Condi's angry over new Jewish housing in JerusalemUS Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is said to be 'unhappy' over reports that Israel has approved the construction of 884 new housing units for Jews in Pisgat Zev and Har Homa on the city's northeast and southeast sides. Both neighborhoods are located east of the former 'green line' that demarcated the border between Israel and Jordan before June 1967.
The tenders have already been approved by the government. They include 121 housing units at Har Homa in southern Jerusalem and 763 units in five different parts of Pisgat Ze'ev, the city's northern neighborhood.Haaretz reports on the reaction from the 'Palestinian' side.
Following the reports of the intended construction, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is in Amman, Jordan, called for the building to cease. In a joint press conference with PA-Fatah head Mahmoud Abbas, she said: "We continue to support the American position that the construction in the settlements must stop. Their enlargement, which does not conform with the Road Map obligations, must be halted."
Boim is also set to announce that the Israel Land Authority will transfer additional territory on Ammunition Hill to the Ministry of Defense and a veterans' group for the construction of an educational center for IDF commanders. [Ammunition Hill is the site of a major battle field in Jerusalem in the 1967 war. There is Jewish housing nearby, but the bunkers from the battle remain and it is a popular tourist site. There is also a UN compound adjacent to it. CiJ] Boim already announced tenders for 286 housing units in Betar Illit [outside Jerusalem in Judea. CiJ] earlier this week. Betar Illit Mayor Meir Rubinstein said that the permits for the new construction came as the result of pressure by Shas and UTJ [ultra-Orthodox political parties. CiJ] and called it "a good start."
Radical left-wing group "Peace Now" called Boim's expected announcement "a nail in the coffin of the Annapolis process." The group's leader, Yariv Oppenhimer, said that "the Olmert government's legacy may end up as just enlarging the settlements and making Jerusalem an insoluble problem."
The group published a report Saturday which said that tenders for 750 housing units in eastern Jerusalem were issued since the Annapolis conference and that the Jewish neighborhoods in that area were enjoying "an unprecedented construction boom." According to the report, the government is preparing the construction of 3,638 new units in parts of Jerusalem that were liberated in 1967, including Tzur Baher, Ramot, Givat Hamatos, Gilo and Neve Yaakov.
The tenders for the new units in Har Homa and 95 of the units in Pisgat Ze'ev will be carried out according to the "tenant's price" (mechir lamishtaken) system, in which the contractor who can offer the lowest end price to the buyer wins. The system generally results in apartment prices that are up to 25% lower than average prices, and are thus more affordable to low-income families from the hareidi-religious community. [Jerusalem's Jewish population is increasingly becoming ultra-Orthodox (hareidi). CiJ]
Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said Olmert's government "talks about peace while at the same time works on undermining the basis of peace by increasing settlement activity in Jerusalem and around it."What's going on here? Several things are happening. First, Shas has said that it would convene its Council of Torah Sages this week to consider withdrawing from the government. Olmert, despite the fact that he has said he would not stand in the way of Kadima primaries, is apparently trying to forestall that by reassuring Shas that he does not plan to divide Jerusalem.
A Boim spokesman said the new tenders were a part of steps the government was taking to "strengthen Jerusalem."
However, Olmert, in keeping with the previous government's policy, has vowed to keep West Bank settlement blocs, including enclaves near Jerusalem, under any future peace accord.
Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its capital. Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of the state they hope to establish in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Last month Boim instructed his office to publish a tender to build 286 new homes in the settlement of Beitar Illit, near Jerusalem.
Palestinian leaders say settlement expansion around Jerusalem could cut off Palestinians' access to the holy city and carve up the West Bank in a way that would deny them a contiguous state.
Second, Olmert may be trying to make moves that will prevent foreign minister Tzipi Livni from doing what he has been unable to do: conclude an agreement with the 'Palestinians.' Despite Israel's assertions to the contrary, it is clear that the 'Palestinians' will not make a deal that does not expel some 500,000 Jews from their homes in Judea, Samaria and 'east' Jerusalem. Olmert may fear that Livni would make such a deal (and with good reason). There is such animus between Olmert and Livni that Olmert may be trying to prevent Livni from making a deal.
Finally, Olmert may just be angry at the left (the prosecution and the police) for setting out to make him pay the price for his financial shenanigans and he may just be trying to get back at them.
Either way, any new construction in Jerusalem is good for the Jews.
One other point that bears noting: Many apartments in Pisgat Zev have been bought recently by 'Palestinians' seeking to ensure that they are on the Israeli side of the border if the government turns part of Jerusalem over to the 'Palestinian Authority.' In fact, eleven Jewish kids in Pisgat Zev were recently arrested for beating two Arabs outside a shopping mall - probably a reaction to the increasing number of Arabs populating what was built as a new Jewish neighborhood. The price structure of these apartments would ensure that they will only be sold to 'eligible' people, i.e. Jews. And if they are ultimately sold to ultra-Orthodox Jews, it is highly unlikely that they will be re-sold to Arabs. Ultra-Orthodox Jews tend to live in homogeneous ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, at least in Jerusalem.