What the Guardian won’t report: West Bank settlement building has DECLINED under Bibi

headerThough Binyamin Netanyahu agreed last summer to release over 100 so-called pre-Oslo Palestinian prisoners (who all were serving sentences for murder, attempted murder or being an accessory to murderas a good faith measure to restart peace talks, he made no such promise to the U.S. that his government would curtail settlement construction in the West Bank as a pre-condition.

Despite this fact, those in the UK media who argue that homes built across the green line represents the biggest obstacle to peace can be expected – in the event negotiations between the two parties break down – to inform readers that Bibi’s ‘aggressive settlement construction’ (as Saeb Erekat and others have phrased it) is, in large measure, what scuttled the talks.

So, when it was reported throughout the media yesterday that data from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics revealed that settlement construction in the West Bank in 2013 represented a 123% increase from the previous year, we decided that look a bit further into the history of such housing starts and came across some rather counter-intuitive information.  

Ha’aretz was one of the sites reporting the ‘dramatic’ increase in housing construction, and they used the following graph which illustrates housing starts in the West Bank each year, beginning in 2001.

graph
Settlement construction in Judea and Samaria (West Bank) between 2001 and 2013, per Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics

As you can see, though housing starts did increase dramatically in 2013, based on numbers from the previous year, construction for the nearly five years Netanyahu has been prime minister shows a decrease from the previous four years when Ehud Olmert and Ariel Sharon were in power.  From 2009 through 2013, there were 7477 housing starts in the West Bank, while from 2004 through 2008 there were 9293 starts.  So, under Netanyahu, there has been a nearly 20% decline in West Bank construction in comparison to the five years before he became prime minister. (Netanyahu was sworn in on March 31, 2009)

Construction decreased dramatically after Bibi agreed to a 10-month construction freeze (beginning in late 2009), but the rate of building still remained low in the 2 1/2 years after the freeze ended – and only increased significantly in 2013.

Whilst such dry data will of course never pose an obstacle to Guardian journalists intent on advancing the tried and true narrative about Israeli settlements, those who take the time to carefully scrutinize news coming out of the region will at least understand that claims made that such construction has increased under Netanyahu are not supported by the empirical evidence.

 

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