Although many are finding fault with all sides for the breakdown of the Kerry negotiations – we are in the blame game period – I just encountered a critical piece of information. Peace Now (Shalom Achshav) in Israel, the premier monitor of settlement construction in the West Bank, just released a summary of settlement planning and construction activity that took place over the Green Line during the 9 months of the Kerry negotiations. Here is an excerpt (bold type is from the original):

During the 9 months of Secretary Kerry’s efforts in the region, the Netanyahu Government promoted plans and tenders for at least 13,851 housing units in the settlements and East Jerusalem – an average of 50 units per day and 1,540 units per month.

The 13,851 units include:

1 – Tenders for 4,868 units – 2,248 of them in West Bank settlements and 2,620 units in East Jerusalem. (There were also tenders for another 1,235 units in re-issued tenders, where the tenders are calls for bids to buy units that weren’t sold in previous tenders).

2 – Promotion of plans for 8,983 units – 6,561 of them in West Bank settlements and 2,422 in East Jerusalem.

The average yearly number of tenders was 4 times higher compared to previous years.

 Doubling the number of construction Starts:

According to the Israeli CBS data, in the second half of year 2013, some 828 new units were started to be built in the settlements, while at the equivalent time in 2012, only 484 units started. (the CBS data does not include the first three months of 2014).

Click here to read the full report with additional statistics.

This new construction also included legalizing some previously “illegal” settlements and the establishment of new ones. Assuming an average family of 4 for each housing unit (this is a conservative figure for settlers), these 13,851 new housing units would ultimately mean an additional 55,400 people living in East Jerusalem and the West Bank – roughly a 10% population increase from just nine months of planning activity.

From the perspective of Palestinian towns and villages, where residents have seen Israeli settlements sprout like mushrooms on the surrounding hilltops while their farmland is taken and their lives further impoverished and restricted, this increased settlement activity created intolerable facts on the ground. Although some blame can be apportioned to all sides, it is no wonder that the Palestinian leadership found it politically impossible to continue and finally gave up, choosing instead to pursue other avenues.

As Peace Now stated in their summary of the report, “[This settlement activity showed] …not only that the construction and the announcements of settlements were destructive for the American efforts and for the faith between the two sides, it also created facts on the ground that proved more than anything else that the Netanyahu Government did not mean to go for a two state solution but rather acted in order to strengthen the Israeli control over the Occupied Territories.” 

It is facts and actions like this that will provide traction for the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement. Supporters of Israel will have less and less credibility to counter that.

 

 

 

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