Nothing so liberates the heart as when a fool awakens from his folly.
Israel's defence department has revealed that it has been secretly compiling a massive database of all settlement activity, past and present, in the West Bank, a project it began four years ago in part because the Israeli government was frustrated that the U.S. government and the Peace Now movement had more accurate intel on settlements than it did.
It's quite a catch-up project. Peace Now's settlement monitoring program has for 20+ years been reporting on all aspects of settlement activity: confiscation of Palestinian land, illegal construction of houses, population growth, demographic trends, government subsidies and tax incentives for settlement residents, new settlements and outposts, legal actions, abuses by the Israeli military in the West Bank, and paramilitary activities among settlers.*
Human rights and advocacy groups such as Al-Haq, B'tselem, and Palestine Monitor, have also made info-gathering on settlements part of their labour.
So when the Israeli establishment learned from its shiny new database that, for example, 75% of all Israeli settlement construction is conducted without a proper permit from the pro-settler Israeli Civil Administration office for the West Bank (an office that often grants permits for building on illegally confiscated Palestinian land anyway), the only ones gasping in surprise were the Israeli officials. [Read more about the report.]
* The one important knock on Peace Now is that it doesn't consistently consider the so-called Jerusalem suburb settlements -- such as Gilo, Har Homa, French Hill, Pisgat Ze'ev and especially Ma'aleh Adumim where construction is destroying the hope for a Palestinian state -- as illegal settlements when compiling its data. These settlements account for approximately half of the total settler population beyond the 1967 Green Line. Click here for a close-up map of Jerusalem-area settlements [PDF].