Israel to Double West Bank Settlements

Defying international calls to halt settlement expansion and dealing a new blow to the two-state solution, Israel will double Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

"The Ministry of Construction and Housing is planning to construct at least 73,300 housing units in the West Bank," the Israeli anti-settlement organization Peace Now said in a report issued on Monday, March 2.

"At least 15,000 housing units have already been approved and plans for an additional 58,000 housing units are yet to be approved."

Out of the units already approved, nearly 9,000 have been built, according to the report, based on data on the official Israeli government website.

"If all the plans are realized, the number of settlers in the territories will be doubled."

The new settlement expansions would nearly double the number of Jewish settlers in the occupied Palestinian territory.

The estimated number of additional settlers will reach some 300,000, an average of 4 persons in each unit.

Since 1967, Israel has built more than 150 Jewish-only settlements on the occupied West Bank, inhabited by as many as half a million settlers.

Most of the residents are classified as "ideological settlers," who believe that the West Bank is the "Biblical Land of Israel" which must never be given up even in return for a lasting peace with the Palestinians.

Larger Scheme

The Peace Now group insists that the new plans are only part of a larger scheme for settlements expansion in the occupied Palestinian territory.

"The Ministry of Housing plans that are included in this report represent only a small part of the total number of the plans existing in the settlements."

The group said the new plans will make the next Israeli government, which hawkish Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu has been assigned for form, has a wide choice of projects for settlement expansion.

"There are other thousands of housing units in plans of the local authorities, private initiators and other public authorities," said the report.

It added that about 19,000 units would be built in settlements beyond the construction path of the separation wall in the West Bank.

The UN and international community doe not recognize Jewish settlements built on occupied Palestinian territories.

Many observers believe that no Israeli government will be able, even if willing, to dismantle these large settlements which have become well-established demographic realities in the West Bank.

At the same time, there is a near unanimity that without the dismantling of at least the bulk of settlements and removal of most settlers, the goal of Palestinian statehood will be utterly unachievable.

"The completion of these projects will make the plan of creating a Palestinian state next to Israel totally unrealistic," complains Peace Now head Yariv Oppenheimer.


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