(photo credit: AP)
Settlers breathe a sigh of relief with each day that passes without any sign
that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will stop new construction in their
“With God’s help, it will continue this way,” Binyamin
Regional Council chairman Avi Ro’eh said on Thursday.
He joked that after
10 months of not being able to break new ground, there was a lot of construction
dust in his region these days as earth-moving equipment prepared the ground for
Foundations are now being laid for several hundred homes
in the Binyamin region, Ro’eh said.
In the days before the moratorium on
such activity expired on September 26, fearful settlers feverishly lobbied
cabinet members to insure that they would keep their promises to allow building
to resume. But their fears that the restrictions will be reinstated have now
diminished, despite headlines that the Obama administration is optimistic that
Israel will curb settlement construction.
“We are also optimistic,” he
said – optimistic that Netanyahu will be able to withstand the US
Not everyone in the settlement leadership is so confident,
“I am worried,” Beit Aryeh Local Council chairman Avi Naim
Naim believes that while Netanyahu could not get the septet of
senior ministers to approve a new moratorium, the full cabinet might be
persuaded to do so.
The anxiety level is significantly higher among
leaders in settlements where a de facto construction moratorium still
In Ma’aleh Adumim, only several dozen units can be built without
authorization from Netanyahu and/or Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
the 10-month moratorium, work was allowed to continue on 3,000 housing units in
the settlements that already had foundations on November 26, 2009, when the
freeze was imposed.
According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, work
was under way on 2,140 units as of June 2010, of which 152 were in Ma’aleh
But according to the city’s Mayor Benny Kashriel, those are the
last projects in the pipeline.
Even if the prime minister does not impose
another moratorium, the situation in Ma’aleh Adumim will be terrible unless the
government issues new housing tenders, Kashriel said.
Council chairman Herzl Ben-Arie said that his settlement and other large ones
were out or almost out of permits.
He couldn’t start work on new
apartments when there was a moratorium, and he can’t do it now that the freeze
For him, the debate on whether Israel should give in to the
Palestinian demand to stop settlement construction is misleading.
no mistake,” Ben-Arie said, “the issue here is not building, but whether Israel
returns to the ’67 line.”
The US wants Israel to impose a 60- day
moratorium, but if that is granted, the US would ask for another extension, and
another one after that, Ben- Arie contended.
That won’t end until Israel
returns to the pre-1967 border and evacuates the 300,000 people living in Judea
and Samaria, he said.