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Jerusalem: Build, Baby, Build!


Freund-Michael

Israel this week took an important step toward strengthening Jerusalem and preventing any chance of its future division.

Despite increasingly strident objections from the U.S., Europe and the Palestinians, the Jewish state is moving forward with plans to expand the capital’s Jewish population.

At a meeting of the District Building and Planning Committee, officials approved a proposal to construct 1,500 apartment units in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo.

Located in the northern part of the city, Ramat Shlomo is a critical link ensuring an unbroken and contiguous strip of Jewish-populated areas from Ramot to French Hill.

This will make it extremely difficult for Palestinian-controlled Ramallah to ever connect with the eastern part of Jerusalem, thereby reducing the chance that Israel’s capital can or will ever be divided.

Bordered on the north and east by the Arab-inhabited neighborhoods of Beit Hanina and Shuafat, Ramat Shlomo also provides a bulwark against any possible attempts to stretch Palestinian control further westward.

According to some reports, construction of the 1,500 new apartment units could begin as early as next year, though it will likely take longer.

To be sure, there are still various additional bureaucratic hurdles that stand in the way of the start of actual construction, and the authorities can at any time throw a wrench in the works should they decide to do so.

But Ramat Shlomo is of great strategic significance and anyone who loves Jerusalem and wants to ensure that it remains indivisible and under full Israeli control should rejoice over this latest development.

Now, if the name Ramat Shlomo sounds vaguely familiar, that is because it was at the center of a diplomatic storm that erupted back in March 2010, when a plan for its expansion was approved during a visit to Israel by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

Washington was furious, the Palestinians were chagrined, and the Israeli left cold not contain its anger. As a result, the project was put on hold for two and a half years, and is now once again being revived after the Palestinian Authority’s latest unilateral moves at the United Nations General Assembly.

Don’t be surprised if the headlines in coming days once again take Israel to task for this latest move. No doubt everyone from the State Department spokesman to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to European Union officials are all busy at their word processors preparing the latest condemnation of the Jewish state for daring to build in its own capital.

When news of the plan was first publicized earlier this month, along with proposals to build in the E1 area between Jerusalem and Maaleh Adumim, the international community’s reaction was swift and stern.

Indeed, there is nowhere else in the world – not a single place! – that a tediously dull decision about housing construction made by bureaucrats would elicit so much international interest.

But we should not let the noise bother us one bit. However harsh the criticism might be, Israel has the right and the obligation to erect housing where it chooses, and it is no one else’s business or concern.

Our national interest is to put an end once and for all to the delusions of our foes that they can wrest Jerusalem from us or divide the city. The best way to do so is to rev up the bulldozers and build.

Israel needs to take steps to provide affordable housing in Jerusalem and meet the growing demand for apartments. Neighborhoods such as Ramat Shlomo provide just such an answer, and we should not let Mahmoud Abbas’s empty objections dictate our housing policy any longer.

Back in 2008, a large chorus of Americans adopted the slogan “Drill, Baby, Drill” to underline their support for greater petroleum exploration. It is time we embrace that motto and modify it slightly for our own purposes, and encourage the Israeli government to: “Build, Baby, Build!”

By doing so, we can ensure that this precious land remains ours forevermore.

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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