RNA - Peace Now said in a report on Tuesday that the Israeli settlement activity maintained a “rapid pace” in 2019, and was boosted by the US administration’s support.
“In my opinion, they’re trying to take advantage of the window of opportunity that they have under the Trump administration, knowing that it might change in a few months,” Hagit Ofran, a researcher for the group, said.
She added, “There was no such supportive administration for the settlements previously, ever.”
Moreover, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last year approved plans to build thousands of new settler units, paving the groundwork for a sharp spike in the scope of settlement construction in the coming years.
According to the Peace Now figures, Israel began construction on 1,917 new homes in the West Bank last year.
The number marked a slight dip from 2,100 construction starts in 2018.
But overall, Israel has begun construction on an average of 2,267 homes per year since Trump took office, compared to an annual average of 1,807 units during the administration of his predecessor Barack Obama.
That new annual construction could house roughly an additional 9,000 people per year in settlements, based on Peace Now's estimate of four people per a household.
Oded Revivi, mayor of the settlement of Efrat, said it was “no secret” that the Trump administration has been more tolerant of the Israeli regime’s settlement construction policies.
“If we still have the same players, Netanyahu and Trump, I predict the figures you will see in 2020, or more accurately 2021, will actually be higher than 2019,” he noted.
More than 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.
The UN Security Council has condemned Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied territories in several resolutions.
Less than a month before Trump took office, the Security Council in December 2016 adopted Resolution 2334, calling on Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem” al-Quds.
Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.
The last round of Israeli-Palestinian talks collapsed in 2014. Among the major sticking points in those negotiations was Israel’s continued settlement expansion on Palestinian territories.