Daily Israel Report

Israel's Response to Obama's Criticism? Keep on Building

One day after a report detailed US frustration over construction in Judea and Samaria, Housing Ministry issues tenders for 198 new homes.
By Annie Lubin
First Publish: 1/16/2013, 12:00 PM

Construction in Efrat
Construction in Efrat
Israel news photo: Flash 90

It seems like the Israeli government responded in kind to a scathing report which circulated Tuesday about Washington's frustration over construction in Judea and Samaria. The message they sent - keep on building.  

Sources close to Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that the Prime Minister would remain solid in his policies and the proof came Wednesday as the Housing Ministry issued tenders for 198 new residential homes in Judea and Samaria - 114 housing units in Efrat and 84 units in Kiryat Arba.

The announcement comes at a very strategic time. With less than one week before national elections, Netanyahu wants to send a clear message to the nationalist camp that his policies towards construction will not change and that he will not cave to international pressure.

However, for some, announcements of construction plans at a time like this are seen as empty promises in an attempt to gain votes. 

Otzma LeYisrael party leaders MK Aryeh Eldad and Michael Ben Ari responded by saying that Netanyahu usually makes big promises but then fails to follow through.  

"I wish there was an election twice a week," the party stated. "If Netanyahu, during the past four years of his reign, would have built as he promises now, just before the elections, to build, there would no longer be a housing problem in Israel, and attempts to establish a Palestinian state would be classified as science fiction."

"Right before the elections, Netanyahu is trying to steal the votes of settlers even though he agrees even today to establish a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria. Hopefully those faithful to the Land of Israel have learned their lesson and will not lend their voices to someone who will displace them from their homes in the future," they added.

The announcement also comes one day after a report surfaced alleging that US President Barack Obama, in private conversations, slammed Israeli decisions to build in Judea and Samaria and repeatedly said, “Israel doesn't know what its own best interests are.”

Yesh Atid also responded to the announcement, criticizing Netanyahu for what the party claims is warped values. 

"Instead of investing in housing, education and the difficulties with the cost of living, the Prime Minister, just before the elections, chose to invest in the settlements, thus enhancing the isolation of Israel in the world," the party stated.

On Wednesday, the radical left-wing watchdog Peace Now released a report stating that 2012 saw a record number of approvals and proceedings for construction projects in Judea and Samaria. 

According to the group, construction on over 1,400 housing units beyond the Green Line has already begun and plans for another 6,000 new housing units in the region have been approved. 

"This report makes it clear why this government is good for the settlers but is bad for Israel," the group said.

The Yesha Council praised the report, saying, "We hope that in the following years construction data will be twice as much."