Construction in Jewish town
Construction in Jewish townIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu promised the Bayit Yehudi party to approve construction of about 5,000 housing units in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, in exchange for the party's acquiescence regarding the release of 104 terrorists as a "gesture" to the Palestinian Authority, reported Maariv Wednesday.

The newspaper said that contacts regarding the deal, which has not been finalized, have been carried out by Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel and Netanyahu, by means of letters they have been writing and handing to each other personally, in order to preserve secrecy.

"Senior sources in Bayit Yehudi" who apparently decided to break that secrecy said that approvals for 1,000 housing units are expected soon, and that approvals for another 3,500 to 4,500 units are expected in the coming months.

The party's Knesset members were reportedly asked, in the faction meeting Monday, not to issue threats about possibly bolting the Coalition, because of the deal.

"The test will be if Netanyahu does not live up to the agreements on construction in the next few months," party sources were quoted as saying. "That is what we will look at, and that is the only thing we will base our decisions on in the future."

Far-left group Peace Now, which opposes Jewish life in Judea and Samaria, reportedly asked the attorney general to make public any deal that was struck with Bayit Yehudi, as a matter of good governance and transparency.

Maariv quoted reactions from Minister Ariel and the Bayit Yehudi that did not deny the existence of these agreements. It said that Netanyahu chose not to respond to questions on the matter.

Bayit Yehudi ministers and MKs have come under intense pressure ever since the vote to release 104 terrorist murderers as a "gesture" to the Palestinian Authority (PA). The move is opposed by an overwhelming majority of Jews, polls show. Bayit Yehudi voted against the release but did not leave the Coalition, as some expected.

The Labor party has said that if Bayit Yehudi leaves the Coalition because of "advances" in the "peace process," it will be willing to give the government a parliamentary "security net" to prevent it from being toppled. Labor has 15 Knesset seats, three more than Bayit Yehudi.