Update on Givat Hamatos:

Formal deferral of the submission of tenders

Breaking and important: the final date for the end of bidding on the Givat Hamatos tenders has been deferred from June 22 until September 7. It is highly unlikely this deferral would have taken place without sustained and articulate engagement by the international community.

Background: Netanyahu’s February announcement to publish tenders for construction in Givat Hamatos

On February 24, four days after Netanyahu announced it, the Israel Lands Authority published tenders for the construction of 1077 units in Givat Hamatos, the first new large Israeli settlement neighborhood in East Jerusalem since Har Homa in the 1990s.

As we explained in our report of February 19:

” Generally, but hardly always, the announcement of tenders is accompanied by the publication of a  tender booklet, which contains all of the terms and vital information critical to potential bidders. That did not happen with the tenders published on February 24. The publication indicated that the tender booklet would become available on May 3, 2020. In the absence of a booklet, the developers cannot prepare their bids, much less submit them.

In addition, the final date for the submission of tenders has been set for June 22, 2020. The text of the publication highlights the following standard provision: “The bidders are responsible of keeping up-to-date regarding any change and/or clarification, and/or update of the tender on the website of the Israel Lands Authority until the last date upon which bids may be submitted”.

What is the current status of these tenders?

The specification booklet for the Givat Hamatos tenders that was to have been published on May 3, was never published. No explanation was given.

A formal deferral has been formally released today by Israel Land Authority and the Ministry of Housing, announcing that the booklets will be published on August 2, and the bidding concluded on September 7.

Why the deferral?

There are a number of factors that may have play a role in the decision to defer a decision on Givat Hamatos:

  • Netanyahu has long prioritized the construction of Givat Hamatos, and it has become one of the “flagship” projects of the settler right. There is little doubt that this decision was taken by anyone but Netanyahu, and it is highly unlikely he would have approved the delay without the sustained and articulate efforts on the part of the international community (most prominently the EU and a number of member states who often acted in concert). It is also noteworthy that so far, the failure to publish the specification booklets on May 3 has gone unnoticed – a sign that Netanyahu has not paid a political price for this decision.
  • Netanyahu and his coalition partners are now in the midst of an internal debate in regard to the promise of the government to start advancing annexation of parts of the West Bank starting July 1st. The following factors are weighing heavily on this internal debate and will also have an impact on the way Netanyahu will want to leverage a decision on Givat Hamatos: pressure from Europe, from key regional players, from settlers radically opposed to the Trump vision, together with the White House’s expectation that a decision to annex should to be made in consensus with the approval of both Likud and Blue White members of government (rather than solely by Netanyahu, as made possible by the coalition agreement). In this context, Givat Hamatos could well become a compensation to the settlers should the government refrain from pursuing annexation or should it decides to limit the scope of annexation. It is difficult to predict how this will play in the government’s calculus but it is difficult to separate the two issues.

The possibly looming annexation, the publication of Givat Hamatos tenders and the hearings slated for July for the final approval of E1 are intimately related (note: at the July hearing on E1, objections to the plan filed by the public will be heard, one of the final stages of the review process in the run-up to final statutory approval). The fact that Netanyahu has chosen this timing to move on plans which he had frozen for decades is an indication that these actions may be viewed as anticipatory annexation. This deferral is far from conclusive, and the next several weeks will no doubt be dramatic. This is time for vigilance, not complacency, and for unrelenting engagement on these issues.