Critics of settlement-building, including the Israeli left-wing movement, Peace Now, note that about 6,000 West Bank housing units, whose construction was begun under previous Israeli governments, are now at various stages of completion.
Yet, according to Peace Now's own "Settlement Watch," about 80% of those units are being built within the three settlement blocs that the Palestinians accepted at Camp David and Taba.
In a recent interview I conducted with Dennis Ross, the former Middle East negotiator acknowledged that construction within areas slated as future settlement blocs should now be considered legitimate, provided that building doesn't expand the borders of those blocs. So far, the Sharon government is adhering to that principle.
I think this is a perfect example of how Israel's lack of an Information Ministry does it serious political damage. The settlement issue has been completely defined by the anti-Israeli side. The extremely significant fact that the overwhelming majority of the settlements are going up in blocs already accepted by the Palestinians and not willy-nilly all over the West Bank is a fact that should be repeated over and over by Israel's media representatives and yet is not. I don't think there is anything more frustrating than the way that a biased media and Israeli PR incompetance combine to skew conventional wisdom against Israel. Again, Israel must shoulder a great deal of the blame due to its refusal to set up a government Information Ministry, which ought to be a top priority.