A report by the Israeli left-wing NGO Peace Now
released Monday says that the government is planning to build more than 73,300
new housing units in the West Bank.
Peace Now estimates that if all of the units are
built, it would mean a 100-percent increase in the total number of Israeli
settlers. The report says that some settlements, including the two largest Ariel
and Ma'aleh Adumim, would double in size.
According to the report, approval has already been
granted for the construction of 15,000 housing units, while approval is pending
for a further 58,000 units.
The report states that 5,722 of the planned housing
units are in East Jerusalem, and some 9,000 units in total have already been
Peace Now says that a new right-wing government presents the danger of
"expanding settlement growth at a rapid pace... with the clear intention of
destroying the possibility of a two-state solution."
Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu of the rightist Likud party,
tapped to form the new government after the February 10 elections, has expressed
his opposition to a two-state solution. He also said that while a Likud
government would not build new settlements, it would allow natural growth in
But the Peace Now report says 17,000 units are planned for Gush Etzion,
near Bethelehem, to be built outside existing settlements.
The report also states some 19,000 of the planned homes would be built
beyond the route of the West Bank separation fence, including in Kiryat Arba in
Hebron and Ariel.
In total, the report says, the planned West Bank homes account for 22
percent of housing units currently planned by the Housing Ministry.
MK Yaakov Katz of the right wing National Union on Monday welcomed the news
that Israel is pushing ahead with construction in the West Bank.
"We will make every effort to realize the plans outlined by [Peace Now
official Yariv] Oppenheimer," Katz told Army Radio on Monday. "I expect that,
with God's help, this will all happen in the next few years, and there will be
one state here."
National Union is pushing for increased settlement construction as part of
a coalition deal with Netanyahu, and Katz is among those jostling for the post
of Housing Minister.
Settlement expansion has long been a source of contention between Israel
and the international community, in particular the U.S. The Obama administration
is planning to put heavy pressure on the new Israeli government to freeze all