A bird flies over E1 in the West Bank, December 6, 2012.
Baz Ratner / Courtesy Reuters

These days, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing strong criticism from an unlikely corner. In a private meeting this past May, the leaders of several settlements accused him of stymieing the settlement enterprise. His response, that Israel had to “consider international constraints," was not well received.

Soon after the meeting, on May 29, Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics issued a report that supported the settlers' claims. In the first quarter of 2014, the bureau reported, the Israeli government had approved only 232 residential units for construction in the area that Israelis commonly call Judea and Samaria and most people know as the West Bank. That rate is roughly half that of the last decade, which saw an average of 1,687 units built each year. And given that existing settlements currently house roughly 350,000 Israeli citizens -- who have an annual birthrate of about four percent -- this slower rate of construction can hardly sustain

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  • ELLIOTT ABRAMS is a senior fellow in Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former U.S. deputy national security adviser. URI SADOT is a research associate in Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. 
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