On Saturday night the Israeli government announced its decision to approve the construction of 400 residential units in the settlements. According to the media, the approvals include 200 units in Modi’in Ilit, 100 units in Ariel, 40 units in Ma’ale Adumim and 50 units in Kfar Eldad.
From the reports of the media, it was not clear whether this was indeed an official decision, or rather a statement of intentions which the government chose to issue now, as a response to the deadly attack in Itamar. It is also possible that the decision to approve the construction was made in principle a while ago, and the ministers were only waiting for the right political opportunity to make it public.
What are the implications of this decision?
1. The Israeli government continues to approve and encourage construction in the settlements. In addition to the vast construction currently in progress which was approved in previous years, now there will be significantly more newly approved construction.
2. Construction was approved east of the separation barrier, as well as of a de facto approval of a new settlement. Kfar Eldad is located east of Bethlehem, and was established as a temporary site for the Nokdim settlement. When the construction of Nokdim was completed, Kfar Eldad remained standing, though without any official status. Thus the approval of the construction in Kfar Eldad is in fact an approval of the establishment of a new settlement.
Moreover, Kfar Eldad is located east of the separation barrier. Not one of the maps suggested as part of a permanent agreement, either in official or unofficial negotiations, implied that Israel would annex the settlements east of Bethlehem. In the case of Kfar Eldad, the government cannot make use of its regular excuse of construction in the “settlement blocs,” which has seemingly no affect on a permanent status to the conflict.
Also, one of the beneficiaries of the decision to allow construction in Kfar Eldad is no other the Member of Knesset Ze’ev Elkin, from the Likud party, the chairman of the coalition.
3. The approval of 100 new residential units in Ariel implies a considerable expansion of the settlement, and it joins the approval of many dozens of units in the past two years. On the other hand, in the last decade Ariel’s population grew by only 1,000 citizens (16,000 to 17,000), which points to the fact that the Israeli public does not find living there to be an attractive or appealing option.
Peace Now is saying that “it is very unfortunate that the Government of Israel lets the terrorists rule Israel’s policy. The construction in settlements is bad to the Israeli interests and pushing us further away from peace”.