Construction and Housing Minister Ze'ev Boim is scheduled to announce Sunday the publication of new tenders for construction in greater Jerusalem, in advance of the 41st Jerusalem Day, which will be celebrated Monday.
The tenders have already been approved by the government. They include 121 housing units at Har Homa in southern Jerusalem and 763 units in five different parts of Pisgat Ze'ev, the city's northern neighborhood.
Boim's announcement comes as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert heads for Washington for a week-long visit on Tuesday.
Following the reports of the intended construction, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is in Amman, Jordan, called for the building to cease. In a joint press conference with PA-Fatah head Mahmoud Abbas, she said: "We continue to support the American position that the construction in the settlements must stop. Their enlargement, which does not conform with the Road Map obligations, must be halted."
'Shas and UTJ pressure'
Boim is also set to announce that the Israel Land Authority will transfer additional territory on Ammunition Hill to the Ministry of Defense and a veterans' group for the construction of an educational center for IDF commanders. Boim already announced tenders for 286 housing units in Betar Illit earlier this week. Betar Illit Mayor Meir Rubinstein said that the permits for the new construction came as the result of pressure by Shas and UTJ and called it "a good start."
Radical left-wing group "Peace Now" called Boim's expected announcement "a nail in the coffin of the Annapolis process." The group's leader, Yariv Oppenhimer, said that "the Olmert government's legacy may end up as just enlarging the settlements and making Jerusalem an insoluble problem."
'Unprecedented construction boom'
The group published a report Saturday which said that tenders for 750 housing units in eastern Jerusalem were issued since the Annapolis conference and that the Jewish neighborhoods in that area were enjoying "an unprecedented construction boom." According to the report, the government is preparing the construction of 3,638 new units in parts of Jerusalem that were liberated in 1967, including Tzur Baher, Ramot, Givat Hamatos, Gilo and Neve Yaakov.
The tenders for the new units in Har Homa and 95 of the units in Pisgat Ze'ev will be carried out according to the "tenant's price" (mechir lamishtaken) system, in which the contractor who can offer the lowest end price to the buyer wins. The system generally results in apartment prices that are up to 25% lower than average prices, and are thus more affordable to low-income families from the hareidi-religious community.