Israel Gets No Credit from Obama for a Year of Moderate Settlement Construction

(Washington Post) Elliott Abrams and Uri Sadot - Two days before meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Obama publicly accused Israel of more "aggressive settlement construction...than we've seen in a very long time." But the president had his facts wrong, and a careful reading of the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) data proves it. The pace is not "aggressive," and almost all of the construction took place within the major settlement blocs - areas that past negotiations have recognized would remain part of Israel. Israel built 2,534 housing units last year in the West Bank. Of these, about a quarter (694) were in two major blocs near Jerusalem, Giv'at Ze'ev and Betar Illit, and 537 were in two other major blocs, Modiin Illit and Ma'ale Adumim, also near Jerusalem. They are towns with populations in the tens of thousands, near the Green Line, as the 1949 armistice line is known. The CBS data tell us that only 908 units were built last year in Israeli townships of 10,000 residents or fewer. And most of those units were built in towns that are part of the major blocs. So much for the president's claim of "aggressive construction." In fact, the data reveal that Netanyahu's track record on this issue is more restrained than that of Ehud Barak, the last Labor Party prime minister, whose government approved three times more new houses in small settlements in 2000 than Netanyahu did last year. Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and was a deputy national security advisor in the George W. Bush administration. Uri Sadot is a research associate at the CFR.

2014-03-14 00:00:00

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