PM reportedly orders renewed Jerusalem construction despite recent freeze

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has already slammed the premier following the announcement, saying it was a violation of international law and “deliberate sabotage” of a two-state solution.

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June 22, 2017 20:03
2 minute read.
A laborer works on an apartment building under construction in the Har Homa neighborhood of Jerusale

A laborer works on an apartment building under construction in the Har Homa neighborhood of Jerusalem. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Less than three days after the government reportedly ordered a de facto construction freeze for 6,000 previously approved housing units beyond the capital’s Green Line, the chairman of Jerusalem’s Local Planning and Construction Committee said on Thursday that the plans will move forward.

The prime minister's reported intention to forge ahead with construction outside of the Green Line in the capital was revealed on the same day that he announced another unusual move regarding the government's building plans.

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On Thursday evening it was reported that Netanyahu has decided to allow the construction of some 300 new housing units in the West Bank settlement of Beit El.

The premier promised residents of Beit El that they would get more houses as far back as 2012, but on Thursday he confirmed to the head of the Beit El Regional Council Shai Alon that he intends to have the housing units built by September.

Netanyahu's steps in the direction of renewed construction are taken to the discomfort of many on the same week that White House aides Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt visited the region to revive peace negotiations.

Earlier this week, Army Radio reported that 2,200 units would be halted in the contested neighborhoods of Gilo, several thousand in Har Homa, and hundreds more Pisgat Ze’ev.

Neither the Jerusalem Municipality nor the Housing Ministry confirmed or denied the report, which came two months after Construction Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to construct 25,000 homes in the capital, including 15,000 beyond the Green Line.

Gallant’s announcement, made one month before the 50th anniversary of the reunification of the capital, followed US President Donald Trump’s February request to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington to “hold back on settlements.”

During an Israel Radio interview, Gallant said the ministry had been working closely in coordination with the Jerusalem Municipality for the past two years on the controversial initiative, which was frozen under the Obama administration.

“We will build 10,000 units in Jerusalem, and some 15,000 within the [extended] municipal boundaries of Jerusalem,” he said. “It will happen.”

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat swiftly condemned the announcement as a violation of international law and “deliberate sabotage” of a two-state solution.

On Wednesday night, Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Meir Turgeman, who chairs the municipal construction committee, told Channel 2 News that he was informed by Jerusalem District Planner Dalia Zilber, via the prime minister, that the plans will move forward.

The broadcast came hours after Trump’s son-in-law and senior Middle East adviser, Jared Kushner, arrived in Israel to attempt to restart peace negotiations on behalf of the president.

Noting the capital’s growing population and pronounced lack of housing due to an ongoing “de facto” building freeze, Turgeman said construction beyond the Green Line is imperative.

“Jerusalem very much needs apartments [and it] is unreasonable that in the era of the Trump administration, which says it has no problem with building in Jerusalem, there should be an order not to build here,” he said.

Although the Prime Minister’s Office and Jerusalem Municipality did not comment on the pending approval, according to Turgeman, the committee, which convenes on Wednesdays, will likely approve the 6,000 units next week.

Tovah Lazaroff and JPost.com Staff contributed to this report.


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