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      Construction Freeze is Nothing New, Says Efrat Mayor

      Despite record demand for housing, the government has been 'strangling' Efrat for years and preventing construction, according to Mayor Revivi.
      By Gil Ronen
      First Publish: 11/24/2009, 8:05 PM / Last Update: 11/24/2009, 8:15 PM

      Israel news photo

      In the past decade, the town of Efrat – the 'capital' of Gush Etzion – has grown only by 700 residents. Despite record demand for housing in the town, which is especially popular among immigrants from Anglophone countries, the past seven years have seen a total freeze in the marketing of homes in Efrat, according to Lt-Col (res.) Oded Revivi, the town's mayor.

      Revivi said Tuesday that hundreds of housing units have already received all of the necessary approvals and the infrastructure for their construction is in place, and a total of 3,000 units are planned. He presented the details to Knesset members from the Jewish Home faction and the heads of the Yesha Council who toured Efrat Monday.

      Revivi, 40, who was elected last year, noted that the governments of Israel, including the current one headed by Binyamin Netanyahu, have been preventing the construction of public institutions as well and have banned all planning processes. “The Israeli government is strangling Efrat despite the declarations that Gush Etzion is within the Israeli consensus,” he lamented. “Netanyahu is even preventing the residents of Efrat from enjoying natural growth. Residents who grew up here cannot live in the community because there is no supply of apartments. The prices of rent and housing have reached Jerusalem levels and many houses have been split up into small units in order to make it possible to rent them out.”

      Science Minister Daniel Hershkovitz held a meeting with other members of his Jewish Home faction in the Efrat municipality and said that he fears that the faction members will have to fight the construction freeze on their own, because other coalition members will not support them.

      MK Zevulun Orlev attacked the building freeze too, and said it was “an inhuman, immoral and un-Jewish act.” The chairman of the Amana housing group, Ze'ev Hever (Zambish), said that “the sounds emanating from Netanyahu nowadays remind [him] of [Ariel] Sharon” while Yesha Council chairman Danny Dayan said that "Netanyahu's tactics have become his policies."

      "Netanyahu is implementing Yossi Beilin's vision," he said, referring to an ultra-leftist former politician who engineered the ill-fated Oslo accords.