In the three months since Israel ended its settlement construction freeze in the West Bank, causing the Palestinians to withdraw from peace talks, a settlement-building boom has begun, especially in more remote communities that are least likely to be part of Israel after any two-state peace deal.
This means that if negotiations ever get back on track, there will be thousands more Israeli settlers who will have to relocate into Israel, posing new problems over how to accommodate them while creating a Palestinian state on the land where many of them are living now.
In addition to West Bank settlement building, construction for predominantly Jewish housing in East Jerusalem, where the Palestinians hope to make their future capital, has been rapidly growing after a break of half a year, with hundreds of units approved and thousands more planned.
On a tour of West Bank construction sites, Dror Etkes, an anti-settlement advocate who has spent the past nine years chronicling their growth, said he doubted whether there had been such a burst in settlement construction in at least a decade.
Hagit Ofran, a settlement opponent who monitors their growth for Peace Now, said, “We can say firmly that this is the most active period in many years.” She said there were 2,000 housing units being built now and a total of 13,000 in the pipeline that did not require additional permits. In each of the past three years, about 3,000 units have been built.