Is there a building freeze in Jerusalem?Is there a building freeze in Jerusalem? MK Benny Begin (Likud) insists that there is not one.
Speaking to Likud members in Tel Aviv Tuesday night, Minister Binyamin Begin said that "there is no truth to the rumors that there is a quiet understanding between the Prime Minister and the United States to avoid building in Jerusalem.So does Prime Minister Netanyahu, whose attempt to avoid internal elections in the Likud looks like it will go down to a narrow defeat on Thursday:
"This is a false rumor with no basis in reality. Our friends the Americans know this, and it will be proven in the near future," said Begin.
Speaking to Likud Central Committee members in Ashkeklon Tuesday, Netanyahu slammed Feiglin supporters ahead of an internal Likud vote saying "Such impudence! They won't to teach Bogie (Vice Premier Moshe Yaalon) and me how to protect Jerusalem." He added that US President Barack Obama and European leaders were well aware of Israel's stand on Jerusalem..But from Washington, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who is not a member of the Likud, says that there is a freeze.
But Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat admitted during a visit to Washington on Tuesday that a "temporary freeze" is in place regarding the 1,600 units in Ramat Shlomo. Jerusalem city counselors meanwhile say that the city's building approval committee has not met since U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's visit.Time Magazine does some investigating and also concludes that there is a freeze in effect.
Take Plan number 12705 for the new Shimon HaTzadik neighborhood in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem, which would demolish 40 low-rise Palestinian homes built in traditional local stone to make way for modern apartment blocks up to 18 stories high, containing 200 residential units for Israelis. There have been weekly demonstrations at the site since the landowners, Nahalat Shimon International, began evicting the Palestinians who had been living in the area when it was captured by Israeli forces in the war of 1967. Despite U.S. demands that Israel halt construction on territory occupied in 1967 in order to restart peace talks, Shimon HaTzadik Plan 12705 was approved by the Jerusalem District Planning Committee of the Israeli Ministry of the Interior on March 2, and forwarded to the Jerusalem Municipality Planning Committee.Read the whole thing.
But while nobody's admitting that Plan 12705 is under some sort of political freeze, it appears to have been stalled by bureaucratic inertia. The Jerusalem Municipality Planning Committee has met several times since March 2, but Plan 12705 hasn't been on its agenda. Likewise with other plans for residential development in East Jerusalem. Over at the Interior Ministry, the District Planning Committee has not convened since the visit to Israel by Vice President Joe Biden, during which Israel-U.S. ties were plunged into a crisis by the announcement of a plan to build 1,600 new housing units on occupied land. Meir Margalit, an opposition member of the Jerusalem City Council, tells TIME that an unofficial freeze is already in effect, despite the official denials.
"Since Vice-President Biden was here, they refuse even to bring to the committee projects for Jewish buildings in East Jerusalem," says Margalit.
"The committee told them wait for better timing. De-facto, not one project of settlers in East Jerusalem has been approved or come for approval to the committee," he says. "Just to give the possibility to start negotiations, the government and municipality must stop building. It's very important to do it because peace is more important than houses."
Margalit says a major religious housing project slated for the north of the city neighboring Ramallah, was recently canceled after U.S. intervention.
What could go wrong?