right-wing Jewish Home party, Ynet reported on April 26.
His remarks came a little over a month after Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics released figures showing that construction in the settlements plunged 47% last year, in spite of much-publicised announcements of approvals for construction after the inauguration of US President Donald Trump.
Ground was broken on 1,626 settler homes last year, just over half the figure of 3,069 in 2016.
Across the country, the number of housing finishes was up by 3% – but in the West Bank it was down by almost 4%, from 1,826 in 2016 to 1,759 in 2017.
Ariel, who served as the Minister of Construction in the last government, complained that curbs that had been in place under pressure from the Obama Administration have continued under Trump.
According to Ariel, any construction plan in the West Bank or in the capital requires the personal authorization of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who seeks to reduce the number of housing units approved and asks “Why so many?”
“Of course there’s a curb on construction,” Ariel asserted. “In the last year, there has been an improvement compared to the Obama era, but it’s far from what can and should be.”
“There is an agreement with the Americans that we could build, but not go crazy… but we have to admit the truth: There are significant limitations,” he claimed.
“Unfortunately, this wasn’t what we prayed for. I, personally, am very disappointed,” Ariel continued. “Israel is interpreting the understandings with the Americans far more strictly than the Americans do.”
In related news, Zionist Union MK Stav Shaffir wrote a scathing rebuke of famous Israeli author AB Yehoshua’s recent call on the pages of Ha’aretz for Israel to become a bi-national state, by offering citizenship to West Bank Palestinians. In it, she debunks oft-repeated claims that settlement growth is making a two-state solution impossible.
Shaffir’s piece, which has not been translated into English but appeared in the Hebrew edition of Ha’aretz on April 27 (subscription required, and opening the file in Google Chrome with the translate function enabled provides a reasonably understandable translation), warned Yehoshua not to “give up” on the two-state paradigm “in our name” [of the Zionist Left], stressing that claims that settlements have killed the possibility of the creation of a Palestinian state in virtually all of the West Bank have no basis in fact.
In reality, the settlement enterprise is a failure: only 4% of Israelis live beyond the Green Line; The settlements occupy only about 2.5% of the built-up area in the West Bank; And out of the residents of the settlements, the vast majority – and the moderates – live in settlements that will remain in our hands in any future arrangement. After decades of pouring in huge resources, the right-wing flagship enterprise is still entirely dependent on ongoing artificial subsidization by Israeli taxpayers. The settlements have never been able to turn into ordinary communities that are economically viable…
Somehow, despite 40 years of right-wing attacks and cowardly stuttering on the left, Israelis still have a solid majority that consistently supports a political settlement. Opponents of compromise come from the margins. But beyond public support and feasibility on the ground, the two-state solution lives simply because it has no substitute. Not because we have not considered alternatives, but because this is the only formula that will preserve a secure, Jewish and democratic Israel. Any solution that does not officially and definitively separate the two populations will ensure many more decades of unnecessary bloodshed on both sides.