Government said to be freezing 6,000 apartments in Jewish East Jerusalem

Despite PM saying there is no building ban, Army Radio claims secret documents show government stopped construction projects

An illustrative photo of construction of new apartment buildings in Har Homa in East Jerusalem, October 28, 2014. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
An illustrative photo of construction of new apartment buildings in Har Homa in East Jerusalem, October 28, 2014. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Secret documents in the Jerusalem city council show that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has frozen the construction of more than 6,000 apartments in the capital, Army Radio reported Sunday.

The report came despite repeated assertions from Netanyahu that there is no construction freeze.

Army Radio said that it had seen detailed documents, prepared by experts in the planning committees of the Jerusalem Municipality, showing that many projects in the past few years have been blocked by Netanyahu’s government for political reasons.

These include plans for 2,200 apartments in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, thousands of apartments planned for nearby Har Homa and hundreds of apartments in Pisgat Zeev to the north of the city, the radio station reported without giving exact numbers for the last two.

The report provided no further details and it was not clear if the orders to freeze construction followed the election of US President Donald Trump.

The Obama administration had placed significant pressure on Israel not to build in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. Israel does not consider these neighborhoods to be settlements, as Israel annexed the area after capturing it in the 1967 Six Day War.

However, the annexation has not been recognized by the international community, which generally says that the Jerusalem issue must be resolved in peace talks with the Palestinians, who claim East Jerusalem for the capital of a future state.

Last week, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman boasted that West Bank settlement building numbers were the highest they have been in over 20 years.

“Anyone who claims that it was possible to approve more construction in the settlements is not just trying to stretch the rope but to tear it completely, thereby endangering the entire settlement enterprise,” the defense minister said.

“There never was and will not be a government that takes better care of the Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria,” Liberman added, using the biblical term for the West Bank. He said settlement building numbers for the first half of 2017 were the highest they have been since 1992.

In April, Israel announced plans to build roughly 15,000 new units in East Jerusalem.

When they met in Washington in February, Trump asked Netanyahu to limit construction in the West Bank, and, in March, Israel agreed to self-imposed restrictions on new settlement construction in what was seen as a gesture to the Trump administration after months-long negotiations between the two sides failed to yield any formal understanding on the matter.

However, the cabinet recently approved construction of the first new West Bank settlement in 25 years for the former residents of the dismantled illegal outpost of Amona.

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