Construction rates for Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank more than doubled in the second quarter of 2018.
According to data published by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), Israel began constructing 794 new dwellings in the occupied West Bank in the second quarter of 2018. This figure is more than double that of the first quarter, when 279 new dwellings began construction. This year’s figure is also higher than that of the same time in 2017, demonstrating an increase in the pace of Israel’s illegal settlement of Palestinian land.
This year-on-year increase in Israel’s illegal settlement is also significant in light of the decrease in construction in many areas of Green Line Israel. Construction rates fell in both Northern and Southern Israel, as well as in Haifa when compared with the same time in 2017. Jerusalem on the other hand witnessed an increase in construction, despite the fact that Jerusalemite Palestinians are regularly denied building permits to construct houses in Palestinian areas of the city.
Although settlements were designated a “final status issue” under the Oslo Accords in 1992, Israel has pursued a consistent policy of settling the occupied West Bank in the 25 years since. In 1992 there were approximately 105,000 illegal Israeli settlers, according to data by NGO Peace Now. By 2017 Peace Now estimated there were over 413,000 illegal Israeli settlers, an almost four-fold increase.
In September, the United Nations slammed Israel for having done nothing to halt settlement building. Speaking at a Security Council meeting, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Nickolay Mladenov explained that 2,800 housing units in the West Bank were recently approved by the Israeli government and emphasised that “all settlement activities are a violation of international law”.
In September it emerged that Israel approved plans to construct 220 illegal settlement units in the neighbourhood of Jabal Al-Mukaber, occupied East Jerusalem. Construction of the units is expected to start in the next few months and will serve as part of the expansion plan for the settlement of Nof Tzion, located alongside Jabal Al-Mukaber. Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem estimates that as of 2017 there were 208,000 Israeli settlers in the Jerusalem municipality, with this figure likely to have increased since then.
In August, Israel’s plans to expand the Amichai settlement, located north of Ramallah, were revealed. The expansion was intended to incorporate the neighbouring outpost of Adei Ad, previously home to Amiram Ben-Uriel – the extremist Israeli settler responsible for the arson attack against the Dawabsheh family in 2015. The attack killed three members of the family in their home in Duma, including 18-month-old baby Ali, and left his brother Ahmed orphaned. Palestinians living near Amichai argue that any further expansion of the illegal settlement will deny them access to their farmland. Their legal representative Shlomi Zecharia of NGO Yesh Din slammed Israel’s settlement policy, stating:
The inhabitants of the villages near the outpost have become hostages to the policy that abundantly rewards prizes and gifts to ideological criminals.
Although Israel differentiates between settlements and outposts, which do not have official government recognition, both are deemed illegal under international law which prohibits the transferring of civilian populations into occupied territory.