(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JNS.org) A political storm is brewing in Israel in response to a decision by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday to approve hundreds of new housing units in Maaleh Adumim and Jerusalem, including in one of the capital’s Arab neighborhoods, Beit Safafa.
According to the decision, construction will proceed on 800 new housing units intended for Jews, including 560 to be located in Maaleh Adumim and another 240 in various Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem, some of which are located beyond the Green Line.
The decision also approves 600 new housing units intended for Arab families in the neighborhood of Beit Safafa, which are slated to go up on open land known as Givat Hamatos (Airplane Hill). To date, that land has been used to accommodate trailers housing new immigrants from Ethiopia. Givat Hamatos, located between the southern neighborhoods of Har Homa and Gilo, could also have been used for housing intended for Jewish families.
Habayit Hayehudi party leader Naftali Bennett said, “Givat Hamatos will determine whether Jerusalem stays united...the goal of the world is to create Palestinian continuity [stretching] from Bethlehem to Beit Jala through Givat Hamatos, Beit Safafa, up to Malha Mall….We, on the other hand, want exactly the opposite: We want to create [Israeli] continuity between Talpiyot and Gilo to preserve Jerusalem’s unity.”
Meretz party leader Zehava Gal-On said that “the decision to build 800 housing units in response to the terrible terrorism of the past few days is a cynical exploitation of the situation to expand settlement construction and prevent, as the [Middle East] Quartet warned, any possibility of a peace agreement with the Palestinians based on the principle of two states. The announcement that housing units would be constructed for Palestinians, too, is a mockery.”
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat stressed that “it’s a mistake to approve construction in Jerusalem only after the terrorist attacks [in the Hebron region last week],” but added that “we in the Jerusalem Municipality don’t block any construction permit and will continue to approve construction in Jerusalem for both Jews and Arabs, according to the framework plan.”