In addition to the approval of 2,612 housing units in Jerusalem's Givat Hamatos, Defense Minister Ehud Barak has green-lighted the construction of an additional 523 units in the settlement of Gva'ot, located in the West Bank's Gush Etzion region, Ynet learned Wednesday.
Barak approved the construction plan prior to the Palestinian bid in the United Nations. It was further reported that the Housing Ministry has issued a tender for the construction of 5,760 housing units across the country, including a 1,000 in Givat Ze'ev, Har Homa, Karnei Shomron and Efrat.
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The government says the decision to approve new construction plans in the West Bank came in response to the unilateral Palestinian initiative in the UN, but the project in Gva'ot was authorized prior to the UN's recognition of Palestine as a non-member observer state.
Information obtained by Ynet indicates that the expansion in Gva'ot is significant because the government plans to eventually turn the settlement into a city. Barak's decision marks the first phase of this plan.
On way to becoming a city. Gva'ot
A plan to build a city of 6,000 housing units at the site of the Gva'ot settlement was approved as early as 2000. The idea was to create territorial contiguity between the area in which the settlement is located, the Green Line and the main roads that lead to central Israel.
Despite the plans, the expansion of Gva'ot has been delayed repeatedly. The current expansion was approved following a series of meetings between Gush Etzion Regional Council head Davidi Perl and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Perl lauded the decision to expand Gva'ot, saying the residents of Gush Etzion "support the Israeli government's firm stance in the face of condemnations and pressure from home and abroad, which challenge our right to build in the Land of Israel."
Addressing the continued construction in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Netanyahu said during a meeting with Asian and Pacific ambassadors on Wednesday that "The walls of Jerusalem that you see behind us represent the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years. Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years. All Israeli governments have built in Jerusalem. We're not going to change that. That's a natural thing. I want you to ask any of you to imagine that you would limit construction in your own capital. It doesn't make sense.
"And I think that for us, the important thing is that we are committed to our capital; we're committed to peace; and we're going to build in Jerusalem for all its residents. This is something that has been done by all previous governments; this is something that my government will continue to do," the PM said.
Noam (Dabul) Dvir contributed to the report