Koutsoukis on settlements and Bibi

He’s getting better. He actually reports the facts and doesn’t just repeat government claims anymore.

Under Netanyahu’s plan for a freeze, construction of 2500 partly built units in the West Bank can be completed. So can construction on another 500 units in the West Bank announced this year. Construction of schools, synagogues, and other public buildings can also continue.

This isn’t even a slowdown on last year.

In 2008, according to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, there were 1647 housing starts, following 1389 housing starts in 2007.

In Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem, where the Palestinians hope to make the capital of their future state, Netanyahu says no limits will apply.

Some might praise the Prime Minister for promising to block all housing applications that come through the door over the next 10 months. But judgment must be suspended on that until we can see what actually happens.

At a glance, the record will show we have been here before. At a peace conference in 2007, Netanyahu’s predecessor, Ehud Olmert, promised a settlement freeze, but he delivered record expansion.

Olmert’s predecessor, Ariel Sharon, pledged a freeze in 2003 when he agreed to then US president George Bush’s road map for peace. He then proceeded to break his promise.

As part of the Oslo accords in the early 1990s, then prime minister Yitzhak Rabin said ”stopping the settlements is an Israeli interest” and that his government had decided not to allow new construction in the settlements and to stop that which had already begun.

In the ensuing decade, the settlement population in the West Bank doubled.



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