Minister Kahlon Calls to Resume Construction in Jerusalem, Settlements: 'We Freeze It and the Palestinians Murder'

Limiting construction in Jerusalem leads to 'undesirable demographic changes, centrist party leader says, adding that 'the future of the settlements will not be determined by stabbings and shootings.'

Moshe Kahlon and Benjamin Netanyahu during a weekly cabinet meeting, June 13, 2016.
Israel Mark Salem

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, chairman of Kulanu, called on Monday to increase construction in Jerusalem and in the settlements in light of the wave of terror in recent days.

"It's important to make it clear to the murderers: The future of the settlements in Judea and Samaria will not be determined by stabbings and shootings, but through negotiations," Kahlon said at a meeting of the Kulanu faction, while referring to regions in the West Bank in their biblical names. "Now of all times we have to make it clear to the other side - terror will not cause any uprooting. We have no choice. We must build, and built a lot."

According to Kahlon, "In Jerusalem, unfortunately, there's a construction freeze. A quiet one, but it's still taking place. This freeze is causing the flight of young couples from the city and undesirable demographic changes. Jerusalem has fallen captive to the theory that a construction freeze coincides with the Israel's interests. That's a mistaken theory. We freeze and they incite. We freeze and they murder.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced a plan to build about 600 residential units for Palestinians in East Jerusalem's Givat Hamatos. They also approved a program for building 560 residential units in the settlement of Maale Adumim, outside Jerusalem, and 240 units in the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Ramot, Gilo and Har Homa. Kahlon welcomed the decision, adding that he "hopes it will happen."

Sources close to Netanyahu dismissed the criticism as "a cynical attempt to win political points." Construction in Jerusalem's Arab neighborhoods was decided on in accordance with the court's ruling, they said, "as all of those involved know very well."

Earlier on Monday, Education Minister Naftali Bennett sharply criticized Netanyahu for permitting construction for Palestinians in East Jerusalem's Givat Hamatos area, charging such a project would help divide up the city. Bennett said that "Arab construction without Jewish construction will create Palestinian contiguity from Bethlehem to Malha, it will divide Jerusalem and separate its parts."

Bennett said Givat Hamatos was "a strategic point for Jerusalem's future. Givat Hamatos will decide the [territorial] integrity of Jerusalem."

"The world has a goal of establishing Palestinian contiguity from Bethlehem, through Beit Jallah to Givat Hamatos, Beit Safafa through to the Malha Mall," Bennett said. "What we want, though, is exactly the opposite: We want to establish contiguity from Talpiot to Gilo in order to keep Jerusalem united."