At least 500 new buildings have been constructed since Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, lifted the partial hold on new permits that was in place for six months prior to September. Even while the so-called ‘moratorium’ was in place, construction continued in dozens of West bank settlements, but with the hold lifted, Israeli settlers have gone on a ‘building spree’, according to the Associated Press.The new AP report includes interviews with developers and municipal governments in the Israeli settlements in the West Bank, who have documented a rate of construction that is four times higher than in any period over the last two years.

All Israeli settlements in the West Bank are considered illegal under international law, as they are constructed on illegally-seized Palestinian land that was taken by military force and is now being used to house Israeli civilians.

But the Israeli government disagrees with this international statute, and has issued permits for many of the 350 Israeli settlements currently in place on Palestinian land in the West bank. Israeli law specifically promotes the construction and expansion of settlements in contravention of international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention, rewarding settlers if they are able to ‘hold onto land’ that was once Palestinian for a period of time. After the settlers establish housing on the illegally seized land, Israeli law requires that the Israeli government provide water and electricity to “legalize” the settlements and annex the land for the state of Israel.

Since its creation in 1948, the state of Israel has never defined its borders, and has continually expanded onto Palestinian land taken by military force. This type of expansion is specifically prohibited under the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a signatory.

The current ‘building spree’ of construction is taking place on land designated during ‘peace negotiations’ as part of a future Palestinian state. Because of the ongoing settlement construction, Palestinian negotiators have argued that Israeli authorities are making any chance of a negotiated peace impossible by carving up what’s left of historic Palestine into smaller and smaller islands of territory that some call ‘bantustans’, in reference to the South African term for isolated land reservations where black South Africans were forced to live during the apartheid era.

A Palestinian official told the Israeli daily, Yedioth Ahranoth, ‘This figure is alarming and is another indicator that Israel is not serious about the peace process, which is supposed to be about ending the occupation.’

According to Associated Press reporters who conducted the investigation, the actual number of new units being constructed may be much higher than their estimate of 500, as many settlements are engaging in expansion in secret, and refusing to disclose how many new units are actually under construction.