Construction activity around colonies in the West Bank have witnessed a marked increase during the first quarter of 2013.
Recent data from the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics suggests that work on 865 new housing units had begun between January and March 2013. This figure is three times the number of construction projects begun in the same quarter last year. If compared to the final quarter of last year (October-December 2012), the statistics correlate to a 355 per cent increase in colony activity.
The Israeli advocacy group Peace Now argues that, in the absence of a full-colony construction freeze, building activity will continue to proliferate. The group maintains that a government committed to peace would not allow nor continue to build colonies, which inevitably damage the chances for peace. Peace Now claims that the building commencement data provides “further evidence of a continuing government policy of prioritising colony expansion, at the expense of the majority of Israeli citizens”.
People living in colonies represent a mere 4 per cent of the Israeli population but they have benefited from a 176 per cent increase in construction starts, while the other 96 per cent of Israeli citizens have put up with an 8.9 per cent decrease in construction starts, Israel Central Bureau of Statistics data showed. This contrast is all the more glaring amid continuing public concern about the state of the economy and housing costs.
The official statistics do not provide a breakdown of all construction starts by location and, hence, it is unclear exactly how many units were begun in each location. However, the bureau’s data does note that many of the units are located in Modiin Illit (241 units) and Beitar Illit (265 units).
According to Peace Now research, construction is taking place in many colonies east and west of the separation wall.
According to Dr Wasel Abu Yousuf, a member of the executive committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), the fact remains that Israel has a colonist government in place. “This Israeli colonist government is not interested in peace and has obviously preferred colony construction in the West Bank to reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinian leadership,” he told Gulf News. “The real challenge to achieving peace is stoppage of colony construction and meeting what has been agreed upon including a two states for two people solution based on the 1967 border line.”
The Palestinian leadership has categorically rejected a state of colonists in the West Bank, where the Israelis have been working against time to reach that goal.
“Israelis are working tirelessly against time to construct as much as possible in the illegal West Bank-based colonies to end up with those construction as facts on the ground,” Dr Abu Yousuf said.
“The last thing the Palestinians want is a Palestinian state ruled by Israeli colonists,” he stressed, adding that the Palestinians have agreed to a state on 22 per cent of the historic Palestine. The Palestinians want a state of their own on the West Bank, Gaza Strip with occupied East Jerusalem as its capital.
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