Israel has a plan to spend NIS 2.8 billion to help expand the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement by 20,000 new homes within the next 10 years.
Construction of all but 470 units in the plan still needs bureaucratic and prime ministerial approvals, including for some 4,200 units that would be in the highly controversial and unbuilt E1 section of the city.
But the agreement, signed last week by the Housing and Construction Minister Yoav Gallant and Ma’aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel
, would allow for the construction of infrastructure for the homes, such as utilities and roads.
It also provides for public buildings such as community centers, schools, synagogues and sports facilities.
Located in Area C of the West Bank just outside of Jerusalem, Ma’aleh Adumim has a population of 37,817 and is the third-largest Jewish city in the West Bank, after Modi’in Illit, with 70,081 and Betar Illit, with a population of 54,557. Ariel, the fourth largest settlement has a population of 19,626, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics’ 2017 database.
The completion of 20,000 new homes for Ma’aleh Adumim could more than triple the size of the city.
It comes after years during which the city has received few building approvals compared to other settlements.
Right-wing politicians and Kashriel have long argued that Ma’aleh Adumim, which is considered to be one of the settlement blocs, must be part of Israel’s final borders and that its development helps ensure a united Jerusalem in any final status agreement with the Palestinians.
Kashriel and right-wing politicians have pushed forward a number of failed campaigns to sway the government to annex the city in advance of any such agreement.
“This agreement is a significant step in the development of the city,” Kashriel told The Jerusalem Post
on Monday. “It was signed with the approval of the prime minister, and I have no doubt that the years in which building was frozen in the city have now come to an end.”
Gallant said that the Ma’aleh Adumim plan was important to help ensure Israel’s hold on the area around Jerusalem, including the settlements of Givat Ze’ev, Efrat and the Gush Etzion region in general.
“We will continue to act to strengthen the city, which is part of the greater Jerusalem area. We must continue to keep Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley under [Israeli] control and to strengthen settlements in those areas,” he said.
These are have historical, strategic and national importance and are not “negotiable assists,” he said.
Gallant said that under his leadership the Construction and Housing Ministry has invested “unprecedented funds” to develop Judea and Samaria.
Kashriel said that he already has all the approvals he needs for 470 units and that another 5,300 units are in the final planning stages.
The Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Ministry said the plan “closes the door on any opportunity to achieve peace through a two state solution.”
The United States, under President Donald Trump, has not attacked Israel for settlement activity.
There is a mechanism by which Israelis and Americans can meet every three months to discuss settlement construction, a senior diplomatic official said.
Palestinians hold that Ma’aleh Adumim, including the unbuilt E1 section, is located on land that is vital to the feasibility of a future Palestinian state.
The left-wing group Peace Now dismissed announcement of the NIS 2.8b. plan as irrelevant, noting that news of the plan was released on the eve of municipal elections.
“The mayor of Ma’aleh Adumim announced it to be re-elected. There is nothing in this agreement,” Peace Now’s Hagit Ofran said.
There are 470 units for which tenders have been issued, but after that, she said, the rest of the 20,000 units “are not planned and not approved. It is just words,” she said.
“It is nothing, it is just what I think of it,” Ofran added.Herb Keinon contributed to this report.
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