All the commandment which I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD swore unto your fathers (Deuteronomy 8:1)
Despite the ongoing peace negotiations taking place in Washington, Israeli Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel promised to continue building in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem on Sunday evening, according to the Jerusalem Post. Ariel made the announcement while laying the cornerstone of a 63-unit Jewish housing project in East Talpiot, a Jerusalem suburb over the pre-1967 lines.
“We will continue to build, so it is clear this is just the start. This tune can’t be stopped,” Ariel (Bayit Yehudi) said. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the Bayit Yehudi party have repeatedly made this pledge, Ariel said.
Following the ceremony Ariel’s office, in conjunction with the Israel Lands Authority, announced that it would be issuing tenders for 1,187 new Jewish homes beyond the Green Line. According to the Ministry, 793 of the new homes will be in the Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, such as Gilo, Har Homa and Pisgat Ze’ev.
The Post also reported that all of the houses planning to be built in Judea and Samaria would be in settlement blocs that Israelis believes it will retain in any final status agreement with the Palestinians, thus making it hard to argue this announcement would be any impediment to the negotiations. The PA has continually insisted that Israel stop all construction in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem but Israel has refused to acquiesce.
According to the JPost, “It was understood that settlement activity would continue when a new nine-month negotiating period was announced at the end of July,” as well as the fact that “it was expected that Israel would time its announcement of new housing to coincide with the release of Palestinian prisoners.
Ariel said the new units would help bring down the cost of housing and that he did not accept any limitations on where new building could take place.
“No country in the world would allow someone else to dictate where it can and where it cannot build,” he said. “We will continue to market homes and to build everywhere in Israel – in the Negev, in the Galilee and in the center of the country, to answer the housing needs of Israel’s citizens. This is the right thing to do for Zionist and economic reasons.” He said that his ministry can and must market thousands of homes in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria.
The announcement was met with opposition from many on the Israeli left, including Finance Minister Yair Lapid. “The issue of affordable housing should not be mixed up with the peace process,” he said. Ariel said in response that Yesh Atid (Lapid’s Party) supported building beyond the pre-1967 line and noted that its opening conference was in the Ariel settlement.
Labor Party head Shelly Yacimovich called on Netanyahu, Lapid and Livni to halt the publication of the tenders.“Netanyahu has to decide which government he heads: one that will pursue a political agreement [with the Palestinians] or a government that seeks to prevent any possibility of such an agreement,” Yacimovich said. “Minister Uri Ariel’s announcement is a a ‘poke in the eye’ to the US, Europe, the Palestinians and the vast majority of Israeli citizens who seek peace,” she said.
In an official statement Sunday, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat lauded Uri Ariel’s decision to support the construction of the new housing units.
“New construction in Jerusalem is essential to the development and strengthening of the city, and for allowing young people to live here and be able to afford to buy apartments,” said Barkat in the statement. “I am glad that we and the government of Israel see eye to eye on this important need.”
Barkat continued, “We must continue to accelerate the building of more housing units throughout the city – and all sectors – in the coming years more and more, along with continued economic, cultural and educational development.”