For 2nd time this month, PM dodges J'lem housing issue

Housing projects in Har Homa and Pisgat Zeev removed from agenda of Interior Ministry c'tee ahead of Obama-Peres meeting.

Construction in Har Homa 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Construction in Har Homa 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Prime Minister’s Office asked on Tuesday that the Interior Ministry remove two housing projects over the Green Line in Jerusalem from the agenda of the Interior Ministry committee that approves housing projects. The announcement came hours before President Shimon Peres was scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama in Washington.
The two projects included 930 housing units in Har Homa, and dozens of units in Pisgat Ze’ev, which were due to be discussed by the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee on Thursday.
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The move comes three weeks after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu asked the Interior Ministry to postpone discussions about four large projects over the Green Line, covering 942 units in Gilo, 980 units in Har Homa, 625 units in Pisgat Ze’ev and 180 units in Ramot.
“The Prime Minister’s Office asked to remove it from the schedule because of objections raised by the public,” an Interior Ministry spokeswoman said.
The complicated housing approval process – which requires multiple approvals from municipal committees and the Interior Ministry – has certain periods designated for public comment. The housing projects could return to the agenda in a few weeks, the spokeswoman said.
Specific requests from the prime minister regarding housing approvals “don’t happen a lot, but they happen,” she said.
Following the hullabaloo in March 2010 – when 1,600 housing units in the capital’s Ramat Shlomo neighborhood were approved during a visit by US Vice President Joe Biden – Netanyahu instituted “increased mechanisms” that give him greater oversight of the Interior Ministry’s approval committees.
“Israel is maintaining a policy of not engaging or publishing construction in Jerusalem at politically sensitive times,” the Prime Minister’s Office said. “Israel has never taken on restrictions in Jerusalem construction. Israeli building policies have not changed during any of the recent administrations.”