Thursday, July 30, 2009
Building Freeze in Jerusalem - PM Breaks His Promise?
Despite his stated support for permanent Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu recently froze a major construction project in the capital city as a diplomatic gesture to the United States. So reported Channel 10 news correspondent Raviv Drucker, citing testimony from Jerusalem city officials.
Netanyahu has denied the report. According to Drucker, Netanyahu ordered a halt to a construction project in Pisgat Zeev, a major Jewish neighborhood that is home to more than 40,000 Israelis. The project was to provide another 900 housing units in the area.
Netanyahu's order was given shortly after American officials asked Israel to freeze building in Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria, and all parts of Jerusalem demanded by the Palestinian Authority. The PA has laid claim to all Jerusalem neighborhoods that were occupied by Jordan between the years of 1948 and 1967, including Pisgat Zeev.
Several senior officials in the Olmert administration indicated that they would be willing to give the PA some Jerusalem neighborhoods, but all insisted on maintaining Israeli sovereignty over majority-Jewish areas such as the French Hill – Pisgat Zeev – Neve Yaakov bloc of neighborhoods in the northern part of the city.
Recently, Netanyahu expressed support for Israeli sovereignty not only in majority-Jewish parts of the capital, but in all of Jerusalem, when he rejected an American demand to cease construction of a Jewish-owned structure in the majority-Muslim neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. Netanyahu reportedly said at the time, “What is [Oba thinking? After I built 20,000 housing units in Har Homa despite all the pressure, I'll freeze construction of 20 housing units?”
"Despite Netanyahu's statement to his cabinet, according to which he refuses to negotiate over Jerusalem, he has decided to freeze building in Pisgat Zeev – a neighborhood in east Jerusalem, but one that has always been considered a part of the city,” Drucker said.
Netanyahu and his Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, are willing to go along with America's demand for a building freeze for a limited period of time only, Drucker added. The two have agreed to give in to a construction freeze in Jewish areas for six months while negotiations take place.