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A Tale Of Two Housing Tenders

For the second time in the past three months, Israel on Sunday declared its intention to build over 1,000 housing units in areas beyond the 1967 lines.

n a notice published on its website, the Housing Ministry said that public tenders for the construction of 1,187 new homes in eastern Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria were being issued.

This most recent declaration was greeted by howls of protest, with the Palestinian Authority, the U.S. State Department and the UK Foreign Office all going on record to condemn the move in no uncertain terms.

And yet, back in June, when Israel said it would build 1,140 homes near Palestinian-controlled Jericho, not a peep was heard from the international community.

And just why, you might be wondering, was this the case? What difference is there between these two plans that one would evoke global consternation while the other was greeted by the world with resounding silence?

The answer is as simple as it is revealing: the homes near Jericho are intended for Arabs, while those announced this week are slated for Jews.

As the Jerusalem Post reported on May 14, “The Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria has deposited a plan for a large project of 1,140 Palestinian homes on Israeli state land in Area C of the West Bank near the city of Jericho.”

The 1,800-dunam project, the report said, “would provide a legal housing solution for Palestinians in that area living in illegal homes and unauthorized villages that are not properly connected to utilities, according to the civil administration.”

Needless to say, after the Jericho project was announced, no one in the White House slammed any tables in anger, nor did the resident of 10 Downing Street spill his afternoon tea in dismay at the news.

In other words, President Barack Obama and UK Prime Minister David Cameron have no problem with Israeli housing construction in Judea and Samaria. As long, of course, as it is not meant for Jews.

The sheer hypocrisy of this stance is utterly contemptible and indefensible. No political or diplomatic excuse can conceal the fact that singling out Jewish housing construction for censure is a discriminatory and one-sided act.

Indeed, this is true for much of the criticism that is hurled regarding this subject.

For example, take the Palestinian claim that Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria should be frozen because it will impact the final outcome of the negotiations.

Just a few days ago, senior Palestinian negotiator Muhammad Shtayyeh reacted to Israel’s announcement of new Jewish housing by declaring that the Jewish state was exploiting peace negotiations “as a smoke screen for more settlement construction.”

Israel, he asserted, was seeking to “create new conditions on the ground in order to pre-empt the result of any negotiations.”

This line of thinking is frequently parroted by various members of the international community too.

And yet, if that is the case, the same logic should apply to Palestinian Authority housing construction as well, for it too creates “facts on the ground” which could affect the final status of the territory.

As The New York Times reported on Saturday, the Palestinians are busy building a brand new city called Rawabi north of Ramallah and abutting the Jewish community of Ateret. The city’s master plan calls for erecting 6,000 apartments that will house as many as 40,000 people. The Times noted that, “the sales team began marketing apartments here a few months ago,” and the first phase of more than 600 apartments are said to have sold out.

Nonetheless, the U.S., the European Union and others remain thoroughly silent regarding the ongoing effort by the Palestinians to expand their presence and occupy additional land in Judea and Samaria at the expense of Israel and its legitimate claims.

This points up the double standard at work. Intellectual consistency demands that one either oppose construction by both sides or none at all.

To do otherwise is to adopt a position that is not in harmony with either fairness or logic. And that is why Israel was wise not to yield to Palestinian threats or other forms of foreign pressure which sought to impose a settlement freeze.

History, morality and justice are on our side, and we have every right to build in every corner of our ancient homeland. Demands that we desist from building while the Palestinians are free to rev up the bulldozers are simply partial and imbalanced.

About the Author: Michael Freund is the Founder and Chairman of Shavei Israel. He writes a syndicated column and feature stories for the Jerusalem Post, Israel’s leading English-language daily, and he previously served as Deputy Director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Prime Minister’s Office under Benjamin Netanyahu. A native of New York, he holds an MBA in Finance from Columbia University and a BA from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.


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