For Palestinian laborers, end of freeze means back to work
Palestinian leaders see the settlement moratorium as vital for peace - but it robbed many of the West Bank's Arab residents of their livelihood.
For months, the bulldozers of Walid Hassoun, a construction contractor from the Israeli Arab town of Tira, stood idle in the settlement of Yakir, watched by an armed guard from Ariel. Hassoun enjoys a solid and reliable reputation in the West Bank settlements, and his company is contracted to build homes in the settlements of Revava and Yakir.
Hassoun's company was also the first to be hurt by the settlement building moratorium: What was frozen was new homes, for which his machinery was laying the infrastructure. Yesterday, as the moratorium came to an end, Hassoun's eldest son was in Revava to get the work restarted. He preferred not to comment on the construction freeze.
In Yakir, in the northern West Bank, workers were busy preparing the ground for new housing units. The atmosphere wasn't festive; an insurance agent was on site, discussing security matters with the work manager. The actual work was carried out by two men from Bitha, a village in the Nablus district that earned its place in history in the first intifada: It was in its fields that Col. (res. ) Yehuda Meir sent his soldiers to break the arms and legs of Palestinians.
Yesterday the workmen seemed pleased: Work has been sporadic in recent months, and now they were at the start of an intensive building period. They, too, were in no mood to talk politics. "It's a living," one of them muttered, before returning to hauling wooden beams.
Similar scenes repeated themselves at a number of locations across the West Bank. In Kedumim, work began on a new neighborhood with some 40 housing units. Ground was also being broken in the settlement of Oranit. The head of the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council, Avi Ro'eh, came to work in a festive white shirt to sign building permits in his jurisdiction. The scene was photographed and widely distributed.
Meanwhile, a building crane was confiscated and hauled away by Civil Administration officials at the outpost of Ramat Migron.