Sunday the Israeli government will allow the “partial settlement freeze” in the West Bank to expire, and settlers are hyping it as an opportunity to finally break free of the restrictive policy and resume construction in earnest. Palestinians are appalled, insisting that the end of the freeze will do major damage to the peace process.
But rhetoric aside, the end of the freeze will likely mean very little, as the freeze itself has done next to nothing. Analysis from the Associated Press today reveals that the number of construction projects ongoing in the occupied West Bank has dropped only 10% since the start, and as this relies on Israeli government data it presumably excludes East Jerusalem, in which the freeze was never allowed to apply.
Israeli NGO Peace Now insists that the continuation of the freeze could have some meaningful effects eventually, as the large number of “last minute” housing starts announced right before the freeze went into effect must eventually be completed, and there would be no new projects to replace them.
Israel’s government however has ruled this out, and insists the freeze will be allowed to expire. This raises the possibility that it may allow for a new massive number of housing starts and then the concession of another “temporary” freeze that will again accomplish nothing.