Israel continues funding and issues tenders for housing units as the US weakens pressure to halt settlement construction

Israel continues funding and issues tenders for housing units as the US weakens pressure to halt settlement construction
Settlement expansion shows no sign of stopping. The ongoing construction of Israeli settlements, including outposts, and the transfer of Jewish settlers to Palestinian land is illegal under international law and represents a fundamental obstacle to the formation of a Palestinian state. Israel continues to plan, build and allocate extensive resources to the settlement industry, despite international calls for its dismantlement.
Israel continues to take unilateral action and neglect its obligations under international law, and successive peace agreements, to dismantle the settlement enterprise. Hillary Clinton, US secretary of State recently endorsed the Israeli stance that the renewal of ‘peace’ talks should not rest on a settlement freeze.  This is despite the fact that under the US brokered 2003 ‘Road Map’ Israel was required to immediately dismantle settlement outposts erected since 2001 and freeze all settlement activity, including ‘natural’ growth. The US has also conceded to Israeli defiance and changed its recent demands on settlements from a complete ‘freeze’ to merely ‘restraint’.
In Dec 2007- September 2009 Israel issued 76,818 housing unit tenders for the expansion of settlements. In the 2009-2010 Israeli budget (created in June 2009), more than $250 million were allocated over the next two years for settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory.  These financial and political commitments to the expansion of the settlement industry show a clear trajectory which weak US and international pressure have failed to alter.
Planned Housing Units and Tenders issued for settlement activity
In 2009, over 28,000 housing unit tenders were issued for construction in illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territory. Over 12,000 of these tenders were issued in Jerusalem. Indeed, between 2007 and 2009, an estimated 97% of housing units were issued west of the separation wall, in Jerusalem and other areas located between the Wall and the 1949 Armistice Line. Since Prime Minister Netanyahu came to power in March 2009 he has approved 11,865 housing units in Israeli settlements. Of these settlements 73%, 8,623 housing units, were in occupied East Jerusalem.
Financial Commitment to the settlement industry
The sheer number of tenders issued for housing units in the occupied Palestinian territory illustrates the relentless approach by Israel of expanding the settlement enterprise. In addition to proposed housing units, financial support to sustain settlement activities has also been allocated over the next two years, rendering weak and contradictory US pressure to halt such activity completely redundant. In an Israeli financial report for the fiscal year, 2009-2010, over $50 million is reportedly being allocated to expand the illegal settlements of Ma’ale Adumim in Jerusalem and Har Homa in Bethlehem. Over 900 housing units are reportedly planned for Har Homa in 2010.
Over $106 million is being allocated to expand infrastructure links, such as roads, bypasses etc, between settlement centers and Jerusalem, which will simply normalize the existence of settlements and integrate them further in Israel proper. For example, in the 2009-2010 budget, over 27 million shekels for 2009 and 28 million shekels for 2010 are proposed for subsidizing transportation for settlers and ultra-orthodox Jews. A reported 80 million shekels is also being spent on a highway to connect the East Jerusalem settlement of Pisgat Ze’ev to Modi’in and Tel Aviv via bypass road number 45.
Furthermore, over 160 million shekels over 2009 – 2010 is planned for security purposes in the settlements, including guards, armored transportation and 24 hour security. Indeed, due to increased lobbying, every settler is entitled to have his private vehicle armored in case of attack, this despite the fact that it is often extremist settlers who attack Palestinians, causing physical and agricultural damage.
In addition to financial support from the state, it must be noted that an estimated 60% of settlement construction is funded by private money. This presents legal loopholes and increases the complexity of completely halting settlement construction. One such example is that of Irving Moskowitz, an American multi-millionaire who actively supports settler movements and Israeli organizations which aim to ‘Judaize’ Jerusalem and the West Bank. It is estimated that Moskowitz has provided over $190 million to settlers movements for construction purposes.   
The media image that ‘pressure’ is being put on Israel to halt settlement construction is misleading. Israel has consistently neglected its obligations under international law and peace agreements and continues to fund and encourage the expansion of the settlement enterprise. The US administration has backtracked significantly on previous demands on Israel, illustrating how the financial support provided by the US severely limits its capacity to apply the necessary pressure and force Israel to face legal repercussions for its failures, which could also include the US administrations support of Israel in deflecting the Goldstone report. 
The substantial financial support allocated to the settlement industry in the 2009-2010 Israeli budget, the sheer number of housing unit tenders issued in 2009 and proposed for 2010, in addition to private financial contributions, and the unfaltering political, and financial, support provided by the US to Israel, illustrate that the settlement industry shows no sign of stopping, rather, its trajectory is one of expansion and consolidation.
Categories: Settlement Expansion