Israel okays 800 new homes in East Jerusalem, West Bank
In wake of attacks, Netanyahu says settlements must be strengthened; 600 homes in Arab neighborhood of Beit Safafa also approved
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman approved on Sunday construction plans for some 800 new housing units in East Jerusalem and the Ma’ale Adumim settlement, as well as hundreds of new homes for an Arab neighborhood of East Jerusalem.
According to the plan, 560 new units will be built in Ma’ale Adumim, a West Bank settlement to the east of the capital, 140 homes were approved for the Jewish East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramot and 100 for the Har Homa neighborhood, in southeastern Jerusalem.
The Eretz-Israel Knesset lobby, chaired by MK Yoav Kisch (Likud) and Bezalel Smotrich (Jewish Home), welcomed the plans for Ma’ale Adumim and called for the settlement to be made part of Israel. The lobby launched a campaign on Sunday titled “It’s time for sovereignty,”in cooperation with the Ma’ale Adumim municipality.
Netanyahu and Liberman also authorized construction for 600 new homes in the Arab East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Safafa, a move criticized by the minister for Jerusalem Affairs, Zeev Elkin (Likud).
Elkin welcomed the construction but said building plans must also be approved for the planned Jewish neighborhood of Givat Hamatos, adjacent to Beit Safafa.
“Those who want to maintain a Jewish majority in the capital cannot promote construction for the Arab population only,” said Elkin.
“Six hundred housing units for Arab residents for Beit Safafa [is] essentially the Arab part of the future Givat Hamatos neighborhood. You can’t approve construction for Arabs in Givat Hamatos without also developing construction for Jews in the same neighborhood,” he added.
Elkin called on Netanyahu to “approve construction in Givat Hamatos for Jews too; Jerusalem needs this neighborhood and [the approval] of more than 2,000 units urgently.”
The minister said the neighborhood was of “strategic value to the development of Jerusalem.”
The announcement came a day after Netanyahu and Liberman approved the construction of 42 new homes in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba, near Hebron, where 13-year-old Hallel Yaffa Ariel was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist in her bedroom on Thursday morning in the settlement.
The new homes were a part of a series of measures announced by the Israeli government in response to the terror attack in Kiryat Arba, and another attack near Hebron Friday where a family car came under gunfire while driving along Route 60. Miki Mark, a yeshiva head from the settlement of Otniel was killed and his wife seriously injured. Two of their children who were with them in the car were also wounded.
In the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu said his government was advancing a series of measures in response to the attacks, including a “special effort to strengthen the communities [in the West Bank].”
“We will submit a special plan for Kiryat Arba at the next cabinet meeting, and my directive to ministers which is to combine measures in all ministries to help communities in Judea and Samaria,” Netanyahu said.
In response to the attacks since Thursday, the IDF stepped up its troop presence in the West Bank, sending two battalions to help secure settlements and the main roads used by Israelis.
Israel also imposed closures on Hebron and the Palestinian village of Bani Naim, the hometown of Ariel’s killer. The work permits of the town’s residents were canceled in response to the attack.
Politicians and public figures have demanded a tough response to the deadly violence, including the expulsion of terrorists’ families to Gaza or Syria, as suggested by Likud minister Yisrael Katz.
The construction announcements come after a Quartet report Thursday demanded that Israel take urgent steps to halt the expansion of settlements in the West Bank, citing it as one of three “negative trends” that must be quickly reversed to keep the hope of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal alive.