The Construction and Housing Ministry rejected claims Monday that the east Jerusalem Jewish housing project of Givat Hamatos, condemned by the European Union and the United Nations, had been frozen by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu due to international pressure.
“All the diplomatic approvals [from the Prime Minister’s Office] have been given,” the ministry said on Monday, as it clarified that any delays in the project were due to technical issues only.
Talks were underway between its office and the Jerusalem Municipality, to clarify budgetary matters and issues of responsibility with regard to the development of the project, including infrastructure matters, the Housing Ministry said.
Development work on the project can begin as soon as an agreement is signed with the municipality and the tender is closed, it explained.
This procedure is routine, prior to the marketing of a project, the ministry added.
Netanyahu had initially pledged to build in Givat Hamatos in February during the elections and a tender for 1,100 homes was immediately issued. A subsequent tender process was needed, the date for which was set first for May, then delayed to August 2.
Now according to a notice posted on the Lands Authority website the tender has been moved to November 3.
On July 31, days before the August tender deadline, the European Union and some 15 European states sent the Foreign Ministry a demarche on the matter, warning that Givat Hamatos building would have a “devastating impact” on the contiguity of a future Palestinian state.
The international community is opposed to any settlement building and to any Jewish building over the Green-Line in Jerusalem. But it is particularly concerned by certain highly contentious projects, such as Givat Hamatos.
Both the international commuting and the Palestinians have argued that Givat Hamatos, combined with the neighboring east Jerusalem Jewish Har Homa neighborhood, drive a wedge between Arab neighborhoods in the capital and the nearby Palestinian city of Bethlehem.
The Land Authority’s failure to publish the promised August tender raised concern among the Right and hope among the Left, that the plan had been shelved. At issue in particular was the question of whether the project could move forward given Israel’s burgeoning peace deal with the United Arab Emirates.
Under US President Donald Trump’s peace plan for a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Givat Hamatos would remain within Israel’s sovereign borders.
But the UAE has been clear that it still holds that east Jerusalem, including the Givat Hamatos neighborhood, would be part of the future borders of a Palestinian state.
It has been unclear if settler building and Jewish building in east Jerusalem, particularly that of projects like Givat Hamatos, can continue.
But Left-wing groups such as Peace Now and Ir Amim said they saw the publication of the tender as a sign that in fact the Givat Hamatos building would take place.
“We are once more staring at the threat of construction there,” Hagit Ofran of Peace Now said.
Aviv Tatarsky of Ir Amim said, “We are seeing it [Givat Hamatos] advancing and it is very worrisome.”