Construction work in around 25 percent of Israel’s illegal settlements across the occupied West Bank is continuing despite the government’s “freeze” on building activity. Israel’s Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai said, in response to a query by the leftist MK Chaim Oron, that construction freeze order violations have been found in 29 settlements. However, Israel’s Peace Now movement claims that it has identified another five settlements that have continued with building projects in the face of US pressure and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement of a freeze in November last year.
The freeze order banned the building of new houses in settlements but did not cover buildings for which foundations were already laid before the order came into force. Peace Now, which monitors settlement activity in the field, has noted that settlers are building at night and on the Sabbath.
In a statement, Peace Now added that Israel’s Ministry of Construction and Housing had allowed contractors who had won the bid for new construction in the Betar Illit settlement, west of Bethlehem, to market homes that haven’t even been built yet.