MK Ofir Akunis (Likud) revealed that in addition to the announced 1,500 new homes in eastern Jerusalem, an additional 3,360 new homes are in the planning process for Judea and Samaria, including in communities outside of the “settlement blocs.”
The statement, reported by Haaretz Thursday, comes on the heels of the recent approval Wednesday of 1,500 housing units in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, a move seen by many as designed to counterbalance the highly unpopular release of 26 terrorists by the government on Tuesday as a “gesture” for continuing peace talks.
Of the 3,360 new homes, 860 units are to be marketed for immediate construction in established “settlement blocs” of Judea and Samaria including Ariel, Maaleh Adumim, Givat Zeev, Beitar Ilit, Karnei Shomron and Elkana.
Another 1,400 new homes in the major “blocs” as well as in isolated communities will be submitted to the planning division of the Civil Administration, which is charged with granting construction permits in Judea and Samaria.
Significantly, an additional 1,100 units will be pushed forward along the lengthy planning process. Among them are plans for building in isolated communities such as Nokdim and Shiloh, location of the Tabernacle and first capital of Israel in Biblical times, before the First Temple was built in Jerusalem.
According to AFP, a senior government official confirmed the report without citing specific numbers. “Only the 1,500 new [Jerusalem] housing units will be built,” he said, adding “all the rest of the numbers that were published in the last day are only relating to the planning process and not to actual construction.
The building announcements have predictably encountered strong international criticism. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon recently condemned plans for the 1,500 new homes, while praising Israel’s “gesture” of releasing 26 murderers.
MK Akunis, who made the announcement, said on Tuesday during a tour of Judea and Samaria “our policy is clear: we build communities, we don’t uproot them,” adding “the PA has no genuine desire for peace. Poignant proof of this is their ongoing refusal to recognize Israel as the Jewish State.”
Building in Judea and Samaria has been a contentious issue, with plans often delayed by international pressure. Some new communities have been destroyed in the past, such as occurred in Migron in September 2011 under the Likud government, a destruction process which has continued this year even as Arab claims of ownership of the land proved false.
Just last month in September the Ramat Migron community was evacuated on Yom Kippur.