While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes his way to the US, Ynet has learned that Minister of Housing and Construction Ariel Atias (Shas) intends to continue to market the Ramat Shlomo lands to contractors for construction.
This decision is significant in light of the recent crisis in Israel-US relations following Israel's announcement, during US Vice President Joe Biden's visit to the region, of its decision to build 1,600 housing units in the east Jerusalem neighborhood. US President Barack Obama placed the responsibility for the decision on Interior Minister Eli Yishai.
The process for construction in Israel has two main stages. First, planning permission must be obtained. This stage is managed by local committees tied to local authorities, and by the regional and national planning committees, subordinate to the Interior Ministry.
When this stage is completed, the land is marketed to contractors for construction. This stage is managed by the Israel Lands Authority and the Ministry of Housing, except in the rare cases where construction is on privately-owned land.
The land approved for construction in Ramat Shlomo had passed the first stage and was ready for the second stage, and Atias has no intention of stopping the process.
This stage is lengthy, and it is estimated that it will take at least a year before the marketing begins. If talks take place between Israel and the Palestinians, the marketing may be at its most intensive just at that time.
Sources familiar with the process confirmed that it is possible to stop the process. Therefore the decision to continue the process is a conscious decision by the minister of housing, without regard for political consequences.
Netanyahu set up a committee to investigate the process that had caused so much embarrassment during Biden's visit, and instructed that he be personally informed of any future decision regarding building in east Jerusalem, but it is not clear whether this will prevent marketing of plots where planning permission has already been granted.
The Ministry under Atias' leadership has recently issued a slew of tenders for marketing land throughout the country in an effort to bring down house prices. Thus hundreds of housing units were marketed in Neve Yaacov and Pisgat Zeev in north Jerusalem, on the other side of the Green Line. The ministry also intended to market in Har Homa, but has not yet done so for technical reasons.
The ministry told Ynet, "When we reach a development agreement with the Jerusalem municipality, and when the tenders are ready to be issued, we'll publish them. It will all be done with the required sensitivity, according to the prime minister's instructions."