Ariel, Katz oppose Palestinian state in West Bank

Uri Ariel urges Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to solve housing crisis by approving new units in east Jerusalem.

east Jerusalem 370 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
east Jerusalem 370
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Now is the time to step up the fight against a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi) said on Wednesday night at a meeting of the settler leadership in Jerusalem.
Transportation Minister Israel Katz (Likud) said he believed Palestinians should be autonomous in the West Bank and should affiliate with Jordan.
“I am opposed to a Palestinian state,” Katz said at the start of an executive meeting of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.
“It is unacceptable, mainly because of our rights to this land,’ Katz said. “In my eyes, the right diplomatic solution is an autonomous Palestinian entity, but with Jordanian civilian and political affiliation.”
Katz added that Gaza should be severed from Israel and connected to Egypt.
Ariel said, “We need to state clearly that there won’t be a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River.”
He noted that even as the settler leadership met, others were working to rekindle talks for a two-state solution in the West Bank. The time to start the battle against those talks and its outcome is now, he said.
“These kinds of things need to be killed when they are small. Otherwise, it becomes harder and more complicated, with less chance of success,” he said.
“Now is the time to act. The responsibility falls first and foremost upon us,” he said.
“We do not ring the alarm bells enough. This time we will not turn the other check,” he said.
“We will fight [politically] for the Land of Israel with all our strength,” he said, explaining that it was important to work within the political parties that make up the coalition.
Both he and Katz said they opposed any form of a construction freeze over the pre- 1967 lines.
“This illness in which Jews freeze Jews is a very serious disease that can return in many forms,” he said. “A freeze cannot be within the Jewish nation’s lexicon, certainly not in the Land of Israel.”
It has been close to a year since new homes have been marketed in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, Ariel said.
“I won’t lend a hand in any way to a freeze in Judea and Samaria and in east Jerusalem,” he said.
“According to my political assessment, there is not a majority for it in the Knesset,” Ariel added.
He repeated a statement he made earlier in the day at the Knesset Finance Committee debate on his ministry’s budget, in which he blamed the country’s housing shortage in part on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s refusal to authorize permits for homes in West Bank settlements and east Jerusalem.
“We have the ability to market 10,000 housing units in [east] Jerusalem and the settlement blocks in Judea and Samaria,” Ariel told the Knesset Finance Committee during a meeting on the housing budget for 2013-2014.
This includes plans for homes in the settlements of Beit Aryeh, Ofarim and Elkana, Ariel said.
Jerusalem is one of the areas in the country with an acute housing shortage, Ariel said. As a result, he said, prices have risen by 41 percent between 2008 and 2012, compared to a 27% hike in the rest of the country for that same period.
High purchase prices translate into high rental fees, he said.
Ariel’s comments come in the midst of a de facto freeze since January on the publication of housing tenders in east Jerusalem and West Bank settlements, as part of Netanyahu’s efforts to help create a supportive climate for US Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to rekindle the frozen peace talks with the Palestinians.
On Wednesday afternoon Avi Ro’eh, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, wrote a letter to Netanyahu urging him to lift the de facto freeze and begin marketing homes.
Meretz party leader MK Zehava Gal-On accused Ariel of manipulating the country’s housing crisis to push for more housing over the pre-1967 lines.
Opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) called Ariel the only honest member of the coalition.
“Ariel took the mask off the face of the Netanyahu-Lapid- Bennett government,” she stated.
“Lapid promised cheaper housing but enacts cruel budget cuts and raises taxes on middle- class homeowners without creating even one mechanism for stopping housing prices from skyrocketing. Then he covers everything with empty slogans.”
At the same time, Yacimovich said, Ariel revealed the government’s total unwillingness to try to bring a peace treaty, in trying to create a mass influx of young couples into settlements by having inexpensive housing only there.
Ariel’s housing plans will be “the death blow to our chances for a peace treaty.”