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Israel confirms settlers ramping up West Bank construction

Amos Harel | Haaretz

23 October 2009

The defense establishment confirmed that in recent weeks West Bank settlers have been making a noticeable effort to expedite construction, in an attempt to maximize the “facts on the ground” before the United States and Israel reach an agreement on a settlement freeze.

A senior security source said this week that the defense establishment’s view on the situation was reflected in reports published in Haaretz last Friday, which stated that extensive construction is currently being carried out in at least 11 settlements.

“The settlers are very much in tune with the ticking political clock,” the senior defense source said. “You can sense it on the ground, with the infrastructure work that is being done, but also in more minor things. They are acting without any legal authorization and are ignoring the state.

“The approach at this time is that whoever can, goes ahead and builds,” the source continued. “It begins with the official leadership of the Yesha Council [of settlements] and ends with the hilltop youth.”

He pointed out that the phenomenon of unbridled construction is evident in both the more established settlements and in the illegal outposts.

“Whoever can, lays the floor in preparation for constructing a building; and in factories they add extensions to roofs. In some settlements, they’ve built factories for rapid construction of caravans on site, so that they can bypass the ban – on transporting caravans – which was issued by the Civil Administration. Everything was done with the intent of creating a critical mass in many different locations at once, which will make evacuation in the future [more] difficult,” he said.

“They are well aware of the historical precedent: after all, all sides – the Americans, the Israelis, the Palestinians – are now talking of a permanent settlement that will include the settlement blocs in Israeli territory. This is happening because of previous construction in those locations,” the source added.

The senior defense source acknowledged that the measures that have been adopted by the defense establishment to counter the new construction are limited in their scope. “Wherever it involves limited housing, they are evacuated. In other places, where they manage to [get there before] us, the IDF secures warrants – but this does not necessarily result in evacuation,” he said.