Ma’aleh Adumim mayor asks to approve new building

Benny Kashriel sends letter to PM about lack of new permits; says absence of new tenders and housing shortage has increased prices up by 50%.

December 13, 2010 02:13
3 minute read.
maaleh adumim construction 248.88

maaleh adumim construction 248.88. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi)

Ma’aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel Sunday sent a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu asking him to authorize new construction in the settlements, including his city, which is located just outside of Jerusalem.

As the third largest West Bank settlement, his city, along with that of Betar Illit, contributed to 38 percent of all settlement building from 2005- 2009, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.

But now, both cities are out of construction permits. Unless Netanyahu publishes new tenders, building will soon cease in both cities, once existing construction projects are finished.

According to Peace Now, settlers had laid new foundations for 1,126 new homes in 61 West Bank settlements, from the September 26 end of the moratorium on such activity until November. The bulk of that construction involves small projects of less than 50 units. The largest new project was for 216 units in the Betar Illit settlement. Ma’aleh Adumim registered only 24 new homes.

Peace Now has warned that settlers are laying foundations at a rapid pace. But it has also acknowledged that many of the larger settlements, where housing demands are high, will soon run out of construction permits, if they have not done so already.

While Betar Illit has been silent on the issue, Kashriel, who is a longtime member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, has been quite vocal about the lack of new permits in his city, which he warns in on the verge of a silent freeze.

While international attention has focused on the possibility that Israel would impose a second freeze on new settlement construction, to replace the 10-month moratorium, settler leaders have warned that they are in danger of a silent freeze in some of the larger settlements, which can only build if the government authorizes new construction.

Already in October settler leaders called on Netanyahu to publish new tenders for 4,321 new homes in nine settlements. They asked for 978 units in Betar Illit; 800 in Alfei Menashe; 507 in Givat Ze’ev; 503 in Ariel; 435 in Efrat; 265 in Elkana; 213 in Ma’aleh Adumim; 134 in Geva Binyamin (Adam) and 48 in Kiryat Arba.

Settler leaders shifted their focus away from this plan last month, when Netanyahu appeared poised to impose a new 90-day freeze on new settlement building.

In the aftermath of the US announcement last week that it was dropping its demand for a 90-day moratorium, settlers leaders are gearing up to relaunch their campaign.

“We certainly feel a degree of relief that this immoral and foolish freeze is off the table; however, we are not celebrating because the battle to strengthen Israel’s bonds with Judea and Samaria has a long way to go,” said Naftali Bennett, the director-general of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.

Separately, Kashriel on Sunday called on Netanyahu to issue new construction tenders for West Bank settlements. He also sent a copy of the letter to ministers and to MKs.

“I said that the Americans understood that [settlement] building is not the stumbling block for peace and the Palestinian [request for a freeze] is an excuse not to get to an agreement with us,” Kashriel told The Jerusalem Post.

The lack of new tenders and the looming housing shortage in his city, he said, has driven real estate prices up by 50%.

There are young couples who grew up in the city but cannot buy a home, even though they want to live in the city, Kashriel said.

Since Netanyahu took office in March 2009, he has not published tenders for the construction of settlement homes, although he did approve the building of 492 new settlers homes in 2009, prior to the start of the 10-month moratorium.

“We are pushing for him to publish new tenders,” said Dani Dayan, who chairs the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.

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