A new neighborhood with 930 apartments in east Jerusalem was given the green
light on Thursday.
Two years after it was first deposited for approval,
the Interior Ministry’s Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee gave
its final approval for Har Homa C, which is to be located on a hill adjacent to
the existing Har Homa neighborhood in the capital’s southeast.
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In a nod
to the tent-city housing protesters, Interior Minister Eli Yishai said that 20
percent of the new apartments will be small ones destined to be more affordable
for young couples. He added that he had instructed his office to promote
projects that had a mix of large and small apartments, to address the lack of
“We are continuing to build in Jerusalem and in all
of Israel,” Yishai said in a statement.
“The lack of real estate is
severe and we will not stop projects.”
The Har Homa C project has come up
for discussion a number of times in the past year, including twice in the
spring, though each time it was delayed for political reasons.
delayed when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu visited London, and then again
when President Shimon Peres met with President Barack Obama in
The moves were seen as confidence- building gestures designed
to avoid a repetition of the Ramat Shlomo embarrassment of March 2010, when the
Jerusalem Municipality approved the construction of 1,600 housing units in the
northeastern neighborhood at the same time that US Vice President Joe Biden was
visiting, which the Americans treated as a personal affront.
the final approval from the Interior Ministry, it will be at least two years
until construction begins on the Har Homa C apartments.
First, the state
must publish tenders and approve a contractor, and all of the infrastructure
must be laid for the new neighborhood, including roads, pipes and electrical
Despite the ministry’s claim that the project would ease the
housing shortage, leaders from across the spectrum dismissed the assertion that
the approval was in any way spurred by the three-weeklong housing protests
sweeping the country.
“It’s a shame it just happened now, it just goes to
show that all the delays were just for show, because at the end they were going
to approve them, so why not approve it half a year ago rather than now?”
Jerusalem City Council member Elisha Peleg (Likud) asked.
to release as much land as possible for building, without connection [to the
protests]. We’ve known for years that there’s a housing lack. What, this is
news? We need all of these protests to know there’s a housing shortage?” Peleg
Peace Now accused Yishai of “cynically exploiting the housing
shortage to force young couples to move to settlements on economic
“Just imagine if Netanyahu says, well, there are no apartments
in Israel, so I have to go occupy Bethlehem? What’s the problem with building in
Israel?” Peace Now’s settlement expert Hagit Ofran asked.
“I think that
whoever is against the project is against it for ideological reasons, and they
will be against it whether there is a lack of housing or not,” she
“The government is trying to score points with the policy of
Ofran said that activists see Har Homa as one of the most
controversial Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, because it was started
after the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993 and because it creates a barrier of
Jewish homes between east Jerusalem Arab neighborhoods and Bethlehem.
official in the Prime Minister’s Office downplayed the significance of the
Interior Ministry approval, saying “there is nothing new here,” and that this
project has been in the works for some time.
“The prime minister never
agreed to a construction freeze in Jerusalem,” the official said. “He has
been above board about this.”
The official dismissed concerns that this
would only harden the Palestinian resolve to ask the UN for statehood
recognition in September, saying “I don’t see this as a factor in their
“No one was surprised by this, least of all the Palestinians,”
the official said.Herb Keinon contributed to this report.