Yerushalayim (Ilana Messika/TPS) – The government has imposed a construction freeze on Israeli housing projects in East Yerushalayim despite previous pledges to the contrary, Army Radio reported on Monday morning.
The radio station said it had obtained a confidential Yerushalayim municipality document that details more than 6,000 housing units frozen by the Yerushalayim 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 Choma 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 Yerushalayim 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 from Netanyahu himself. The prime minister has said that Israel is coordinating its moves in Yehudah and Shomron with the Trump administration, however, restrictions on building in Jewish neighborhoods in East Yerushalayim were beyond consideration.
“The issue of halting building projects in the Israeli neighborhoods in East Yerushalayim is not part of the [current] negotiations with the US administration,” Netanyahu told Israeli reporters in Beijing during a visit to China in March.
The Prime Minister’s Office denied any freeze in construction, Army Radio said.
“There is no justification for freezing construction in Yerushalayim. Building freezes have never had any impact on Palestinian Authority policies,” Likud MK Avi Dichter, the 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 the freeze constitutes 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 Yehudah, Shomron and Yerushalayim.
A construction freeze in East Yerushalayim, on the other hand, would be more similar to the “not one brick” policy of former US President [Barack] Obama.