Housing starts in settlements increase 68%, Bennett promises development of W. Bank

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Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has pledged to develop West Bank settlements as housing starts in those Jewish communities rose 68% in the first two quarters of this year, according to data from the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS ).

The Ministry of Settlement Affairs pledged to “preserve state lands in Judea and Samaria for culture and development,” in a document released on Monday in which the government outlined its priorities for the near future.

He also said he would develop “settlements and villages in Judea and Samaria”.

However, a number of parties in his government oppose such a construction, even though it is now part of the coalition’s work program.

Yet despite Bennett’s statements, the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria has not met to approve or advance settlement building plans since January 2021. This includes the period since the government of Bennett was sworn in in June.

A council meeting to advance plans for 2,223 settler houses scheduled for August has been called off. A new date has not yet been set.

The delay in approvals came after the spike in settlement planning in the West Bank that occurred during the four years of the former Trump administration, but those approvals did not translate into an increase in the construction rate. There have been fewer settler starts in the four years of the Trump administration than in the last four years of the Obama administration.

View of the Jewish settlement of Eli, West Bank, January 17, 2021 (credit: SRAYA DIAMANT / FLASH90)

In 2020, which was also the last year of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s tenure, there were just 1,285 settler starts, one of the lowest of those numbers in a decade.

In contrast, in the first six months of this year, 979 new Jewish homes were opened in Judea and Samaria.

There was, however, a 7% drop in the number of houses completed in the first half of this year, compared to the first six months of 2020. By the end of June, 1,091 settler houses had been completed by compared to the 1,013 that were completed in the first half of last year.

According to the CBS, the growth rate of the settler population fell in 2020 to 2.3%, the lowest in the history of the movement.

Bennett is not the only one in his party to speak about the need to establish settlements. On Tuesday, Minister of Religious Services Matan Kahana pledged to prioritize synagogues in Judea and Samaria when allocating budgets.


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