De Facto Jerusalem Freeze

The Netanyahu government has allowed a de facto building freeze on new homes in parts of Jerusalem in order to placate President Obama.

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu, | updated: 21:33

Building project
Building project
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has ordered a “bureaucratic” halt for approving new building in some areas of Jerusalem that the Palestinian Authority demands as part of a new Arab state within Israel’s current borders.

The Prime Minister rejected the reports, saying that building in Jerusalem would continue and "we will continue to stand on our essential principles," but foreign media quoted Israeli sources that Jerusalem city officials been told to hold up processing building requests.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has consistently said as late as last week that he will not halt construction of homes for Jews in all of Jerusalem, despite President Obama’s demands, Doing so could be interpreted as de facto recognition of PA sovereignty over a divided capital and an implicit Israeli surrender of claims to the areas, including the Old City.

Jerusalem Councilman Meir Margalit said, "It's not just that building has stopped: The committees that deal with this are not even meeting anymore." However, Efrat Orbach, a spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry, stated, "There is no freeze, there is bureaucracy.”

There was no indication how long the unofficial freeze will last. Prime Minister Netanyahu nearly half a year ago announced a 10-month building freeze on new Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria.

Building inspectors have conducted a media display of strictly enforcing the freeze. Earlier this month, special “Yassam” police units swarmed on the upscale town of Efrat, south of Jerusalem and heavily populated by Americans, and destroyed a new patio that a family was building for a Bar Mitzvah celebration.

However, at least two contractors told Israel National News that new building has begun on some homes in several areas.

Prime Minister Netanyahu faced an abrupt and public verbal drubbing by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last month when the Vice President’s visit coincided with a routine announcement by the Interior Ministry that one stage of a seven-step bureaucratic process hds been passed for construction of 1,600 new housing units in Ramat Shlomo a totally Jewish community.

The bureaucratic move was reported as if the project had received final approval and was to be built immediately, angering American and PA officials. Local officials said the final process for approval could take up to two years or more.

"Following the Biden visit and the mishap, the Prime Minister asked that a mechanism be put in place to prevent a recurrence of this kind of debacle, according to government spokesman Mark Regev.  

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