Housing Ministry okays 1,700 new apartments over Green Line

Move likely to increase tension between Jewish Home party, which opposes withdrawal, and chief peace negotiator Livni

The Housing and Construction Ministry announced Sunday morning that it had approved the sale of land for some 1,700 apartments over the Green Line, including some 700 new apartments in Jerusalem and 1,030 in Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

The ministry said the announcement was in keeping with its policy of approving increased housing construction as a measure to help reduce the cost of housing nationwide.

The new policy “has led to fast growth in construction starts that now stands at an annual rate of 43,000 [new] apartments, higher than the demand for new apartments each year,” according to Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel.

Ariel promised to further increase the rate of construction of new apartments “throughout the country… in order to bring about a dramatic change in the cost of apartments.”

While the ministry’s announcement focused solely on housing costs, its timing was conspicuously political, coming in the middle of escalating strife between justice minister and chief peace negotiator Tzipi Livni (Hatnua) and Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett, who heads the Jewish Home party that opposes withdrawal from the West Bank in the framework of peace talks.

Ariel is a senior member of the Jewish Home party.

The ministry granted approval to 387 housing units in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo and another 311 in the capital’s Gilo neighborhood. Both areas lie over the Green Line.

In the West Bank, the ministry approved land for 284 apartments in Elkana, 196 in Karnei Shomron, 114 in Ma’aleh Adumim, 102 in Givat Ze’ev, 238 in Beitar Illit, 80 in Geva Binyamin (also known as Adam), and 18 apartments in the northern West Bank town of Ariel. Only the construction in Karnei Shomron is outside the major settlement blocs that Israel plans to retain in a future peace agreement.

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