Lapid blasts new settlement housing tenders as 'double mistake'

Finance minister lashes out at decision to build new Jewish settlements beyond Green Line; Barkat welcomes move.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Finance Minister Yair Lapid 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Finance Minister Yair Lapid lashed out Sunday at the decision to build more than one thousand new homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, calling it "a double mistake."
Lapid's comments came on the heels of similar condemnation by Meretz leader, Zahava Gal-On, who accused the government of trying to stymie the nascent peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
"Announcing the decision to market 1,200 housing units in east Jerusalem and in the larger settlement blocs at this time is a double mistake," Lapid said in a statement.
"Solutions for the problem of housing should be founded in the areas of need," he wrote. "Additionally, the use of resources meant to provide housing for the middle class to needlessly defy the Americans will impede the peace process."
Gal-On branded decision "a roadside bomb the government has placed to eliminate the peace negotiations before they even begin."
She added that there would never be a peace agreement until Israel adheres to the 1967 lines and a territorial exchange.
Opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich added her voice to those slamming the decision, saying that the move destroys all progress the negotiations have made so far.
"There is no practical meaning the announcement, all it accomplishes is to violently torpedo the seeds of international recognition and support that we have garnered for the renewed peace talks," she said in a statement.
She called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to "choose what type of government he is heading - a government that seeks a political agreement or a government that denies the possibility of a diplomatic solution."
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, however, who welcomed the move to built 800 new housing units in the Jerusalem area.
"New construction in Jerusalem is essential to the development and strengthening of the city and for allowing young people to live and buy apartments," Barkat said, "I am glad that the government of Israel sees us eye to eye on this important need."
He also said that there is a need to continue to develop more housing as well as to invest in "continued economic, cultural and educational development."
The decision by the Ministry of Construction and Housing, currently under the control of Bayit Yehudi's Uri Ariel, comes a few days before the first of four planned Palestinian prisoner releases that are part of the renewed negotiations.
Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelah echoed his party chairman Yair Lapid's criticism of the government's announcement that the state would issue 1,200 tenders for homes in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.
"This decision… is errant and dangerous, not just because of the timing - just before the renewal of peace talks with the Palestinians after years of disconnect - but because of the outrageous parallel that is being created between Israeli gestures, like the release of Palestinian prisoners, and the establishing of facts on the ground that will complicate future negotiations."
"Instead of courageously stating what is so obvious to every Israeli – that there won't be a final status agreement without a return to the June 4, 1967 lines with slight border adjustments and territorial swaps, the government prefers to zigzag between steps that are morally questionable and continuing the settlement enterprise, which is a key obstacle to any agreement."