Sad and frustrating, but true: a recent Peace Now report has found that Jewish construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has actually increased since the Annapolis peace conference in November 2007. Though Israel promised to freeze construction in the settlements, the report paints in vivid detail the various ways in which construction has continued unabated.
The report was written by Hagit Ofran, who works in the settlement watch division of Peace Now (and who led our tour of the settlements during the Meretz/Brit Tzedek delegation last January – click here for my post on that experience). According to the report, construction has taken place in 101 settlements, excluding East Jerusalem, in the past four months. About 275 new buildings were started since Annapolis, and 20 percent of the construction is taking place east of the security barrier. The Defense Ministry has also approved plans for the construction of 946 units.
In East Jerusalem, tenders for the construction of 750 housing units were granted after the summit, while in the year before the summit only 46 housing units were approved. The report also found that there was construction in 58 “illegal outposts,” including 16 permanent structures, and that none were evacuated.
The pic on the top shows current construction at Givat Ze’ev, a settlement located northwest of Jerusalem. The next pic down shows shots of the West Bank settlement of Eli before and after Annapolis. In the pic on the right, new caravans are clearly visible.
Why would Israel actually increase settlement in the immediate wake of a peace conference? We’ve heard the usual tired explanations: “these were settlements already approved before Annapolis,” “Olmert needs to placate the right-wingers in his coalition,” yada, yada. The bottom line? Unless the facts on the ground change and change soon, Abbas and the Fatah party will be totally hung out to dry and progress in the peace process will seem even more remote (if such a thing is imaginable).
Postscript: If news such as this makes you want to do something real to convey the importance of the peace process to our national leaders, you should consider attending Brit Tzedek’s National Advocacy Days (June 21-24) in Washington DC. Click here for more details.