More Than 1,000 Homes to Go Up in East Jerusalem, West Bank

Housing Ministry sources say decision linked to Netanyahu's declaration that Israel would take punitive measures following Palestinian Authority efforts to become a member of UNESCO.

Tenders to build some 1,000 homes over the Green Line in Jerusalem and in the West Bank will be published shortly, the Housing Ministry announced Sunday, adding that 500 of the homes will be built in the Har Homa neighborhood of Jerusalem, 180 in Givat Ze'ev, north of Jerusalem, and 348 in Betar Ilit, south of the capital.

Housing Ministry sources said the decision was linked to the declaration by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the government would take punitive measures following Palestinian Authority efforts to become a member of UNESCO.

Har Homa, Green Line, Jerusalem
Emil Salman

A senior source said Sunday that while American and European protests can be expected, they wouldn't be too sharp because Israel was careful not to surprise the international community and was not making the announcement at a particularly sensitive time.

"We can't have no negotiations [with the PA] and also no construction," said Housing Minister Ariel Attias, who stressed the need to cool down the housing market by increasing the supply.

"This is also [necessary] in Judea and Samaria with a stress on the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem, where 250,000 people live and it is clear that in any future agreement, including on the most far-reaching maps presented by [former Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert [to the Palestinians], these neighborhoods are going to remain under Israeli sovereignty."

MK Otniel Schneller of Kadima expressed support for the move, saying "Anyone who opposes this construction is sacrificing the national, Zionist interest to narrow, political, post-Zionist interests."

Since March 2010, when a crisis erupted with the United States over the approval of 1,600 units in Jerusalem's Ramat Shlomo neighborhood while U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was in Israel, several plans to build over the Green Line in Jerusalem have been held up, often being removed from planning committee agendas at the last minute.

Plans that were approved and announced, in neighborhoods like Gilo and Pisgat Ze'ev, drew quick and sharp responses from the United States.