Last week's meeting between Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama must have been tense. Two days before the meeting, the president publicly accused Israel of more "aggressive settlement construction . . . than we've seen in a very long time." Only hours before the meeting, Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) published a report that cited a massive increase in settlement construction during 2013.
But the president had his facts wrong, and a careful reading of the CBS data proves it. The pace is not "aggressive," and almost all of the construction took place within the major settlement "blocs" — areas that past negotiations have recognized would remain part of Israel (to be compensated for with land swaps).
The figures are online for anyone to see (the Web site is in Hebrew). Israel built 2,534 housing units last year in the West Bank. Of these, about a quarter (694) were in two major blocs near Jerusalem, Giv'at Ze'ev and Betar Illit, and 537 were in two other major blocs, Modiin Illit and Ma'ale Adumim, also near Jerusalem. These four, which will remain part of Israel, account for half of last year's construction. They are not isolated outposts but instead are towns with populations in the tens of thousands, near the Green Line, as the 1949 armistice line and 1967 border are known.