Arutz Sheva exclusive
Edelstein: 'American Critics Are Out of Touch'

Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem are not up for grabs, says Edelstein, calling to 'end discrimination against Judea and Samaria.'

Hezki Baruch, Ari Yashar ,

Yuli Edelstein
Yuli Edelstein
Hadas Parush/Flash 90

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) sharply criticized the American condemnation of building plans in the Israeli capital of Jerusalem, which were finally given government approval by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday.

The plans included about 660 housing units in the northern neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, and about 400 more in Har Homa in Jerusalem's south - all of the tenders have been on hold since as far back as 2010.

"Building in Jerusalem is not something to be done under the table or under the cover of night," Edelstein told Arutz Sheva.

"It has been part of the policy of every Israeli government and anyone who even thinks that in a peace agreement we will need to evacuate (the Jerusalem neighborhoods) Gilo, Talpiot and Pisgat Ze'ev apparently doesn't understand what they're talking about," added the MK.

But the US State Department lost no time on Monday slamming the routine development of the Jewish neighborhoods in the capital, which comes amid a severe housing crisis, calling the plans "incompatible" with "peace efforts."

In response to the criticism, Edelstein said: "I support the government and the prime minister, and am confident that both in the Knesset and the nation there is a majority (supporting) building in Jerusalem."

Netanyahu on Tuesday struck back at the American criticism as well, saying "it is this criticism which distances peace. These statements are detached from reality, they are harboring false statements made by the Palestinians."

"No to discrimination against Judea and Samaria"

The Knesset Chairman emphasized that currently there are more than 350,000 Jews living in Judea and Samaria, and "the overwhelming majority of them are people of action who are dedicated to the state, and there is no reason to discriminate between them and others."

"Just as the north and the south must be developed, and Jerusalem and Tel Aviv - so too there is room for student villages and neighborhoods in Samaria, Gush Etzion (in Judea) and Har Homa (in Jerusalem)," added Edelstein.

Indeed, many have argued that the solution to the current housing crisis in Israel lies precisely in the development of Judea and Samaria, a region which according tosome estimates is over 90% unpopulated.

Instead, Netanyahu has until now imposed a covert freeze on Jewish construction. The newest announcements still leave much room for doubt as to whether they constitute a policy change, or are merely a case of political maneuvering giving the upcoming Likud primaries. Many similar announcements in the past have not actually led to any physical construction.

Aside from the primaries there has been talk about the Knesset coalition splitting up over the issues of building along with a slew of controversial legislation, such as the Conversion Bill, with some speculating there may be a breakdown during the Winter session that began Monday.

However, Edelstein assessed that "from a national perspective no one thinks that what we need to do to deal with the results of (Operation) Protective Edge and social problems or issues of religion and state is an election campaign for several months, and then coalition negotiations, and then new ministers taking office... basically (that would be) to put the state on strike without much need for another year."

"We need to work in government ministries and also here in the Knesset to solve the true problems, and not the political problems or the known arguments about who will get the credit for this issue or another," added Edelstein.