The Housing Minister's settlement building tenders bluff
Uri Ariel announced new construction tenders for 1,500 housing units and incurred international wrath, but in reality, most of these tenders fail to get off the ground, and get re-marketed.
It has turned into a ritual: Whenever a diplomatic crisis between Israel and the Palestinians emerges, the Israeli government announces the issuing of building tenders for housing units in East Jerusalem or the West Bank, incurring the wrath of the international community.
The same occurred on Thursday when Housing Minister Uri Ariel announced building tenders for 1,500 housing units
which were, according to him, "an appropriate Zionist response" to the establishment of the new Palestinian government.
Ariel's announcement received condemnations inside Israel and out of it, but it turns out construction bidding in reality is different to the one portrayed in political announcements.
In reality, most of the tenders the housing minister announced in the past year have not come into fruition.
While Israel endured harsh criticism from the United States, the European Union and the Palestinians following Ariel's settlement construction announcement, Yedioth Ahronoth found that the tenders issued by the Israel Land Authority were not realized either because no contractor placed a bid on them, or because the bids were too low.
The state, on its part, keeps recycling the tenders and getting slammed with international condemnation over and over again over the very same tenders.
For example, earlier this year a tender for the construction of 62 housing units in the Geva Binyamin settlement (also known as "Adam") was published, but not one home was built as a result. The explanation give was that there were no bids for lots.
In another instance, two tenders were published for the construction of 102 housing units in Immanuel. Once again, no housing units were built, with the explanation given that the biddings on these tenders were too low.
In Jerusalem's Gilo neighborhood, where construction tenders incurred a lot of criticism against Israel in recent years, Yedioth discovered an absurd case in which five different tenders for the construction of 251 housing units failed to come into fruition. The biddings were either too low, or non-existent.
The same tenders were issued every time terrorists were released as a part of the latest round of peace talks with the Palestinians. Every time, Israel suffered world condemnation, but nothing came of the tenders.
In Ma'ale Adumim, Efrat and Pisgat Ze'ev, however, the reality was different, and contractors did win tenders to build hundreds of housing units, a construction which is already underway.
The Housing and Construction Ministry said in response that "the percentage of success for tenders all over the country stands on some 70 percent, and in Judea and Samaria, much like other parts of the country, some tenders were unsuccessful. In such cases, we market the tender for the second and third time, and sometimes even more than that. All the while the Israel Land Administration and the Housing Ministry analyze the reason for the marketing failure, and when necessary, change the terms of the tender."
The ministry dismissed claims that most tenders fail, saying: "In the past two weeks, tenders were successful in Judea and Samaria - in Efrat, Beitar Illit, and Alfei Menashe, as well as in Pisgat Ze'ev in Jerusalem. On the other hand, tenders failed in Immanuel and Adam. In light of that, these tenders were re-marketed.
"In another example, a tender in Ashkelon was successfully marketed, while a tender in Nahariya that failed was re-issued."
The tender for the construction of 1,500 housing units created another crisis in the government Thursday.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni were furious with Prime Minister Netanyahu who allowed Ariel to publish these tenders. Lapid promised in private conversations that "this will not go without response," while Livni said this was a grave diplomatic mistake.
Opposition head MK Isaac Herzog, meanwhile, called the government members "diplomatic pyromaniacs."