Capital freeze: US Ambassador wants construction plans, Ministers hesitate approval
Ariel Kahane, Makor Rishon, May 7 2010 [front-page]
The prime minister and senior ministers have vehemently denied over the past two weeks all reports of a de-facto Israeli agreement to freeze construction in East Jerusalem, but this appears to be the reality on the ground. No construction is being seen in East Jerusalem, and neither is such construction planned for the foreseeable future.
The main reason for this: fear of American wrath shared by the ministers as well senior public officials. A Makor Rishon–Hatzofe inquiry reveals that American officials in Israel have consistently “shown interest” — as this is formally defined — in Israeli construction plans in Jerusalem.
The US ambassador, the Jerusalem consul, and other American officials meet frequently with the relevant ministers and have been extracting from them detailed information on construction plans in the capital.
“This interest is not very pleasant,” says a source familiar with the matter, “each minister understands the significance when an American official asks him about the nature of the next project, how many housing units it will include, when it will occur and so forth. Some ministers are also calculating their next step.
“They understand that a refusal on their part to meet American expectations could prove detrimental later on, especially if they are seeking major appointments. It would not be clever for a minister to get branded as the guy who said no to the US.”
And the result: on the eve of Passover, tenders for some 1,000 housing units in Ramot were expected to be released. These were halted by a command from high up. This was also the case with 130 housing units in Har Homa. These are the projects available for immediate advancement if only the political echelon would approve them, and it has not.
Housing Minister Ariel Attias confirmed to the Knesset two days ago, that there was in fact an all-out construction freeze in the capital.
In response to a question from MK Uri Ariel from the National Union concerning the report that the government was refraining from releasing 1,000 housing units, which have already been approved, Attias confirmed that such information was correct.
These are apartments in Har Homa, Gilo, Pisgat Zeev and Neve Yaakov. “The last time apartments were put on the market was in December 2009,” the housing minister said, “and since then no housing units have been put on the market.”
Ariel, chairman of the parliamentary lobbying group for Jerusalem, sent a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in which he asked him to allow construction and approve the sale of apartments in Jerusalem. Ariel claims that the vast majority of Likud ministers are aware of this but do not dare to speak.