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Articles re: Peace Now Settlement Report released January 28, 2009

Continued expansion of settlements and lack of outpost evacuation are key findings
Bruchin Illegal Outpost new construction in red - December 2008 on left; May 2008 on right

1/28/09

JTA: "Peace Now: Settlements continue to expand"

January 28, 2009

JERUSALEM (JTA) -- Jewish West Bank settlements continued to expand in 2008 and no "real" outposts were evacuated, according to a new Peace Now report.

Some 1,518 new structures were built in the settlements, including 261 in outposts, according to the report. The number represents a 60 percent rise over the 800 new structures built in 2007.

Of the news structures, which include homes and caravans, 927, or 61 percent, were built west of the security fence and 591, or 39 percent, were built east of the security fence. One-quarter of the structures east of the fence were built in outposts.

The 261 structures built in the outposts represent a more than doubling of the 98 built in 2007, and include five new structures in the Migron outpost, which the Israeli government announced it would relocate to a nearby settlement.

The report also charged that "During the war in Gaza, the settlers took advantage of the fact that all of the public attention was on the south to expand construction in the outposts and settlements. At this point it is difficult to assess the amount of construction done during the weeks of the war, but it can be stated with certainty that a number of new roads were opened, with the goal of extending control in the areas near the settlements."

The report was released Wednesday, just hours before U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell was scheduled to arrive in Israel.



Israel Hayom: "Peace Now Reports 60% Rise in Construction in Settlements"

by Efrat Forsher -- Construction in the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria rose by 60% in the course of 2008, notes the annual Peace Now report that was issued yesterday. According to the report, at least 1,257 new buildings ere built in the course of 2008 as opposed to 800 that were built in the course of 2007. Groundwork, moreover, for the construction of another 63 new buildings was also carried out. At least 261 new buildings were erected in the settlement outposts in the course of 2008 as opposed to 98 new buildings that were erected in 2007.

The authors of the report charge that construction in the settlement is pursued by means of three main avenues: promoting construction plans to the west of the separation fence, granting permits for construction plans and a failure to enforce construction violations.

Peace Now Secretary General Yariv Oppenheimer said: "The settlers aren't waiting for Bibi. The Labor-Kadima government continued the construction momentum in the settlements across all parts of the West Bank."


YNET: "Peace Now: Settlements expanded faster in 2008"

On day US Mideast envoy arrives in Israel, Peace Now movement publishes report on settlement expansion activity last year. Yesha Council pleased with 'documentation of Zionist enterprise'

by Efrat Weiss

Jewish settlements and outposts in the West Bank expanded more rapidly in 2008 than the previous year, Peace now reported on Wednesday. The timing of the report is no coincidence, and it was released on the day US Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell was scheduled to arrive in Israel.

Mitchell has spoken out against the illegal construction of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories in the past.

According to the report, there were 285,800 settlers living in the West Bank as of 2008, with 1,518 new structures built in the territories last year, including 261 outposts.

Sixty-one percent of the new structures were built west of the route of the separation fence and 39% were built east of it. A quarter of the new structures east of the fence were built in outposts.

At least 1,257 new structures were built in existing settlements, including 748 permanent buildings and 509 caravans compared to 800 structures in 2007 - a 60% rise. In addition the ground was prepared for the construction of 63 new structures.

Peace Now also presented a list of settlements with large construction project in the last six months: Alfei Menashe (16 new structures), Efrat (15 new structures), Beit Arye (27 new structures), Beitar Illit (18 new structures), Keidar (13 new structures), Giv'at Ze'ev (10 new structures), Modi'in Illit (35 new structures), Ma'ale Adumim (13 new structures), Ma'ale Shomron (19 new structures).

Settlements in which at least 10 new caravans were built in the last half-year are Har Bracha, Ofra, Kiryat Arba and Shilo.

Outposts

The report continued to say that not a single real outpost was evacuated in 2008, and at least 261 new structures were built, including 227 caravans and 34 permanent structures, compared to 98 structures in 2007 (including 82 caravans and 16 permanent structures).

In addition the ground was prepared for the construction of nine new In three of every four outposts construction orī€ permanent structures. development work took place in 2008.

Besides these outposts there is a large number of additional points controlled by the settlers but without their permanent presence.

At the outpost of Migron for example the settlers added 5 new structures and began building an extension for another permanent structure.

The Peace Now report said, "It seems that the government announcement to the High Court of Justice that it agreed with the settlers to evacuate Migron and relocate it to the settlement of Adam must have encouraged the settlers to begin construction at Migron, because if the relocation does take place it will take years."

'Settlers took advantage of Gaza war'

During the war in Gaza the settlers took advantage of the fact that all public attention was on the south to expand construction in the outposts and settlements, the report said.

The organization said at this point it is difficult to assess the amount of construction done during the weeks of the war but it can be stated with certainty that a number of new roads were opened, with the goal of extending control in the areas near the settlements.

Roads opened include one connecting the settlement of Eli with the settlement of Shilo, a road extending control surrounding the outpost of Haro'e and an expanded road ascending from Eli cemetery towards Hayovel outpost.

The report continued to say that in 2008 tenders were issued to build 539 new housing units in the settlements, compared to only 65 housing units in 2007, an eight-fold increase in the number of tenders.

Construction permits were also granted for the beginning of work on large projects west of the fence: Nine-hundred-and-fifty housing units in Ma'ale Adumim, 800 housing units in Giv'at Ze'ev, 100 housing units in Ariel and more.

In addition a considerable momentum began in planning and construction in east Jerusalem.

Peace Now said Defense Minister Ehud Barak approved dozens of construction plans in settlements in 2008, some east of the fence.

Among the substantial plans approved was the establishment of the settlement of Sansana -in southern Mount Hebron, establishment of the settlement of Maskiyot, the expansion of the settlement in Hebron, and more.

According to the report all the outposts Barak declared were evacuated were not fully evacuated. The evacuation of the disputed house in Hebron is the exception.

Peace Now Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer said, "The Labor-Kadima government is a big disappointment in anything to do with freezing construction in settlements.

The settlers don't have to wait for Bibi (Netanyahu), since the present government has allowed construction not just in settlement blocks, but also in isolated settlements and outposts."

'Most important Zionist enterprise of our time'

Yesha Council said in response, "Once again we thank Peace Now for allocating the money they get from the European Union towards documenting the most important Zionist enterprise of our generation - settling in Judea and Samaria."

The Council added that "some of the data are not exactly accurate. The number of settlers today according to official data stands at over 300,000 Israelis.

"Regarding the allegations of 'taking advantage' of the war to pave roads, all of Israel knows who took advantage of the war to demonstrate against IDF soldiers and who sent their sons to the front line to give their soul in defense of the State."

Meanwhile, the Yesha Council plans to welcome American Envoy George Mitchell.

On Wednesday, settlers will put on a special presentation titled "A Palestinian state will blow up in our face", in an attempt to illustrate the "dangers establishing a Palestinian state in Judea and Samara would pose on central Israel, following the lessons learned from the disengagement, the rockets on Beersheba, Gedera and the war in the south".

The three-dimensional presentation will be accompanied by audio and visual effects and will travel on a large truck from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem during Mitchell's meetings with the heads of the State.


 
AP: "Israeli warplanes pound Gaza smuggling tunnels"
 
By STEVE WEIZMAN
Associated Press Writer

JERUSALEM (AP) - President Barack Obama's new Mideast envoy sought Wednesday to boost a 10-day-old Gaza cease-fire that was thrown into turmoil, as Israeli warplanes pounded Gaza smuggling tunnels in retaliation for a Palestinian bombing that killed a soldier.

The Israeli Cabinet met to consider how far to go in its response to Tuesday's bombing. U.S. envoy George Mitchell said it was "critical" that the cease-fire be extended, as he met Egypt's president before heading to Jerusalem.

The violence is the worst since Israel and Hamas separately declared cease-fires on Jan. 18 to end a three-week Israeli offensive against the Palestinian militant group in the Gaza Strip. Since withdrawing its troops, Israel has threatened to retaliate hard for any violations of the informal truce.

The soldier was killed Tuesday on Israel's frontier with the Gaza Strip by a roadside bomb planted on the Gaza side and set off by remote control, the military said. Three other soldiers patrolling the border were injured.

Israel responded swiftly, sending tanks and bulldozers into northern Gaza to plow up the attack site and launching an airstrike that wounded a Hamas militant "who was prominent in the organization accountable for the attack," the military said. Hamas said the Israeli strike injured one of its men as he rode a motorcycle in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis.

Airstrikes early Wednesday targeted the network of tunnels used to smuggle arms, money and people into Gaza from Egypt. Israel bombed the tunnels heavily during the war, but smugglers resumed work after the cease-fire.

There was no claim of responsibility for Tuesday's bombing, but Ramattan, a Palestinian news agency, released a video of the roadside bombing allegedly filmed by militants it did not identify.

The images showed a large explosion next to a jeep moving on the Israeli side of the border fence. A huge plume of smoke emerges as the jeep stops. Two Israeli soldiers are then seen running toward the jeep, and gunfire is directed at them before a secondary blast hits them, too.

"Hamas unfortunately controls the Gaza strip and is directly responsible for all hostile fire from Gaza into Israel," government spokesman Mark Regev told The Associated Press.

"Israel wants the quiet in the south to continue but yesterday's attack is a deliberate provocation designed to undermine and torpedo the calm. If Hamas acts to undermine the cease-fire, it will have no one but itself to blame for the consequences," he said.

The violence cast a shadow over the start of Mitchell's tour. Obama said his envoy would listen to all sides to then craft an approach for moving forward with stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

Before his tour, Israeli officials said Mitchell would also discuss ways to solidify the cease-fire into a longer term truce-a complicated prospect that will require international arrangements to ensure that border crossings into Gaza are opened while preventing Hamas from rearming by smuggling in weapons.

In Cairo, Mitchell met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The American envoy was to head later in the day to Jerusalem to meet Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, top security officials and pro-Western Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank.

Mitchell has no plans to meet with Hamas, which the U.S., Israel and European Union consider a terrorist group. Hamas seized Gaza from forces loyal to Abbas in June 2007. Hamas' control of Gaza, and its refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist, are considered major obstacles to peace efforts.

Jewish settlers in the West Bank were planning a Jerusalem demonstration to coincide with the visit by Mitchell, who in a 2001 report urged Israel to freeze settlements in the West Bank.

Yishay Hollender, a spokesman for settlers' umbrella group, the Yesha Council, said settlers will drive to Jerusalem a float depicting the dangers to Israel of a Palestinian state as a "reception" for Mitchell.

The Israeli pro-peace group Peace Now released a report Wednesday saying West Bank settlements expanded more in 2008 than they had the previous year. The report said 1,257 new structures were built in settlements during 2008, compared to 800 in 2007, an increase of 57 percent.

The group said building more than doubled in settler outposts, which unlike settlements are not recognized by the Israeli government-with 261 structures erected in 2008, compared to 98 the year before.

The Israeli government has promised to dismantle outposts. The Palestinians demand a complete halt to settlement building in the West Bank during peace negotiations, saying their expansion is taking land they demand for an independent state.

At his West Bank headquarters, Abbas said Tuesday he was looking forward to working with the new administration.

The Israeli offensive killed nearly 1,300 people, including hundreds of civilians, and caused an estimated $2 billion in damage. The international community is trying to broker a long-term cease-fire and figure out how to rebuild the coastal territory.

Associated Press writers Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, and Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah, West Bank, contributed to this report.


AFP: "Israeli W Bank Settlement Construction Up 60% In '08 - Report"

Wednesday January 28th, 2009

JERUSALEM (AFP)--Construction in Israeli settlements on the occupied West Bank jumped 60% in 2008 in the wake of the relaunching of the Middle East peace process at a U.S. conference, the Peace Now watchdog group said Wednesday.

At least 1,257 structures were built in settlements in 2008, compared with 800 the previous year, a report said. The ground was also prepared for 63 new structures.

Building in wildcat outposts - settlements not authorized by the government - increased 2.5 times, with 261 structures built in 2008 compared with 98 the previous year, Peace Now said.

"Expansion continues - the settlers do not need to wait for Bibi," it said, referring to right-wing opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu predicted to become the nation's next prime minister after Feb. 10 elections.

Construction also boomed in annexed east Jerusalem and heated up especially after the international conference in Annapolis in November 2007 that saw Israelis and Palestinians formally relaunch their sputtering peace talks.

Tenders were issued to build 1,184 housing units in east Jerusalem in 2008, compared with 793 in 2007. Of these, 94% of the 2007 tenders were issued in December, right after the Annapolis conference.

In addition, plans to construct 2,730 housing units in east Jerusalem received final approval in 2008, compared with 391 units in 2007.



Jerusalem Post: "Settlement growth up 69% in 2008"

Jan. 27, 2009
Tovah Lazaroff , THE JERUSALEM POST

The number of new structures in the West Bank settlements and outposts increased by 69 percent in 2008, compared to 2007, according to a new study released by Peace Now on Tuesday evening.

The report added that the settler population grew from 270,000 in 2007 to 285,000 in 2008.

The data collected by the group was published on the same day that the new US Middle East envoy George Mitchell was due to arrive in Israel and two weeks before the Knesset elections.

The study charged that despite international agreements, the Kadima and Labor parties had allowed settlement growth to increase.

While the government's policy has been to allow settlement growth in areas of the West Bank that Israel is likely to retain under any final status agreement with the Palestinians, Peace Now has charged that 39 percent of the growth in 2008 was outside those areas.

If this growth continues, it will no longer be possible to create a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank, Peace Now charged.

According to Peace Now, construction was begun on 1,518 settler structures, of which 261 were located in unauthorized outposts. Out of these, 927 structures, or 61%, were within Israel's West Bank security barrier and 39% - 591 structures - were outside it.

The 1,257 new structures in the settlements in 2008 represent a 57.12% increase over the 800 new structures erected in settlements in 2007, according to the Peace Now report.

Out of 1,257 structures, 748 were permanent and 509 were caravans. In 2007, according to Peace Now, 442 new structures were permanent and 368 were caravans.

The report, however, did not distinguish between structures that were built with permits issued by the current government and those that were done under older, preexisting permits.

In the 100 outposts the government has committed to evacuate, the report said, growth has more than doubled.

In 2008, 227 new caravans were added and work was begun on 34 permanent structures.

At the Migron outpost, which is slated to be moved to the Adam settlement in the next few years, five new structures were added and work was begun on a sixth.

The report compared these figures to 2007 data, which showed that 82 caravans had been added to unauthorized outposts and work was begun on 16 permanent structures.

The report noted that when it referenced a "structure," it did not differentiate between a single-family home and an apartment building.

In contrast, the Central Bureau of Statistics and the Housing and Construction Ministry count housing units, rather than homes or apartment buildings.

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, housing starts in the settlements indeed increased in 2008. In the first three quarters of the year, there had been 1,647 housing starts, representing individual apartment units, compared with 1,127 in the first three quarters of 2007.

But the number of completed apartment units in the settlements decreased slightly in the first three quarters of 2008. Some 1,146 apartment units were finished in this period, compared to the 1,249 apartment units that were completed in the settlements in the first three quarters of 2007.

Shifting to the measure scale of apartment units, the Peace Now report noted that tenders had been issued for 1,184 new apartment units in east Jerusalem in 2008, compared with 793 in 2007. It added that construction plans for 5,431 housing units in east Jerusalem were open for public review, of which 2,730 received final approval, compared to the 391 which were approved in 2007.

In addition, it said that 539 tenders were issued for new apartment units in the settlements, compared with 65 such units in 2007, a number that amounted to an eight-fold increase.

The report also stated that construction permits had been issued for a 950 unit project in Ma'aleh Adumim, 800 units in Givat Ze'ev and 100 in Ariel.

Peace Now further charged that settlers took advantage of the public attention paid to the war in Gaza to expand their holdings in the West Bank, but did not give specific numbers in terms of construction.

There were, however, a number of roads that opened during Operation Cast Lead, including one between the settlements of Eli and Shilo; a road from the cemetery in Eli to the Hayovel outpost; and roads near the outposts of Haro'e, Adi and Zayit Ra'anan.

The report charged that the government had confiscated 275 dunams of land from the village of El-Khadr, near Efrat.

It also noted that planning work continued in the settlements of Maskiot and Sansana. While both these settlements were laid out and authorized many years ago, they were only recently populated. In effect, Peace Now charged, this constituted the creation of two new settlements.

Dani Dayan, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, said in response that he was glad the group was documenting settlement growth.

"We are grateful to Peace Now for investing the funds they receive from European [governments] in documenting the most important Zionist endeavor of our generation, the settlement of Judea and Samaria."

But he took issue with the group's charge that settlers had made use of the Gaza war to expand. He said that in contrast to the Left, which organized rallies against the war, the sons and husbands of Judea and Samaria families had risked their lives in Gaza in defense of the country.