Peace Now report finds 34 percent increase in West Bank housing construction starts

JERUSALEM (JTA) — There has been a 34 percent increase in construction starts in the West Bank in 2016 over the same period in the previous year, according to a new report.

Peace Now’s annual construction report was released on Sunday.

Some 1,814 new housing units began construction, an increase of 34 percent to a parallel time period in the previous year, with 70 percent of the new construction in settlements east of the proposed Geneva Initiative border, or settlements that are likely to be emptied in a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.  Over 26 percent or 474 housing units  of the new construction was in areas that are east of the route of the separation barrier.

In addition, according to the report, 42 new public buildings such as schools and synagogues, were started in 2016, as well as 23 structures for industry or agriculture.

“The trends of 2016 illustrates that while Netanyahu attempts to illustrate restraint in order to save face among the international community, on the ground construction is not only ongoing but also increasing, mainly in the most problematic areas for a future agreement. If the Israeli government is interested in a two-state solution, it must seize acting unilaterally in a way that makes this solution much more difficult to achieve,” Peace Now said in a statement.

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