Ma’aleh Adumim and Ariel beg PM to okay new building

‘Silent freeze’ about to descend on major settlements; state budget set aside funds for 200 new homes in Ma'aleh Adumim but needs Barak okay.

Ariel 521 (photo credit: Joanna Paraszczuk)
Ariel 521
(photo credit: Joanna Paraszczuk)
The mayors of the Ma’aleh Adumim and Ariel settlements have asked Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to break the silent freeze that threatens to choke their cities by authorizing new building.
While building has been allowed to resume in West Bank settlements since the 10- month moratorium on such activity ended on September 26, the mayors of these two cities have said that they are out of construction permits.
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Without such permits, they said, a silent freeze is about to descend on their cities.
This week, Ma’aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel sent a letter to Netanyahu and called his bureau to ask for a meeting.
No such meeting has been scheduled to date, Kashriel told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
Ma’aleh Adumim, along with Betar Illit and Modi’in Illit, the largest three Jewish West Bank communities, have consistently fueled the bulk of settlement growth for the last 14 years.
Last year, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics, 58% of all finished homes in the settlements were in those three cities alone.
But Kashriel has warned, and continues to warn, that this kind of growth is about to come to a halt.
The state budget, which the Knesset approved last week, set aside funds for 200 new homes in Ma’aleh Adumim, but according to the Construction and Housing Ministry, the project cannot move forward until it receives the approval of the Defense Ministry.
Sources in the Construction and Housing Ministry said that such approval was not likely to be granted in the near future, because no approval was being given at present for projects in West Bank settlements.
The funds that were approved for Ma’aleh Adumim construction, the sources said, allow the ministry to do preparatory work so the construction can move forward should Defense Minister Ehud Barak sign off on it.
Kashriel, however, said he did not believe Barak intended to authorize that project or any new construction in his city.
Last year, 509 new homes were finished in Ma’aleh Adumim, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics. As of September, work was under way on 102 homes. According to Peace Now, as of mid-November, work had begun on only 24 additional homes.
In spite of the pending silent freeze, Kashriel has kept his campaign fairly quiet. Betar Illit, which is also out of permits, has not publicly spoken out against the issue.
However, Ariel, the fourthlargest West Bank city, has embarked on an active campaign for more permits. Unlike in the three larger cities, the government has no large construction projects in Ariel.
From 1996-2009, 4,844 homes were built in Ma’aleh Adumim, 6,725 in Modi’in Illit and 5,430 in Betar Illit. But in that same period, as a result of a lack of construction approvals, only 1,220 homes were built in Ariel.
This year, 86 new homes were finished and 97 were under construction as of the end of September, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.
According to the November Peace Now report, work had begun on 56 more homes since September.
This week, Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman published an ad in Haaretz with signatures from Kadima activists and local politicians calling for an end to the silent freeze of Ariel. He also set up a website so Likud activists could sign a petition in favor of building in Ariel.
Separately, in a letter, he asked Netanyahu to strip Barak of the power to authorize construction in Judea and Samaria.
The letter was signed by a number of Judea and Samaria regional council heads.
He also embarked on a campaign against the defense minister, under the slogan, “Barak will not abuse Ariel.”
Large signs to this effect could be seen hanging by the side of the road in Jerusalem this week.
Ariel Municipality spokeswoman Chen Kedem said the cumulative effect of the lack of construction permits had given city residents the feeling that they were fighting for their very existence.