Remarks made Sunday by Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi) have angered the extreme leftist organization Gush Shalom, which responded by saying that Ariel is a provocateur.
Ariel, who spoke during a dedication ceremony for a new neighborhood called Leshem in the community of Aley Zahav, declared that Israel will continue to build Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria, even as peace talks with the Palestinian Authority continue.
"Today we are placing another brick in Israel. I say in the clearest voice that I'm here to build you an apartment. And we do this everywhere in the country,” he stated. “We’re building 300 units in Leshem just as we are building thousands of apartments in Rosh Haayin. We build in Kedumim just as we build in Kiryat Gat and in Modi’in. We build in Jerusalem just as we build in the Galilee.”
In a statement released on Monday, Gush Shalom condemned Minister Ariel’s remarks, saying, "Housing Minister Uri Ariel is a dangerous provocateur pouring fuel on the flames of the conflict, but it is the Prime Minister, who appointed Ariel and all the other ministers who sit with him, who is responsible for this wild behavior.”
“At a time of tension and as winds of war blow in the region, Ariel adds more fuel to the fire by establishing the new settlement Leshem and in his belligerent speech at this event,” said the radical movement, adding, “It certainly is not an unexpected event, Ariel’s rampage was predictable from the moment could that the ‘cream’ of the Housing Ministry was deposited in the hands of the settler ‘cat’.”
"Ariel is not an individual, he is the Housing Minister in the Israeli government. There is not one government that builds settlements and spits in the faces of the Palestinians and another government that is supposed to negotiate and reach a peace agreement with those same Palestinians,” said Gush Shalom. “This is the same government, and all its ministers are responsible for the acts of provocation by Ariel. The Prime minister who appointed Ariel to this key position is responsible for the actions of the minister he appointed. Especially responsible is Finance Minister Yair Lapid who entered a political alliance with the settlers' party, the Bayit Yehudi, and made sure to place Uri Ariel as head of the Ministry of Housing. It is obvious that progress toward peace with the Palestinians and the presence of Bayit Yehudi in the government are a contradiction of terms.”
Over the past week, 72 families have entered their new homes in Leshem, and about 70 additional families are expected during the coming year. According to the building plans, 400 more housing units are planned in the neighborhood.
Likud MKs who spoke to Arutz Sheva during Sunday’s ceremony said that building Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria is not an obstacle to peace and that Israeli construction must go on in these regions despite the peace process.
Deputy Minister Ofir Akunis, when asked if building in Judea and Samaria is a “problematic tactic” while peace talks are ongoing, stated that “building in Judea and Samaria is not a problematic tactic and not a problematic issue.”
“We can negotiate with the Palestinians. We are negotiating with the Palestinians and we can and we will build in Judea and Samaria, in the Golan Heights, in the Negev, in the Galilee - everywhere,” he stressed.
“I hope so,” said Akunis when asked if he believes Israeli construction will prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.