Officials in Ariel say that if the plan materializes, the town’s population will grow from the current 18,000 to 30,000 within a few years.
However, a spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office flatly denied the reports. Only 117 new residential units were approved for construction, David Baker said.
Deputy Defense Minister Ze’ev Boim, who was told about the expansion plans during a tour of Ariel, told Ynet: “While disengagement takes place at one location, we must reinforce our hold on settlement blocs. We must bring Likud members here so they understand the weight of this historic mission and safeguard the settlement blocs. The split in the (Likud) movement is only weakening our ability to do so.”
According to Boim, the plans to expand Ariel should be viewed as an unequivocal declaration that as opposed to the Gaza withdrawal, the Ariel bloc is “an inseparable part of the State of Israel.”
“Jewish settlement will be boosted and promoted, and receive the required security arrangements,” he said. “Whoever thinks the Gaza disengagement will be followed by a disengagement from settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria, I tell them ‘not in our school.’”
Construction to be determined by demand
Officials in Ariel said the rate of construction would be determined by demand for homes and added the project could take 10 years. They estimated about 300 units will be built each year.
On Monday it was discovered that following his visit, Sharon instructed officials to finish handling the matter within a month.
During his visit, Sharon said: “I came to see how we can expand the town and reinforce the (Ariel) bloc, just as I do with other blocs. This (settlement) bloc will forever remain an inseparable part of the State of Israel and enjoy territorial contiguity with it.”