Housing Soars in Yehudah And Shomron; Grounded in East Yerushalayim

YERUSHALAYIM -
A view of Modi’in Illit. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
A view of Modi’in Illit. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government seems to be pursuing two separate housing construction policies over the green line: Lots more homes in Yehudah and Shomron, none in east Yerushalayim.

Jewish housing starts soared by 176% in the first quarter of 2013, with construction in the two largest population centers, Beitar Illit and Modin Illit, leading the way after almost three years of stagnation, according to data from the Central Bureau of Statistics.

In the first three months of this year, work began on 865 new homes in Yehudah and Shomron, of which 265 were in Beitar Illit and 241 in Modin Illit. By comparison, during the first quarter of 2012, work began on only 313 new homes, 12 in Beitar Illit and 26 in Modin Illit.

Both communities are located near the pre-1967 lines and would likely become part of Israel in any final-status agreement with the Palestinians.

Release of the CBS data comes in the midst of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s ongoing diplomatic initiative to revive direct peace talks with the Palestinians. Netanyahu has promised the United States not to initiate new building projects in either Yehudah, Shomron or east Yerushalayim, so as not to provoke Kerry or the Palestinians.

Since January, no new tenders have been issued in either region. The new building in Beitar Illit and Modin Illit is part of an authorization process which began before Kerry entered the picture.

On the other hand, there would appear to be no reason for Kerry to be displeased with construction activity in east Yerushalayim, since there is none. Despite Netanyahu’s promise to continue Jewish construction in the eastern part of the capital, a de-facto building freeze is in place, Army Radio reported on Monday.

Figures provided by the Housing Ministry, the Israel Lands Administration, the Yesha Council and the Yerushalayim municipality all indicate that no new apartments beyond the 1967 Green Line have been marketed to the public since the start of the year.

ILA officials told Army Radio that the prime minister’s office has intervened directly to clamp down on housing starts in east Yerushalayim.

However, last week Likud MK Ofir Akunis denied that the government was freezing  construction in east Yerushalayim.

“There is no such decision, nor was such a decision ever made, nor will such a decision to freeze construction in Yerushalayim ever be made,” Akunis told the Knesset plenum.