Arutz-7's Benny Tucker sought to ascertain the housing situation in Gush Etzion, just south of Jerusalem, given the end of the construction freeze ten days ago. He spoke today with Sha'ul Goldstein, head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, who said, “We see contractors getting to work, construction all over, and people smiling... I just hope that no one will stop it again.”
However, behind the smiles still remain quite a few problems. "It's like when someone brings a goat into his house, and then takes it out: You feel a bit better, but the smell still remains... Here in Gush Etzion there is plenty of demand for new homes, in all of our communities, but the freeze has led to a shortage of available plots..."
"In addition," he continued, "Defense Minister Ehud Barak [whose signature, as head of the IDF which technically governs Judea and Samaria, is required for new housing plans - ed.] continues not to sign, and so the prices are rising beyond what many can afford. There is also plenty of bureaucracy, which impedes the submission and approval of new housing plans - but that, too, is due mostly to Barak, because he has to approve each plan at six different stages!"
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Goldstein, a resident of N'vei Daniel, just west of Efrat, expressed satisfaction at the many housing projects that, despite all, are underway: "Many units are under construction right now, though I don’t want to say exactly how many… If Peace Now is saying that there is no construction in places like Tekoa, that’s fine with us."
Asked by Tucker if he sees a solution in the short-range to the problem of affordable housing in Gush Etzion, Goldstein said, "We need an immediate approval of 1,000 new units each year, but I don’t foresee the government doing this in the near future… Don’t forget that this problem affects Jerusalem as well; we are a suburb of Jerusalem, and when the prices rise here, the same occurs in Jerusalem."
"We have dozens of families from abroad who want to make Aliyah and live in Gush Etzion," the soft-spoken Goldstein said, "but we have nothing to offer them. Many of them visited here during the holiday, expressed interest - but there are no plots to sell them. We hold lotteries sometimes for available lots, but the would-be new immigrants are not always aware of them."
He explained that lotteries are a mechanism set in place by the Israel Lands Authority to determine who will get to purchase a given lot. “How else can it be decided who gets a plot? So we let G-d decide...”