Israel is making a big mistake by announcing that it plans to build over 1,000 homes in Judea, Samaria, and Jerusalem, said Yair Lapid, Finance Minister and head of the Yesh Atid party.
According to a Facebook post Lapid put up Sunday, “announcing the tenders for construction of the homes at this time is a double mistake.” The money could be put to better use building homes where people actually want them, Lapid wrote, and announcing the tenders while negotiations with the PA are going on in Washington “will cause more friction in our relationship with the Americans."
Lapid wrote that “the solution to the housing crisis must be provided by the Housing Cabinet,” a group of ministers who have volunteered to develop solutions for the high cost of housing. The group is headed by Lapid. The Housing Cabinet, he said, was seeking solutions to the housing crisis “in areas of demand,” which presumably he believes does not apply to Judea and Samaria.
However, Lapid's statements concerning demand for housing in Judea and Samaria were belied by a report issued by the Population Bureau just last week. The report showed that Israel's population as a whole rose by 1.9% on average for the first six months of 2013 – but the population in Judea and Samaria climbed 2.12%, an above-average increase due both to the higher birth rate among Jews in the region, as well as a high demand for housing in the region.
The greatest population growth took place in the South Hevron Hills area, where population growth during the period was nearly 5%, most of it due to Israelis moving to the area in droves. In several communities, including Nahliel in the Biyamin region and in several towns in the Jordan Valley, population growth exceeded 10% for the period. In Har Gilo, south of Jerusalem, the population grew 21% during that time.
Unlike Lapid, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat congratulated Housing Minister Uri Ariel and the government for the decision. “New construction in Jerusalem is absolutely necessary for the development of the city, the strengthening of the Israeli presence, and to provide opportunities to young people to buy homes here. I am happy to see that the government agrees with us in Jerusalem on this.”
The construction plans include 400 new homes for the neighborhood of Gilo, 210 in Homat Shmuel, and 183 in Pisgat Zev. In addition, 394 new homes will be marketed in cities in Judea and Samaria that belong to “settlement blocs” – majority-Israeli regions close to the 1949 armistice line which Israel plans to keep as Israeli territory even under any peace deal with the PA. Of those, 117 will be built in the city of Ariel, 149 in Efrat, 92 in Ma’aleh Adumim, and 36 in Beitar.