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Israel publishes tenders for 198 new settler homes
By TOVAH LAZAROFF AND LAHAV HARKOV
16/01/2013
Yacimovich, Livni slam Netanyahu for isolating Israel internationally; Lapid: PM prefers settlers over middle class.
 
Publication of tenders for 198 new homes in the West Bank settlements of Efrat and Kiryat Arba by the Israel Lands Authority just a week before the election sparked a fierce political debate on Wednesday.

The tenders, which were published Tuesday, came almost at the same time that Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic published an article in which US President Barack Obama reportedly criticized Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for continued settlement building.

Upon hearing of the new tenders, Labor chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich slammed Netanyahu for ignoring US President Barack Obama’s advice and isolating Israel.

“Instead of listening to criticism, Netanyahu is behaving irresponsibly and provocatively a week before the election,” she said.

“The battle against [Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali] Bennett is more important to Netanyahu than facing Obama. Netanyahu is desperately trying to distract from his failures, which were revealed again this week when we saw he has no control over Israel’s economy, and is trying to work in the diplomatic field, where he is also a failure,” Yacimovich said.

Efrat Council head Oded Revivi noted that this was not the first time that the news of the Efrat homes had been published.

“It is amazing to see how news can be repeated, making the headlines time after time,” Revivi said.

“The permits were granted quite a few months ago. We are extremely happy to see that the permits have come to fruition with the publication of the tenders,” he said.

He explained that 114 apartments will now be built in a new neighborhood of the Efrat settlement, known as Givat HaTamar.

Separately, 84 new units will be built in a new neighborhood of the Kiryat Arba settlement, known as Harsina, according to the Lands Authority’s website.

Efrat, which is located 6.5 kilometers over the pre-1967 lines, is considered part of the Gush Etzion bloc, which Israel considers would become part of its sovereign territory in any final-status agreement with the Palestinians.

Kiryat Arba is located 15.2 km. over pre-1967 lines, adjacent to Hebron, and just outside Gush Etzion.

Palestinians believe that they should eventually have sovereignty over Efrat and Kiryat Arba.

The Tzipi Livni Party blasted news of the tenders, even though its leader has spoken of her belief that Gush Etzion would be within Israel final borders.

“Netanyahu is destroying Israel’s international relations and is sacrificing national interests for political considerations right before an election,” it stated.

“The Netanyahu government’s order of priorities is set by its ‘natural partners,’ the extreme Right and haredim, not the Zionist, sane majority in Israel,” the party added.

It took particular issue with the Kiryat Arba plans.

Netanyahu’s policies lead to a double loss by isolating Israel and weakening settlement blocs by building outside of them, Livni’s party said.

MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) congratulated Netanyahu, saying all construction in the Land of Israel is a good thing.

She said that Netanyahu’s support for building in Judea and Samaria was unprecedented and would significantly lower housing prices.

The Yesh Atid party, however, said Netanyahu is proving once again that he prefers settlers over the middle class.

“Instead of investing in housing, education and lowering the cost of living, the prime minister chooses, a moment before the election, to invest in settlements and is further isolating Israel,” the party stated.

“In the competition between him and Bennett for votes, Netanyahu chose to wink at the extreme right instead of protecting national, social and economic interests.”

Jeremy Gimpel of Bayit Yehudi slammed Center-Left parties for speaking out against the construction and believing that building in Efrat endangered Israel.

“Now the voters know who they’re voting for,” he said.

Strong Israel leaders Arieh Eldad and Michael Ben-Ari said, “It’s too bad there aren’t elections twice a week.

“If Netanyahu would have built in his four years in the government the way he’s promising before the election, there wouldn’t be a housing crisis in Israel and the attempts to establish a Palestinian state would be considered science fiction,” they added.

Eldad and Ben-Ari accused Netanyahu of trying to “steal” settler’s votes, while saying he is committed to establishing a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria.

The two expressed hope that those faithful to the Land of Israel know not to give their votes to someone who plans to uproot them from their homes.
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