Defense Minister authorizes new housing in Efrat, saying “construction momentum should not be stopped for a moment.“
By Paul Shindman, World Israel News
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday announced that he authorized the construction of 7,000 housing units in the city of Efrat, located in the Judean hills south of Jerusalem.
“This morning I approved the construction of thousands of new housing units in Efrat in Gush Etzion,” Bennett tweeted, saying he instructed the defense establishment to continue to strengthen settlements. “Construction momentum should not be stopped for a moment on the land.”
Efrat Mayor Oded Revivi welcomed the news, saying his town council had fought for years to get building permits for the empty land that is inside the town’s municipal boundaries. He downplayed any roadblocks the Palestinians might put in the way of the new construction.
“Never say never, but we’ve been through every round of legal procedures that we could have anticipated and dealt with them, so I don’t know if they’re going to try and pull something new out of their sleeve to try and stop it,” Revivi told World Israel News.
Revivi said Efrat has always maintained good relations with neighboring Arab villages and that based on previous experience, the new housing will be an economic boon for them, keeping many of their residents employed for several years in the construction.
Bennett’s authorization is one step of the housing bureaucracy in Israel. The authority to actually build now moves to the Housing Ministry, where plans for the new neighborhood need to be submitted and approved.
The majority of the housing is slated for the Eitam Hill on the east side of the town of 12,000 where Revivi said he was trying for years to get building permits for land Efrat already controls.
Although Bennett gave the green light, Revivi said it was not clear how long it would take before actual construction begins
“I don’t know the timetable because it depends on how long the planning will take and then there will probably be a need for a government decision to actually market it,” Revivi said.
Efrat is in one of the areas of Judea and Samaria where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to apply Israeli sovereignty in the near future. That move got a boost after U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman gave a newspaper interview in which he said the United States would recognize any Israeli decision to apply sovereignty.
Revivi called on the settlement movement to accept President Trump’s Mideast peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians, claiming that Friedman did not say anything in the interview that was different from the Trump plan. Several settlement leaders object to the plan because it calls for a Palestinian state.
“[Israel’s founding prime minister] David Ben-Gurion knew how to take the UN decision and establish a state within challenging borders,” Revivi said. “That same courage is now required by the leadership of the right-wing and the settlements; to say yes, despite the conditions and challenges posed by this agreement, and to establish Israeli law in Judea and Samaria.”
“We must not miss the opportunity to change a generation. I say yes to the plan,” Revivi said.
Bennett’s partner in the Yamina Party, former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, tweeted her support, saying the Justice Ministry worked for a long time to prepare the legal basis for what she called “an important move with strategic implications.”
“This is an important step for Efrat and an important step in curbing Palestinian expansion in Area C,” Shaked said, referring to territory in Judea and Samaria under full Israeli military control.