maaleh adumim const. 298.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The Construction and Housing Ministry on Monday issued tenders for the construction of 44 new housing units in Ma'aleh Adumim, in a bureaucratic move blasted by Peace Now as "spitting in the face of the Americans," but which the Americans themselves did not publicly protest.
A ministry spokesman said that the timing of the issuing of the tenders for construction in the 07 neighborhood had nothing to do with the visit of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday. He said that the fact that the tenders were issued yesterday had to do with the bureaucratic process involved.
A senior official in the Prime Minister's Office said there should be no problem with the issuing of the tenders, since Ma'aleh Adumim is part of the settlement blocs that Israel has made clear it will retain in any final agreement with the Palestinians.
According to Israeli officials, Israel has an informal understanding with the Americans that construction inside the existing construction lines of settlements within the major settlement blocs can continue, even though the road map explicitly calls for an end to all settlement construction, even for natural growth. The Americans have never acknowledged such an understanding.
"As far as Ma'aleh Adumim is concerned, we certainly see it as part of Israel," a senior official in the Prime Minister's Office said. "Not only is this construction to take place inside the perimeters of Ma'aleh Adumim, but 44 units when you are talking about 7,000 units already there is minuscule."
Both Israeli and US officials said that the issued did not come up at Rice's meeting with Olmert. US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, who was traveling with Rice, said he wasn't aware of the bid. But he added: "Our policy [regarding the settlements] hasn't changed."
Peace Now Director-General Yariv Oppenheimer said in response to the tenders that "either the government is fearless, or they are simply not coordinated." He said that issuing the tenders when Rice was in the country "goes against the interests of Israel."
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report. â€¢