JERUSALEM (JTA) — There has been a marked increase in spending on West Bank settlements since President Donald Trump took office.
New Israeli figures obtained in a freedom of information request by The Associated Press show a 39 percent increase in 2017 spending on roads, schools and public buildings across the West Bank, according to a report Tuesday.
Both supporters and detractors of the settlements have called it the “Trump effect.”
“The Trump administration is undoubtedly the most friendly American administration of all time,” said Oded Revivi, the head of the Yesha settlers’ council and mayor of Efrat, a settlement with a population of about 9,000. “In contrast, the Obama years were extremely hard for Israel. Now we are making up for lost ground.”
Hagit Ofran, a researcher with the anti-settlement monitoring group Peace Now, also remarked about how Israel’s pro-settler government has reacted to Trump’s presidency.
“They are not shy anymore with what they are doing,” she said. “They feel more free to do whatever they want.”
The government statistics that the AP received from Israel’s Finance Ministry after two years of requests showed that spending in the West Bank in 2017 was $459.8 million, from $332.6 million in 2016.
The areas with the strongest growth in spending in 2017 were school construction, which rose by 68 percent, and road construction, which rose by 54 percent.
Meanwhile, construction starts in the West Bank were 9 percent above average in 2018, with 2,100 new housing units started, according to Peace Now’s Annual Settlement Report for 2018. Of those housing starts, 73 percent, or 1,539 units, are in settlements likely to be evacuated in a two-state agreement and at least 10 percent, or 218 units, was in illegal outposts.
The report also found that in the past decade under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 9,346 housing units began construction in settlements, with 70 percent in settlements likely to be evacuated in a two-state solution.