Middle East Monitor / November 25, 2019
There is a “growing trend among young Israeli families” to seek housing in settlements in the occupied West Bank, Haaretz reports, with many driven by a desire for alternative housing options.
According to one land appraiser cited by the paper, “settlements that once were outside the consensus are now branded and marketed as communities lying in the country’s centre.”
One resident of Karnei Shomron settlement interviewed for the piece said: “We’re living the dream of our friends who live in rental apartments inside the Green Line [Israel’s pre-1967 borders]”.
“They want a quality of life like we have but are afraid of being tainted with the label of being settlers. Some of them can’t accept it for ideological reasons. While they are saving up money in order to buy a home, I fly abroad five times a year”.
According to Eitan Singer, head of consumer-oriented real estate website Madlan, “the place that stands out in recent years is Ariel”, a major settlement in the northern West Bank.
“One reason for the high demand is the accreditation of Ariel College as a university in 2012, with its attendant growing ecosystem”, he noted. “This has affected the rental market and the demand for housing in the area”.
Yair Cohen, the head of a company that builds settlement housing, commented that “there is a trend toward expanding the communities [i.e. settlements in the West Bank], and no one is interested anymore in left or right. The determining factor is the quality of life”.
“Most people realize that these settlements will not be evacuated [in any future peace agreement]”, he added, “so the Green Line is becoming blurred”.
One important development cited by the paper is “the legitimisation the government has given to some settlements by means of its promotion of the Mechir Lemishtaken programme”.
“This lottery-based scheme has offered an incentive for banks to give mortgages for purchasing the apartments that it markets, and they have attracted a lot of interest among new families who’ve decided to move over the Green Line”, the paper explained.
The head of another construction firm active in the occupied West Bank said that Israeli banks have increased their involvement in settlement expansion.
“A decade ago, some of the larger banks were unwilling to take the risks associated with construction in these settlements, but in major settlements, there is no longer a problem”, said Zvi Fuchs, CEO, and co-owner of Z.F. Building Company.
“In fact, the trend has changed, with banks chasing people moving to these areas, who are considered well-educated and reliable”.