Drastic fall in e. J'lem building permits worries Rivlin

Likud MKs to ask Netanyahu for explanations.

311_Pisgat Zeev view of homes (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
311_Pisgat Zeev view of homes
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
A Jerusalem Post report indicating a massive decrease in building in east Jerusalem since the visit of US Vice President Joe Biden in March caused consternation on the Right over the weekend.
Likud lawmakers said they would question Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Mayor Nir Barkat about the report, which found that in the five months since Biden’s visit, only a handful of small projects, with a total of 433 housing units, had passed some level of approval.
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In the three months before Biden’s visit, five large projects, with more than 3,171 housing units, passed some level of approval.
“It is clear that there is a de facto freeze even in Jerusalem,” said Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, a proud Jerusalemite whose family has lived in the city for more than a century.
“If Israel doesn’t build in Jerusalem, it gives the impression that Israel would consider dividing Jerusalem. It is very worrisome, because everyone who knows the city and its intricacies understands that it cannot be divided.”
Rivlin said that freezing construction as a confidence-building measure for the Palestinians was unwise because the world would not understand how Israel could resume building afterward.
“The test of unity to Jerusalem is gauged not by declarations but by actual building on the ground,” Likud MK Danny Danon said. “I will ask the prime minister and the mayor to clarify whether this happened coincidentally or for technical reasons, or whether we severely decreased our building in our own capital because of pressure from Washington.”
National Union MK Arye Eldad said the Post report actually understated the problem, because it did not differentiate between government construction and private building. He said that 411 out of the 433 units that advanced were private building, while the government only advanced one small project in the Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood that was actually approved under former prime minister Ehud Olmert.
“The government is lying to the public and surrendering to Obama,” Eldad said. “This government likes to talk about Jerusalem, but when it comes to actually building in our capital, it is the most cowardly government we have ever had.”
Meretz chairman Haim Oron praised the fall in east Jerusalem construction. He said that a complete freeze was necessary everywhere over the pre-1967 border.
“It’s good that the construction fell, but what really matters is that the freeze continues,” Oron said. “It will be impossible to advance talks [with the Palestinian Authority] while we build, east Jerusalem included.”
Melanie Lidman contributed to this report.