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Building Continues in Samaria as Abbas calls for New Freeze

New classrooms are dedicated in Samaria as construction of public buildings continues despite the freeze on new homes. Abbas calls for new freeze.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 3/9/2011, 9:50 AM / Last Update: 3/9/2011, 10:49 AM

Israel news photo

New classrooms are dedicated in Samaria as construction of public buildings continues in Judea and Samaria despite the de facto freeze on permits for new homes.  Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, however, calls for a new and total freeze.

The bulging population in Jewish communities, particularly in the school-age bracket, has required expansion of education facilities. A new wing of an elementary school was dedicated in the community of Paduel, in Samaria, this week, with hundreds of children and parents attending the ceremony that included placing a new mezuzah on the doorpost of the building, as required by Jewish law.

Abbas said Wednesday morning that he would return to direct talks with Israel over the establishment of the PA as an independent country on the land of Judea and Samaria and large areas in Jerusalem only if all building were to cease.

In September 2009, a10-month building freeze was instituted by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu under pressure from U.S. President Barack Obama. This was intended  to coax Abbas into direct talks with Israel on the establishment of the PA as an independent country.

Abbas only agreed to start talks a month before the freeze ended and then cut them off because he wanted it extended. Netanyahu refused that request,, which would have made him a liar in Israeli eyes, but the government, due to Ehud Barak's jurisdiction in Judea and Samaria,  unofficially continued to restrict new building.

At the end of the ten month period, residents were quick to begin work immediately on buildings that had permits and could not be advanced during those ten months, when even building a patio was against the law, but the need for new homes has become steadily more acute.  The current de facto freeze affects all new residential construction.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak has also blocked several public projects but was forced to sign permits for new classrooms to avoid a conflict in the law that prohibits overcrowded classes.

In Washington, the Congress has shown growing support for Israel in light of Abba’s insistence to circumvent talks with Israel and win support for all of his demands for a new state without negotiations.

Freshman Republican Congressman Michael Grimm, spoke with Jewish leaders this week in New York City, which he represents.

“Now, more than ever, as an American, I can say we must stand very close to Israel,” he said. “I am very proud to emphasize my support for Israel and that is one of the reasons I signed a letter asking that the [American] embassy be moved to Jerusalem.”