Opposition, skepticism in Pisgat Ze'ev over reports PM has agreed to a freeze
PMO denies suspending plan to build 900 homes in E. J'lem neighborhood.
By ABE SELIG
Residents of Pisgat Ze'ev reacted with dismay and anger on Thursday over a report that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had frozen the construction of 900 apartments in the east Jerusalem neighborhood after continued American pressure.
The report, which was broadcast on Channel 10 late Wednesday evening, said that Netanyahu had agreed to the freeze after talks with US Middle East envoy George Mitchell on Wednesday. US President Barack Obama's administration has put extensive pressure on the prime minister to halt construction over the pre-1967 border, including in east Jerusalem.
While the Prime Minster's Office denied that the premier had given an order to freeze the construction tender - which was meant to be issued some two weeks ago - Channel 10 also reported that Israel was prepared to agree to a six-month settlement freeze, whereas the US was demanding a year.
Pisgat Ze'ev, which is connected to Jerusalem by Highway 60 and viewed by many Israelis as an outlying neighborhood of the capital, was constructed over the Green Line in 1982, and therefore subject to the US settlement freeze requests.
But residents of the neighborhood on Thursday said they could care less about American pressure and that they would not accept any directives as to where they could or could not build their homes.
"It's like we voted right and got left," said Chen Borachov, as he sat in a hardware store near the neighborhood's mall. "Bibi said one thing and now he's doing something else. If we had elections tomorrow, Likud would be out."
Borachov said that Pisgat Ze'ev, which is considered a Likud stronghold, would shift further right if Netanyahu went through with the freeze. "I think people would start voting for the National Union or Jewish Home parties," he said. "Because by telling us not to build here, Bibi is turning on the same people who put him in office."
The majority of Pisgat Ze'ev residents were unaware of the news on Thursday, as shops were closed and people off the streets during Tisha Be'av.
But further into the neighborhood, Gideon Cohen and David Mizrachi said they had heard about the planned construction freeze and didn't buy it for a minute.
"You really believe that stuff?" asked Cohen, peering through his glasses to get a better look. "You think they're going to stop building here? Anywhere? Why would they?"
"They won't stop," Mizrachi added in. "They can't. What would all the contractors do? What would the Arabs do for work? There's no way."
"This is just a game, a bluff by Bibi," Cohen said. "No one in Pisgat Ze'ev thinks he's really going to do something like that, and if he does, well, he has no right to. This is a Jewish area, it always has been. Even before 1948 there was Jewish settlement here, and when [the previous Jordanian King] Hussein was here, when the Jordanians controlled this area, did they build up anything like this? No, they didn't. It's ours, and no one can tell us what to do with it."
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