Construction Boom in Judea and Samaria
The New York Times reports that Israel has engaged in a “settlement-building boom” in the three months since the construction freeze ended – while at the same time, the mayor of the city of Ariel, one of the largest in the Judea/Samaria enterprise, plans to sue Defense Minister Ehud Barak for not allowing construction in his city.
Times Israel correspondent Ethan Bronner, who made the news himself a while back when his son joined the IDF, appears to put his own viewpoint on display in his report on the supposed boom. He writes, for instance, that it was Israel’s cessation of its self-imposed ten-month freeze on building for Jews that “caus[ed] the Palestinians to withdraw from peace talks.”
In fact, however, the PA refused to engage in talks with Israel for the first nine months of the ten-month freeze, and then, when it finally agreed, under heavy pressure, to meet with Israeli officials, it made it clear that Israel must extend the freeze indefinitely in order for the talks to continue.
Bronner also wrote of Israel’s building boom in negative terms, stating that “if negotiations ever get back on track, there will be thousands more Israeli settlers who will have to relocate into Israel, posing new problems over how to accommodate them while creating a Palestinian state on the land where many of them are living now.”
Hagit Ofran, of the radical Peace Now organization that staunchly opposes Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria, was quoted as saying, “We can say firmly that this is the most active period in many years.” She reportedly said 2,000 housing units are under construction, and a total of 13,000 in the pipeline do not require additional permits. However, most if not all of these are units that had permits before the first freeze and are only now being built.
Ariel’s Mayor Ron Nachman said last week that Minister Barak is independently holding up new construction permits in his city. “If he understands only force,” Nachman said, referring to planned legal action against Barak, “then that’s how we will have to speak to him.”
The ten-month freeze exacted a high financial cost from many sectors in Israel, including construction companies large and small, people who had purchased homes or land, real estate agencies and their employees, home-buyers in other parts of the country who faced higher prices, and more.