The city of Ariel is continuing its public campaign to end Ehud Barak's de-facto construction freeze that has plagued the city for several years.
Defense Minister Barak, as head of Israel's defense establishment, bears overall responsibility for the army-governed Judea and Samaria (Yesha); the areas have never been officially annexed to Israel. Barak has given his approval to few, if any, housing starts in Judea and Samaria.
The city of Ariel, the 4th largest in Yesha, has particularly suffered, having seen only 1,220 new homes built in the past 15 years. This compares with 6,725, 5,430 and nearly 4,850 in Yesha's three largest cities, Modiin Illit (Kiryat Sefer), Beitar Illit and Maaleh Adumim, respectively.
Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman refuses to let Barak get away with it, and has initiated a nation-wide campaign on several fronts to demand renewed construction in his city. In addition to asking Prime Minister Netanyahu straight out to neutralize Barak's power regarding Yesha construction, he has also garnered the support of many politicians who demand that Ariel be allowed to build and grow.
Dozens of opposition Kadima party activists, including Knesset Members and mayors, have enlisted in the cause, signing the following open letter to the citizens of Ariel:
"Dear Ariel residents. We the undersigned Knesset Members, mayors, chapter heads and activists in the Kadima movement, are full partners to your call for the approval of tenders and construction plans in your city… We feel that the continued de-facto construction freeze in Ariel is a totally unjustified wrong, and we join your just call."
Among the signatories are the mayors of Givatayim, Mevaseret Zion, Binyamin, and Hatzor HaGelilit, and the heads of the Be'er Tuvia, Tamar, and Jezre'el Regional Councils. More are expected to join the "second round" of signatories in the coming days.
In a recorded announcement phone in to Likud party activists, Mayor Nachman said, "Barak's actions mean that the freeze is continuing – and this is his own independent policy, in opposition to the government's decision to end the freeze. Barak is not approving a single house – and this is an illegal and illegitimate policy, which can lead to the destruction of Ariel!"
Nachman said that even the families thrown out of their homes in Netzarim in Gush Katif and who now live in Ariel are not being allowed permits to build their permanent homes in the city. They have been living there in temporary conditions for over five years.