Construction bids issued in West Bank settlement
East Jerusalem building plan leads to diplomatic row; similar move undertaken during Biden's visit to Israel. Elkana council head publishes tender to build new neighborhoods, says 'US vice president's visit has nothing to do with issuing auction. We do not belong to United States'
On the backdrop of the US-prompted construction moratorium imposed on West Bank settlements and the recent embarrassment over construction in east Jerusalem during US Vice President Joe Biden's visit, the Elkana Local Council issued a tender on Thursday for the building of new residential neighborhoods in the West Bank settlement.
According to the council-issued tenders, proposals are sought by entrepreneurs interested in erecting new residential neighborhoods. The local council will leave arranging all the necessary political and planning permits up to whoever makes the winning bid.
According to him, the tender issued is a planning one and no construction will be done until the cabinet-imposed building moratorium is lifted. "We are trying to find a management company that will plan, manage, and erect a residential neighborhood in the council's borders," he said. "After nearly a decade since houses have been built in the council, we hope to create the tools for efficient dealings with the institutional systems," Zehorai said.
The council head added, "We do not belong to the US, but to the State of Israel. And as part of it, we have the right at the very least to start the planning process of a new neighborhood despite the building freeze."
Zehorai asserted that the unofficial building freeze, which he claims has been in place for many years, has pushed young couples out of the council. "We have natural growth, but, due to a lack of housing, they move to other towns. We need 100 units a year in order to provide for natural growth," he explained.
Senior officials in the Yesha Council emphasized in light of the tender that a Israel Land Authority project to build 280 housing units was cancelled at the last minute in 2007 due to criticism from then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. "There has been stagnation there for a number of years already, and no one is doing anything for the residents of Elkana," said the Yesha officials.
They added: "As we understood from meetings with Netanyahu, the freeze period is meant to show that we seek peace, not to prevent political isolation. We are part of one country, and we cannot be denied an elementary right to exist."
400 stop work orders
While no construction at all is taking place in Elkana, Civil Administration officials, who are responsible for enforcing the building freeze, told Ynet that there has been a significant increase in the illegal building within legal settlements, as opposed to the illegal outposts that the Administration has targeted until now.
The Civil Administration emphasized that the defense establishment started taking significant enforcement steps within the past week as part of the second stage of the construction moratorium.
"(Building) foundations demolished in the settlements such as Efrat, Bat Ayin, Yakir, Salit, and Nachniel last week is a warning flag to any town that may try to violate the order," said Civil Administration officials.
The officials added that close to 400 stop work orders have been distributed in the West Bank and are meant to be a last warning before demolition forces move into the field.
On the issue of Elkana's building plans, the Administration said that there is no legal impediment to planning, and that some would even support the move: "As long as there is no violation of the order, there is no reason for towns not to plan for 'the day after the freeze.' On the other hand, those who violate the order will be punished."
The towns in which building foundations were demolished are outraged at the Civil Administration, which they believe is acting like a "military against the country."
"The Civil Administration and the IDF destroyed six building foundations, including one for a synagogue in Efrat. This is in total opposition to the prime minister's statement that public buildings will continue to be built during the freeze," said the settlers. "The synagogue's foundations were laid by Yesha Council heads three months ago."