Housing Minister Confirms De Facto Building Freeze in Jerusalem

Netanyahu has frozen almost all new homes in parts of Jerusalem claimed by PA, says Housing Minister Atias. Netanyahu's office denies the charge.

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Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu, | updated: 10:47

Gilo construction project
Gilo construction project
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has surrendered to U.S. President Barack Obama and in effect has frozen almost all new housing in parts of Jerusalem claimed by the PA, according to Housing Minister Ariel Attias, a member of the government coalition partner Shas party. The office of the Prime Minister categorically denied the charge.

Minister Attias accused the Prime Minister not only of carrying out a policy contrary to public statements but also of  worsening the housing crisis by shelving plans to build 2,500 new residential units in United Jerusalem as well as 5,000 others in Judea and Samaria.

In an interview with the Mishpacha (Family) newspaper, Minister Attias stated, “The facts are correct, and to my great sorrow, I do not see any substantial changes.”

The Housing Minister said that he cannot market the new housing units, which he said have passed the necessary bureaucratic approvals, because the government has not allowed tenders to be issued for contractors.

Mishpacha added, “The office of the Prime Minister said that the American government has not agreed to new construction but added that this has been the American position for 40 years. Except for 238 units, there is no new building” for Jews in eastern, southern and northern Jerusalem areas restored to Israel in the Six-Day War in 1967.

Publicly, Prime Minister has stated several times that there is no freeze on building new homes for Jews in all of Jerusalem. Mark Regev, spokesman for Prime Minister Netanyahu, told Israel National News Sunday morning that he has not seen the report in Mishpacha but that  stated, "There never has been a freeze on building in Jerusalem."

Minister Attias said that that following last year’s announcement by Jerusalem of new construction – at the same U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was visiting Israel – Prime Minister Netanyahu promised President Obama President Obama the incident would not be repeated and promised to halt new building.

Last December, Attias said in the Knesset that there are thousands of housing units awaiting sale in Jerusalem but that none have been marketed since December. Last month, he stated that there was a shortage of at least 6,000 homes and apartments in Jerusalem 

A year and a half ago, Netanyahu took the unprecedented step of freezing new construction for Jews in Judea and Samaria for 10 months to satisfy Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s condition for resuming direct talks with Israel over the establishment of the PA as a new Arab country.

Abbas then backtracked, insisting that the freeze as not extensive enough. He has demanded that it cover all of Jerusalem as well as Judea and Samaria. The freeze has since expired officially, but Defense Minister Ehud Barak has refused to sign the necessary papers to authorize new building for thousands of homes in Judea and Samaria, where Jews officially are under military control.