There was a flurry of activity this past week on Israel’s housing scene with the approval of tenders and the advancement of plans to build homes in communities throughout Judea, Samaria and in parts of Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem Post reported on Wednesday that the Construction and Housing Ministry along with the Lands Authority issued tenders for 2,572 new units, including 1,257 homes in the capital’s southeastern neighborhood of Givat Hamatos. A few days earlier Israel’s Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria advanced plans for 792 new homes.
For those of us who believe in Israel’s right to build in all areas of our eternal undivided capital city along with those communities established following a defensive war of survival that ended an illegal 19-year Jordanian occupation, the news was certainly welcomed.
However, on cue, country after country from the EU along with the UK, went ballistic over the announced planned construction. Somehow, a continent with surging COVID-19 cases and reports of delays and shortages in vaccinations as a result of immense bureaucracy and failed policies, still has the time to criticize Israel when it comes to new neighborhoods, homes, nursery schools, or pergolas.
On Tuesday this newspaper reported that 17 European countries met with the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem to discuss their concerns. While that is not surprising, what does surprise me is the ministry’s response to the naysayers.
According to reports from the meeting, the ministry’s Deputy Director-General for Europe Anna Azari told the hostile diplomats that “Givat Hamatos is part of the city of Jerusalem,” and claiming that construction in Israel’s capital is akin to “settlement activity” is unfounded.
In other words, Azari went to bat and justified the Jerusalem construction, but drew a clear distinction between building there and building in other areas of Judea and Samaria.
It is true that Israel applied sovereignty over the entire city of Jerusalem following the Six Day War and has not yet done so in Judea and Samaria, but what Azari failed to realize in her defense of the Givat Hamatos project, is that the EU doesn’t differentiate between Eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods and far-away so-called “settlements.”
In other words, in the eyes of the EU, UN, along with extremist self-proclaimed “peace organizations,” there is no difference between Gilo in southern Jerusalem, Ramat Shlomo in northern Jerusalem, Gush Etzion, a so-called cluster of communities within the consensus just south of the capital, or Itamar, over 40 km. east of Kfar Saba. All of these areas in their view are considered “illegally occupied Palestinian territory.”
Since that is the case, what Azari should have done instead of creating wedges, is explain that Israel has the right to build in ANY area under its control, especially when there is a need for housing. And yes, with a countrywide housing shortage, these units are certainly in demand.
At the same time, Azari could have used the opportunity to turn the tables on her European counterparts and take them to task for funding illegal Arab construction throughout “Area C” for more than a decade. One need only drive minutes outside Jerusalem in the direction of the Dead Sea, to see the EU emblem proudly on display on the outer walls of caravans throughout illegal squatter villages, thanks to funding from the various EU nations.
This is a prime example of the EU’s policy of financing the PA’s nefarious attempted takeover of the strategic corridors of Area C with the hope that their presence will one day force Israel’s hand in turning those areas over to full PA control.
Being realistic, automatic EU condemnation of Jewish building isn’t going away any time soon, even if construction in Jerusalem will ironically benefit the Arab community as well – something the hypocrites in the EU don’t seem to take into account. But presenting housing approvals in certain areas as more “kosher,” and others as less “kosher,” is not an effective public diplomacy strategy when combating those who have already created a blanketed but false narrative. It’s time for our officials to stand up for all housing projects, in all areas of the country.
The writer is the international spokesman for the Gush Etzion Regional Council and host of the Israel Uncensored podcast series at thelandofisrael.com. His views are his own.