Record levels of Jewish settlement construction in 2023

Thomas Helm

The National  /  August 9, 2023

New report reveals levels of West Bank Jewish settlement construction and legitimization have broken records this year.

West Bank settlement construction reached record levels in 2023, according to one of Israel’s leading peace advocacy groups.

The group says that almost 13,000 new housing units have been approved this year.

The report also says that 2023 shows record levels of government legitimization of illegal Jewish outposts under Israeli law. The sites are illegal under international law.

So far this year, 22 West Bank outposts have been legalized, with more potentially on the horizon as Israel’s right-wing government continues its pro-settlement agenda.

Peace Now’s report came a day after an article on its website accused “Israel’s government [of] openly and knowingly working to undermine the chances of a two-state solution”.

The two-state solution has long been the preferred means of ending the Israel-Palestine conflict among much of the international community.

But after decades of Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank, the plan appears under threat given the complex and politically controversial steps that would be needed to move hundreds of thousands of Israelis who now live in the region and allow Palestinians to have a cohesive state.

Peace Now’s assessment comes as a number of members in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition, the most right-wing government in Israel’s history, continue to defend the settlement project and, in some cases, settlers that use violence against Palestinians.

The Prime Minister spoke to the head of the Shin Bet domestic security service on Monday after coalition politicians criticized the agency for warning of the consequences of a wave of settler attacks against Palestinians.

Far-right politician Limor Son Har-Melech, among others, earlier criticized the agency’s head for not knowing “how to define who is the enemy”.

One of her former aides was arrested in connection with the killing of a 19-year-old Palestinian on Friday.

A number of coalition members live in settlements.

The settlement house of coalition politician Simcha Rothman, an architect of a deeply controversial package of judicial reforms, has a demolition order against it.

Peace Now levelled particular criticism at far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, telling Israeli outlet Zman Israel that: “The longer he remains in the role, the more problematic the reality on the ground will become … as the settlements draw closer to Palestinian towns and villages, especially the illegal outposts, the more the friction between the two populations we will see, and with it the violence.”

Thomas Helm is Jerusalem Correspondent at The National