Elkin: Moratorium could cost NIS 500 million

Elkin Moratorium could

The 10-month moratorium on new Jewish West Bank construction could cost the state half a billion shekels, Likud MK Ze'ev Elkin told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. He calculated the figure from information submitted to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Subcommittee on Judea and Samaria, which he chairs. The projections, he said, are only an initial estimate based on partial information. But the committee is gathering damage estimates from all local and regional council heads so that it can arrive at a final figure, said Elkin, who is opposed to the moratorium. One property owner, Elazar Shapira of Elkana, estimated that he could lose at least NIS 100,000 if the stop-work order issued against his home is not rescinded. On Sunday, with the help of the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, he was one of four homeowners who, along with a contractor, petitioned the High Court of Justice to rescind the decree against new settlement construction. It's the third petition to the court against the freeze since the IDF began last Sunday to enforce the November 25 security cabinet decision. Although initial reports regarding the moratorium spoke of stopping all projects that lacked a concrete foundation, settlers claim that even construction with a foundation is being stopped. Moshe Friedman, a spokesman for Beitar Illit, said it was still unclear which of the 300 apartments now under construction in his city could be completed. The civil administration inspectors who visited the city issued a series of what seemed to be arbitrary orders, said Friedman, in which a contractor can finish an apartment in one section of his project, but not in another. The city held an emergency meeting on Sunday morning with local contractors to try and get a handle on the problem, said Friedman. At the meeting, Beitar Illit Mayor Meir Rubinstein said that under the new edict a contractor might be able to build only half of his project, but none of the apartment units could be finished because infrastructure work can only be done once all the homes are built. Friedman said that in one instance there are 28 apartments due to be finished in February that cannot be hooked up to sewer lines. He added it was his understanding that infrastructure projects such as roads and water, sewage and electricity lines could not be completed. On Friday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu set up a special committee to deal with problems that have arisen in the moratorium's implementation. Members include Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Likud Minister Bennie Begin, new Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen. Eitan Dangot, and Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser. On Sunday, Hauser would not provide details of the deliberations by the committee, which has already started to work. The civil administration on Wednesday also set up an appeals committee headed by Lt.-Col. Asher Cohen and refused to provide information on its hearings as well. But even before a process was in place to handle the stop-work orders which the the IDF had handed out to contractors and home owners, Elkana homeowner Shapira was at the civil administration base just outside of Beit El. He had with him a thick stack of papers that recorded every legal approval he had received to build his home in the two years since he purchased the property, where he hopes to raise his three children. The civil administration authorized construction of the home in August, but he received the permit only in October. By the time he had secured financing and hired the contractor, it was already late November. When Netanyahu announced that he planned to halt new construction on November 25, Shapira's contractor had not yet broken ground. That Monday, civil administration inspectors handed the contractor a stop-work order. "We did everything by the book and now the state is making us out to be criminals," said Shapira. "It's not a good feeling." When he sought to appeal the order, he discovered that there was no framework for doing so. No one answered the phone number on the order, he said, so he found himself last Wednesday in front of a regular standing body that deals with building violations. They rejected his claim, and he has since turned to the appeals committee that was created later in the week. Shapira said he has turned in his paperwork to the panel but has yet to hear back. In the interim he turned to the High Court of Justice. He was joined in his suit by Ro'i Tamir of Kedumim, who received a stop-work order on Sunday morning. Tamir, who grew up in the destroyed Gaza community of Neveh Dekalim, said he left his parents' home there in 2003 to marry and move to Kedumim. But he returned home to be with his parents when the government destroyed their home. Now the government has stopped him from building a home for his family, said Tamir. He received a permit in September and began building in November. He did not believe that the edict applied to him, since he had completed the structure's foundation. But his conviction wavered as the days passed and he heard reports that other similar projects had been stopped. "I hope and believe that justice will be served," he said. Their attorney, Motti Mintzer, who is part of the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, plans to argue that the edict violates their basic rights. Homeowners should have been given a six-month warning, and the order should not have been implemented without an appeals procedure or compensation formula, he said. The edict, he said, was not issued in response to a military attack and there was no need for the IDF to act so quickly. "These are innocent people who are citizens of Israel," he said. Herb Keinon and Haviv Rettig Gur contributed to this report.