Work begins on hundreds of settlement homes

Permits, financing remain in short supply, residents of Dolev plan to name street after Netanyahu.

Tractor in settlement 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file[)
Tractor in settlement 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file[)
Ortal and Avshalom Gavra wasted no time digging in – first thing Monday morning – at their dirt lot in the Tekoa settlement in Gush Etzion, where construction had been frozen for the past 10 months.
Ortal had prayed for the expiration of the government’s moratorium on such work, but had feared it would not happen.
RELATED:Bulldozers begin construction in Ariel as freeze endsMashaal: We'll continue 'to kill illegal settlers'She and her husband were two of hundreds of settlers who, with the help of contractors, began building homes throughout the West Bank on Monday.
Ortal, a young mother of two, received a permit to build her dream house just hours before Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced the 10-month moratorium last November.
She told The Jerusalem Post that she was concerned that its expiration was simply a short period of grace for construction, and that therefore she wanted to make sure that work on her home was quickly far enough along that it could not be included in any new freeze.
“So we are building even though typically it would not be permissible according to Jewish law to do so on the [Succot] holiday,” Ortal told the Post. “I consider this a necessary white sin because who knows what will happen.”
In the city of Ariel in central Samaria, tractors began work on a new neighborhood of more than 50 apartment units, which will house, among others, evacuees from the former Gaza settlement of Netzarim.
In the settlement of Dolev, in the Binyamin region, residents and Likud parliamentarians such as MK Danny Danon plan to hold a ceremony on Tuesday to mark the start of a new neighborhood with scores of homes. They plan to name one of the roads for Netanyahu.
Throughout the freeze, work continued on 3,000 units that already had foundations when the moratorium on new housing starts took effect. Since then, 796 homes have been completed. As of June 2010, work was under way on 2,140 homes, according to numbers from the Central Bureau of Statistics.
Peace Now has estimated that work on 2,066 housing units had been frozen, but settler leaders such as Gush Etzion Regional Council head Shaul Goldstein cautioned that work would not begin on all of them at once.
Succot has delayed the start of construction, he said, and added that work has now been begun on only 10 to 30 percent of the permitted units in his region.
“There is also a lot of uncertainty about the future,” another thing likely to lead to delays in the building, Goldstein said.
Efrat Council head Oded Revivi said that he had already experienced this problem firsthand on Monday.
Work resumed on 32 units that had been frozen in Efrat, but financing has now become an issue, he said.
Revivi has had reports that banks are not always willing to approve mortgages for projects in Judea and Samaria and have offered reduced funding or have asked for higher collateral.
A spokesman for Bank Leumi told the Post that at least in his bank he knew of no such issue, but he added that overall the requirements for mortgages had gotten stricter in the past year.
Revivi said the issue was not just with banks but with private donors as well.
At the start of the moratorium, settler leaders symbolically poured cement onto an empty lot in Efrat where residents hoped to see a synagogue constructed.
The local council successfully argued with the Defense Ministry that work should be allowed to continue there despite the freeze.
But construction there is still stalled because donors both in Israel and abroad have pulled out of the project, Revivi said.
He also said that his settlement is among those that are almost out of construction permits.
He would need government approval before more homes (besides the 32 now under construction) can be built, he said.
The same is true in Ma’aleh Adumim, the third largest Jewish city in the West Bank.
Throughout the freeze, work was able to continue on 152 housing units that were already under construction in November.
Ma’aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel said there are several dozen units in his city that were frozen, but that after that, no more new homes can be built without approvals from the government and/or Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
There are 300 units in the city that need Barak’s approval before work can move forward, Kashriel said.
In Karnei Shomron in Samaria there was no race to build, because the settlement had no authorized construction when the freeze began.
Its council head, Herzl Ben-Arie, told the Post that his settlement’s story has remained unchanged in recent years.
There are 90 units ready to go that need only the defense minister’s signature, but that authorization has not been forthcoming, he said.
But the moment the freeze ended, Ben-Arie was able to end a bureaucratic nightmare for 497 homeowners who lived in houses that, due to a legal dispute, lacked all the proper paperwork, something that created difficulties in instances where, for example, they wanted to take out mortgages against their homes.
While the legal issues were resolved during the freeze, the permits could not be issued because of the moratorium order.
The moment it expired, Ben- Arie said, his council updated all the files with the proper authorizations.
In Oranit, located both within and without the pre-1967 armistice line, work resumed in an area of the community that is designated for hundreds of new homes.
Its council head, Shlomi Langer, said that his settlement has remained a highly desirable place to live despite the freeze.
What is more, he does not know of any financing issues that have arisen as a result of the moratorium.
“Oranit should never have been included in the freeze,” he said, and now that it is over, “life today began to return to normal.”