On April 17, Israel Construction Minister Ariel Atias was widely quoted in the Israeli press, stating that Prime Minister Netanyahu, in deference to President Obama, had imposed a de facto freeze on Israeli settlement activity in East Jerusalem. For the report in Haaretz, click here.
The statement raised some eyebrows, since just two weeks earlier, in the wake of a Municipal decision to approve a plan to expand Gilo by 942 residential units, the international community, including the White House (click here), the United Nations (click here), the European Union, (click here) and Great Britain (click here) roundly condemned recent settlement activity in East Jerusalem.
So who is correct, Minister Atias or the international community?
Our examination of the empirical indicators regarding settlement activities in East Jerusalem clearly demonstrate that there was indeed a de facto freeze on many elements of East Jerusalem settlement activity, which lasted from March 9 until November 1, 2010 (see our study here), but that the freeze had come to a halt. In recent weeks the intensity of settlement related activity in East Jerusalem as returned to, and in many cases exceed the high levels that preceded the 2010 de facto moratorium (see our latest update here).
It is noteworthy that Prime Minister Netanyahu, in his zig-zag machinations to avoid difficult choices and to concede something simultaneously to the settlers and the international community, is castigated by both: by his right wing flank, for freezing East Jerusalem settlements, and by the international community for doing precisely the opposite.
The next litmus test of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s policies will be on May 5, when the Jerusalem Regional Planning Committee, an organ of the Government of Israel, will deliberate on two East Jerusalem Plans, he Har Homa C Plan 10390, for 983 units, and Pisgat Zev Plan 11647, for 625 units.For a map of these latest developments, click here.
These deliberations will provide a clear indication whether the Prime Minister’s construction policies in East Jerusalem address the concerns of his right wing coalition partners, or the requisites of the two-state solution, as expressed by President Obama and the international community.