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Hagai Segal
Photo: Zoom 77
Putting Jerusalem on hold
Despite lofty rhetoric, PM Netanyahu scared to build anything in capital
The Israeli government responded with relative harshness to President Obama’s demand to halt Jewish construction in Jerusalem. Netanyahu’s and Lieberman’s speeches on Independence Day contained heartwarming pledges to continue building. The PM declared on ABC that the demand for a freeze in Jerusalem is impossible. Lieberman, as Lieberman tends to be, was even more explicit.

 

However, talking is one thing and acting is quite another. Jerusalem is entering summer in a state of deep freeze. Almost everything there is stuck since the Olmert era, if we ignore for a moment the Holyland project and the light railway. We’re running out of territory in the western part of the city, while in the eastern part we’re running out of courage.

 

Netanyahu is scared to build. The last neighborhood he built in Jerusalem was Har Homa, in 1998. In his current term in office he’s preoccupied with planning the construction of a railway to Eilat.

 

Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Atias openly admits to this in every interview, yet nobody grasps what he’s saying: There is almost no Jewish construction in the Jerusalem neighborhoods beyond the Green Line. Twenty homes in the Ramot neighborhood, 10 homes in Pisgat Ze’ev, and nothing else. The construction market in east Jerusalem is under full Arab ownership.

 

Only Arabs allowed to build

Our hardworking neighbors are building foundations over there without the High Court’s approval but with B’Tselem’s support. On occasion, private Jewish individuals purchase a building or two, and immediately provoke great leftist outrage. The government neither buys nor builds.

 

Tragically, the Ramat Shlomo storm stemmed from an optical illusion. The permits granted by the regional committee during VP Biden’s visit were no more than a non-binding signature. Similarly, the approval granted to more construction in the Gilo neighborhood was quite preliminary – a first and hesitant bureaucratic step on an endless road.

 

Netanyahu and his spokesmen swore that no bulldozer will be hitting the ground tomorrow, and on this front they spoke the truth. The Netanyahu government and construction in Jerusalem are two separate entities.

 

The prime minister did not even arrive for the inauguration of a synagogue in the Old City with a construction permit from the Ottoman period. His patriotic rhetoric on Jerusalem is not being translated to cement. Behind the scenes, he capitulates to America’s caprices on this holy front as well. Officially, Israel strongly objects to a construction freeze in the capital, yet in practice only the Arabs are allowed to build there.

 

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