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JERUSALEM — The construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank increased by approximately 20 percent in 2011, an Israeli monitoring group reported on Wednesday.
Peace Now said in a new report that Israel began construction work on 1,850 new housing units in the occupied West Bank in 2011. About 35 percent of them are isolated settlements east of the planned route of the ‘Separation Barrier’ which Israel is erecting.
The report, entitled “Torpedoing the Two-State Solution”, said at least 3,500 units continued to be under construction during 2011. At least 3,690 housing units were approved, while another 2,660 housing units were released for public consultation in east Jerusalem, which witnessed the highest number of construction plans in a decade.
Peace Now also said that the Israeli government began procedures to legalize 11 outposts which are home to 2,300 settlers. In addition, Israel delayed the evacuation of three outposts built on private Palestinian land and announced plans to legalize hundreds of illegal homes in the West Bank settlements.
The rise follows a 10-month building freeze in the West Bank that the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu imposed in 2010. “The Netanyahu government is promoting several plans precisely in disputed areas which could prevent the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel,” the report said.
In 2010, Israel and the Palestinian Authority stalled the peace negotiations, which were supported by the United States and the United Nations, after the Jewish nation refused to extend a moratorium on settlement building in the occupied Palestinian territory.
In response, Palestinian President Abbas broke off direct talks as recommended by Hamas, which has been designated as a terrorist organization by the European Union and countries such as the United States and Israel. Israel has since resumed settlement construction even though they have been labeled as a violation of international law by the international community.
Palestine has demanded a stop to settlement construction in the disputed East Jerusalem and West Bank area as a key element for continuing peace talks, aimed at reaching a two-state solution based on the 1967 Green Line. However, Israeli authorities have rejected the Palestinian solution based on the 1967 borders as that measure would leave a large population of Israelis in Judea and Samaria outside Israel’s borders.