Is there a West Bank “settlement freeze”?

The Israeli daily Ha’aretz reports Jan. 1 that construction in West Bank settlements is “booming” despite the freeze that was officially declared Nov. 26. “Haaretz toured the area on Wednesday and witnessed work being carried out in the Barkan and Ariel industrial zones, as well as the construction of housing at Ariel, Elkana North, Peduel and Kfar Tapuah. A sign at Kfar Tapuah announced plans for the construction of 65 new housing units. Israel patrols were evident, but not inspectors of the Civil Administration enforcing the construction ban.”

At all of these sites, Ha’aretz reports “evidence of heavy equipment preparing the ground for construction or for the creation of suitable infrastructure.” The paper also cites recent research by the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din and the anti-occupation Peace Now that “construction is being carried out in more than 50 settlements and in two other industrial zones—Mevo Huron and Gush Etzion.”

See our last posts on Israel/Palestine and the West Bank.

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  1. Israel “eases” settlement freeze
    From Ha’aretz, Jan. 8:

    Defense Minister Ehud Barak decided on Thursday to ease the temporary construction freeze in the West Bank settlements, announced in November by Prime Minister Benjamin Netnayhau, granting local settlement municipalities the authority to hand out building permits to be implemented immediately after the freeze expires.

    Netanyahu issued the freeze orders on November 26 in efforts to jumpstart stalled peace talks with the Palestinians, who have demanded that Israel cease all construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem before negotiations could resume.

    The order revoked the authority of 24 local municipalities to issue building permits. In light of settler protests and legal hurdles, a revised freeze order was issued.

    The revised order dictates that the planning powers be returned to local authorities. The planning committees will be allowed to advance building permit processes, but the final permit will still be frozen. This means that the moment the freeze expires, the paperwork will already be in order so that many projects can be immediately undertaken.

    The revised order also permits the expansion of existing structures, such as adding rooms, turning garages and balconies into closed rooms, etc. as long as no separate units are erected.