FILE PHOTO: General view shows houses in Shvut Rachel, a West Bank Jewish settlement located close to the Jewish settlement of Shilo, near Ramallah October 6, 2016.
(photo credit: REUTERS/BAZ RATNER)
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The only two regions of the country to see any increase in housing starts in 2018, was the West Bank settlements and Tel Aviv, according to data published by the Central Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday.
The settlements saw a 21% spike in housing and Tel Aviv saw a 10% rise when compared to the previous year, where nation wide, there was a 10% decrease.
On a percentage basis, West Bank settlements also saw the largest spike in housing finishes, 28% compared to the 3% increase in 2018 the rest of the country.
When looked at in real numbers, of course, the ground that was broken on 2,066 new settler homes last year, makes up only 4.3% of the nation wide total of 47,427 starts and 24.4% of Tel Aviv’s 10,101 housing starts.
The quarterly release of construction data comes in the midst of the election campaign in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is looking to hammer home the point to right-wing voters that his government has strengthened the settlement movement in Judea and Samaria.
The 2018 data marked the third highest number of settlement starts under Netanyahu’s government recorded in any single year, since he took office 2009.
But the 2018 data still fell below the high number of 3,143 settler housing starts, which the CBS recorded in 2016, when former US president Barack Obama was in office.
Obama had a no tolerance attitude toward the settlements and often condemned such activity. The Trump administration has repeatedly failed to criticize Israel over settlement activity.
With Trump in office, settler leaders had expected to see a dramatic rise in building in Judea and Samaria, have been frustrated that the number of housing starts has not exceeded that of 2016.
On Tuesday, they spoke with Netanyahu in a closed door meeting about the need for more building. The YESHA Council wants to see a million Jewish living in Judea and Samaria within the next decade. Ariel Mayor Eli Shaviro, believes that as part of that drive his settlement city can grow from over 20,000 to 100,00.
According to CBS data for 2017, there are over 413,400 settlers in Area C of the West Bank.
Hagit Ofran of the Left-wing group Peace Now said, “the Netanyahu government is continuing to build and to destroy the chance of two states.” She added that the data shows that settlers claim that he is not building is not correct.
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