At a press conference held in Tel Aviv today (2/8/10), Peace Now has launched a new campaign calling on the government not to renew construction in the settlements at the end of the 10 month freeze that was declared in November 2009. In addition, Peace Now also released an eight month assessment of the implementation of the freeze. The findings underscore the notion that unless the settlement moratorium is extended – with no new “exceptions” or loopholes – and unless it is enforced – this 10-month moratorium will have been meaningless.
The Main Findings:
• At least 600 housing units have started to be built during the freeze, in over 60 different settlements.
• At least 492 of those housing units are in direct violation of the law of the freeze.
• During an average year (when there is no freeze) approximately 1,130 housing units start to be built in 8 months in the settlements. The new construction starts during the moratorium constitute approximately half of the normal construction pace in the settlements.
• Some 2,000 housing units are currently under construction in the settlements, most of them started before the freeze was announced in November 2009.
This means that on the ground, there is almost no freeze or even a visible slowdown, despite the fact that legal construction starts have been frozen for 8 months. It also means that the Government of Israel is not enforcing the moratorium.
A. New Construction: At least 600 new housing units have started to be built during the moratorium, in at least 390 new structures – 223 permanent structures and 167 caravans or semi-permanent structures.
The approved exceptions: On the eve of the freeze, the Israeli government approved some 492 housing units to be started during the freeze (and an additional 112 units that were granted during the freeze in Beitar Illit). Only 141 of those exceptions have begun to be built and therefore according to Peace Now’s count, at least 462 new housing units have been built illegally in violation of the freeze. Within these 462 units, 31 caravans and 7 permanent structures have been built in outposts and not only do they violate the settlement freeze but they violate the Laws of Planning and Construction.
It should be noted, that for the most part the violations of the settlement freeze have been fairly small scale, with buildings being built here and there in various settlements; however there are large construction projects in several settlements including dozens of housing units that affect the bigger picture. For example, within the 603 new housing units 180 units (30%) have been built in Modiin Ilit alone and another 40 in Givat Ze’ev.
There are several construction projects that had begun to prepare their infrastructure but were stopped because of the settlement freeze. These include a project for 62 new housing units in the settlement of Barkan, approx. 100 new units in Neriya, and 60 units in Shaarei Tikvah.
Settlements with Large-Scale Violation
For the full list of violations and construction in every settlement
B. How Significant is the Freeze? What Would it Look Like Without the Freeze?
Over the course of the last decade, on average 1,700 new housing units were built each year in the settlements (according to the data from the Central Bureau of Statistics that does not include illegal construction). In eight months, this would mean that an average of 1,133 new housing units would have been built. Peace Now estimations that only 603 new units have been built shows a significant decrease in the number of units being built; almost half of the annual total. However according to the declared freeze, there should have been no new construction starts whatsoever.
C. Ongoing Construction: The settlement freeze did not include construction that began before the freeze took effect. At least 693 structures continued to be built during the freeze (in addition to the 390 that were started during the freeze) within them some 2,000 housing units. Only if the freeze continues will it have a meaningful effect on the ground. Restarting construction will render the 10 month freeze insignificant. It will become a meaningless, several month delay on some construction projects.
The fact that Israel implemented the moratorium as military law – which is the law of the land in the West Bank – demonstrates that if the government of Israel wants to freeze construction, it can.
The fact that the government of Israel approved an unusually large amount of settlement construction just before the moratorium was implemented, and then insisted that this construction be exempted from the moratorium, cast doubt from the start on the seriousness of the GOI’s intentions regarding the moratorium from the start.
The fact that in addition to this exemption, the GOI insisted on additional “exceptions” to the freeze, permitting new starts to continue, cast further doubt on the GOI’s good-faith commitment to the moratorium.
The fact that since the moratorium was imposed the GOI has turned a blind eye to large-scale construction in settlements that violates the moratorium – construction on a scale that far surpasses our own worst-case estimates – casts further doubt on the seriousness of the GOI’s intentions.
Peace Now strongly believes that for Israel’s own best interests the moratorium must be extended, regardless of what is happening, or not happening, with regards to Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
We believe that it must be extended with no more game-playing. This means extending it without adding any new exceptions or loopholes, and it means real enforcement to stop settlers who break the law by violating the moratorium.
Otherwise, the entire debate over whether or not to impose the moratorium or whether or not to extend it is little more than an empty words.