Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Yossi Deitch, a mayoral candidate in the upcoming elections, has been accusing the government of suspending construction beyond the Green Line in the capital for the past eight years.
Deitch published an open letter to this effect, ahead of his official announcement that he was running for mayor.
Despite his statement, the planning authorities this week approved extensive construction plans beyond the Green Line. A tender for 600 housing units was published last week and two other building plans of hundreds of units each were approved as well.
Deitch is making efforts to obtain the support of the ultra-Orthodox parties, but so far only Agudat Yisrael, a faction of United Torah Judaism, backs him.
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In his letter Deitch says that every year thousands of housing units are built for Arab residents, while every housing unit beyond the ‘67 lines in Jerusalem is required to obtain an endless chain of approvals from the Prime Minister’s Office. The Prime Minister’s Office doesn’t approve the plans, creating deliberate red tape and in fact freezing the construction, he says.
Deitch brought up the crisis that erupted in March 2010 between Israel and U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration over the approval of 1,600 housing units in Jerusalem’s Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, beyond the Green Line. The plan was approved by the Jerusalem District Committee, of which Deitch is a member, just when Vice President Joe Biden was visiting Israel.
The announcement about approving the plan ignited a huge uproar, Deitch said. “The newspapers’ headlines said Biden was humiliated and that we – the committee members – had inflicted a severe blow to the strategic alliance between the United States and Israel by our ‘provocative’ act.”
Since then the construction plan was put into a deep freeze, he wrote, together with many other plans. Deitch said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the political patron of incumbent Mayor Nir Barkat and of leading candidate Zeev Elkin. Since he, Deitch, wasn’t committed to Netanyahu, he would approve of the construction and increase “the Jewish majority” in the city.
The Ir Amim NGO, which monitors building permits in the city, refuted Deitch’s claims of suspended construction in the capital. Last week the Housing Ministry issued a tender for 600 housing units, part of the construction plan for Ramat Shlomo, which had triggered the crisis.
On Thursday the District Committee submitted two other large construction plans beyond the Green Line – 345 housing units in Gilo and 263 units in Ramot.
About two months ago another plan, expanding Givat Zeev by 1,460 housing units, was submitted.
“Contrary to rightist politicians’ spin, construction beyond the Green Line in Jerusalem isn’t stopping for a moment,” said Aviv Tatarsky of Ir Amim. He noted that there are also large construction plans in the settlements inside Palestinian neighborhoods in Silwan, Ras al-Amud, A-Tor and other places.
Other leading mayoral candidates are Moshe Leon, who is supported by Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu, and Ofer Berkowitz, chairman of the Awakening movement.