Government freezes Jerusalem construction, report claims

Netanyahu denies an Army Radio report that the government has imposed a building freeze on 6,000 housing units in the Israeli capital.

The government has imposed a construction freeze on Israeli housing projects in eastern Jerusalem despite previous pledges to the contrary, Army Radio reported Monday morning.

The radio station said it obtained a confidential Jerusalem municipality document that details more than 6,000 housing units frozen by the Jerusalem District Committee for Planning and Building at the behest of the political echelon.

The document lists 2,200 housing units in the Gilo neighborhood, 2,000 units in the Har Homa neighborhood, a further 500 in Ramat Shlomo neighborhood,  500 in Pisgat Ze’ev and, two separate 250 unit developments in Ramot that have been affected by the freeze.

The freeze reportedly affects infrastructure plans as well, such as the development of an area of ​​9,000 square meters in the Old City of Jerusalem for the construction of a parking lot and exhibition center, along with an extensive plan to regulate construction in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City.

A freeze would directly contradict statements made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has said that Israel is coordinating its moves in Judea and Samaria with the Trump administration, although restrictions on building in Jewish neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem were not being considered.

“The issue of halting building projects in the Israeli neighborhoods in east Jerusalem is not part of the [current] negotiations with the US administration,” Netanyahu told Israeli reporters in Beijing during a visit to China in March.

Netanyahu Denies Report

The Prime Minister’s Office denied any freeze in construction, Army Radio said.

“There is no justification for freezing construction in Jerusalem. Building freezes have never had any impact on Palestinian Authority policies,” Likud MK Avi Dichter, chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee said, in response to the report. “I am not aware of any diplomatic considerations that would strategically or tactically justify such a freeze. I hope that any obstacles to building will be rapidly removed.”

It is unclear whether such a freeze would constitute a gesture of goodwill towards the American administration’s efforts to reignite the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. But the move is likely to further antagonize Netanyahu’s voter base on the Israeli Right, which had hoped the Trump administration would allow free reign to build in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem.

A construction freeze in eastern Jerusalem, on the other hand, would be more similar to the “not one brick” policy of former US president [Barack] Obama.

Meanwhile, Jared Kushner, Trump’s senior adviser, is scheduled to arrive in Israel Wednesday for peace talks with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

By: Ilana Messika/TPS and World Israel News Staff