With little resistance from a friendly White House, Israel has launched a new settlement push in the West Bank since President Donald Trump took office, laying the groundwork for what could be the largest construction binge in years, according to data obtained by The Associated Press.
The figures, gathered from official government sources by the anti-settlement monitoring group Peace Now, show an increase in building in 2018 and a sharp spike in planning for future construction.
Both supporters and opponents of settlements confirm a change in atmosphere since early 2017 when Trump took over from Barack Obama.
Hagit Ofran of Peace Now’s Settlement Watch program said:
The data for the first nine months of 2018 indicates the beginning of a Trump effect, with construction starts 20 percent higher than the same period a year earlier.
These trends are even more evident when looking at the planning process. In 2017, plans were advanced to build 6,712 new settlement homes, roughly 2.5 times the 2016 level.
In 2018, plans for an additional 5,618 units were advanced, nearly half of which were processed last week alone.
The settlement surge has added to the Palestinians’ distrust of the White House. The Palestinians cut off ties with the administration over a year ago after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. President Mahmoud Abbas has said he will reject any peace plan the Trump team presents.
Abbas’ spokesman, Nabil Abu Rdeneh, said US silence and lack of condemnation and pressure have given a green light to the Israeli government to step up settlement activity.
Source: Palestine Chronicle