A senior Defense Ministry official caused concern and suspicion among Judea and Samaria's Jews this week when he reported that there are no plans for future construction in the area. His statement appears to confirm that Defense Minister Ehud Barak has no intention of ending the Judea and Samaria construction freeze in three months, as previously promised.
While the government committed to prohibit construction in Judea and Samaria in order to draw the Palestinian Authority to the negotiating table, residents said they were told they could continue with the bureaucracy of getting plans approved even while physical construction was banned. “We were promised that during the 'freeze' we could still move forward with plans, particularly when it comes to planning that takes a long time,” said Gush Etzion Regional Council head Shaul Goldstein.
Goldstein told Arutz Sheva's Hebrew news service that the freeze on planning affects all aspects of life, going well beyond the current housing shortage in the region. “We're not just talking about approval for building new housing; this is also about infrastructure. Nothing has been approved.”
As an example, he said, “We created a plan for a sewage system in a community here, it's a plan that was already approved, and now the Civil Administration is delaying implementation. Now we see why.” he added. Jews in Judea and Samaria feel they were lied to, he said.
Goldstein, a member of the Likud party, said he hopes to take the matter up with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. “I hope that very soon we'll hear the prime minister's response,” he said.
The Judea and Samaria construction freeze was meant as a gesture to the PA, to encourage PA Chairman Abbas to resume negotiations. However, Abbas deemed the freeze – an unprecedented move – to be insufficient, saying Jewish construction should be prohibited in neighborhoods of Jerusalem that were under Jordan's jurisdiction before the 1967 Six Day War as well.
Some government ministers have repeatedly pledged that the freeze will end in September as planned.