Government coalition whip and Likud's head of national-religious sector MK Zeev Elkin on Wednesday praised a Peace Now report publicized on Wednesday on the high level of settlement construction during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's term in office.
Elkin thanked Peace Now for joining the Likud's election campaign efforts, though this was likely not the intention of the report. Likud has been steadily hemorrhaging voters to the settlement party Habayit Hayehudi, led by Naftali Bennett, and Elkin was on Wednesday waving the Peace Now report as proof that Netanyahu's government has the settlers' best interests at heart.
"The Peace Now report's findings, that the Likud-Beytenu government brought about unprecedented prosperity in Jewish community building," said Elkin, "proves once again what other Judea and Samaria Regional Council (Yesha) heads have already said, that whoever wants Israel to stand firm for its national, security and settlement interests needs to vote Likud.
"To continue the community-building momentum, I call on the supporters of the nationalist camp to take note of the rare accord between Peace Now and the Yesha Council and flood the voting station with Likud ballots," said Elkin.
Peace Now's report says that since taking office on March 31, 2009, the Netanyahu government's "policies and actions in the West Bank and east Jerusalem disclose a clear intention to use settlements to systematically undermine and render impossible a realistic, viable two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
According to Peace Now, these policies and actions include: "Construction, tenders, approval of future construction, and planning for future construction in settlements located deep inside the West Bank, east of the approved route of Israel’s separation barrier; a record level of tenders, approval of future construction, and planning for future construction in settlements in east Jerusalem."
Netanyahu's government, according to Peace Now, has also adopted, "a formal policy that favors legalizing illegal settlement construction — leading both to additional illegal construction and new illegal outposts, and to the establishment of new settlements for the first time in decades," while providing "preferential funding for settlers and settlements, including funding projects intended to Israelis for keeping settlements — including settlements deep inside the West Bank — as a permanent part of Israel."
According to the report, under Netanyahu's government, construction began on 6,867 new housing units in settlements. Of these, 2,622 (38.2 percent) are in isolated settlements located east of the planned route of Israel’s separation barrier; 2,217 (32.3%) are in settlements west of the constructed route of the fence; and 2,028 (29.5%) are between sections of the fence that are already built and the planned route for the rest of the barrier.
Over the past two years alone, the Netanyahu government has issued tenders for 4469 housing units in settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, the report stated. "These approvals pave the way for a huge increase in settlement construction in the coming years," the report states.
The report did point out that "some of this construction was approved under previous governments."
According to the Finance Ministry for the Central Bureau Statistics, the Netanyahu government provided at least NIS 3.7 billion in surplus funding to settlements between 2009 and 2012, the report stated. According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), between 2009 and 2011, investment in settlements grew by at least 38%, the report found.
Hatnuah Chairwoman Tzipi Livni also responded to the Peace Now report, saying: "Netanyahu is destroying Israel's international relations and sacrificing its national interests in favor of political interests on the eve of elections. The Netanyahu government's priorities include his natural coalition partners, the extreme right-wing and the ultra-Orthodox in Tapuah and Yitzhar, and not the sane Zionist majority in Israel, the Negev and the Galilee.
"Netanyahu's policies cause Israel to lose twice — once because of its continued isolation in the international arena and twice by weakening the Jewish communities [in the West Bank] and the large settlement blocs, through his lack of differentiation between extraneous and damaging construction in political settlements and legitimate construction and preservation of the large [population] blocs."
In related news, the Housing and Construction Ministry on Wednesday announced tenders for the construction of new housing units in Kiryat Arab and Efrata, both communities over the Green Line in Judea and Samaria. The tender for the Givat Haharsina neighborhood in Kiryat Arba near Hebron is for 84 units in two sites. The tender for Efrata's Givat Hatamar neighborhood is for 114 new housing units in four lots.