JERUSALEM -- Israeli construction in West Bank settlements has increased dramatically in 2013, according to a new report.
According to the report by Peace Now, an anti-settlement advocacy group, construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank was up 70% from January to June this year, compared with the same period in 2012.
The report offers a summary of the trends and numbers of Israeli settlements in the West Bank since the 1990s Oslo peace accords between Israel and the Palestinians, and the effects the settlements could have on the proposed two-state solution. To date, more than 340,000 settlers live in the West Bank, more than triple the number 20 years ago when the peace process began.
According to Peace Now, precisely which settlements are growing is key. More than half of the new settlers since the Oslo accords have moved to only three settlements, the group’s report said, and 64% of the growth is in areas that could remain in Israeli control under agreements for land swaps with the Palestinians.
Although Israel’s settlement enterprise has destroyed trust with the Palestinians, it hasn’t destroyed the two-state solution, according to the report. However, it added, the longer the government and settlers have “free rein” to develop isolated areas, the more difficult a two-state solution will become.
The group maintained that the push to build deeper into the West Bank, outside the blocs Israel would swap with the Palestinians, has intensified under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governments.
About 60% of the housing units under construction (1,040 out of 1,708) are located in isolated settlements, the report said.
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks were renewed in July but information from the meetings remains largely under wraps. Some unconfirmed leaks suggest that the talks have reached an impasse over Israel’s reluctance to outline precisely which settlements it wants to annex, making discussion of land swaps and borders problematic.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas traveled to Europe this week to push for an Israeli settlement freeze, media reports said. Next week, Netanyahu will also head for Europe, where he is scheduled to meet with U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry to discuss the peace talks, the prime minister’s office announced.
Sobelman is a news assistant in The Times’ Jerusalem bureau.