Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered the suspension of all new construction procedures in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria until after U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel, on the eve of Passover, Makor Rishon reports.
According to a directive that was passed from the PM’s office to the appropriate echelons at the defense and housing ministries, in the next few weeks no new construction bids are to be issued in those three areas. Also, plans whose planning phase has been completed will not move on to the deposit phase while all additional bureaucratic steps concerning their public offering are to be delayed as well.
The suspension directive was issued through informal channels. Prime Minister Netanyahu, who conducted the phone calls with the relevant officials personally, emphasized that this is not a freeze—like the 10-month settlement construction freeze Netanyahu declared in November, 2010-—but “merely a temporary suspension in order not to embarrass the visiting president.”
Sources close to the prime minister reiterated that this time the freeze will be restrained and moderate, as befits the circumstances.
A major contributor to the move on the PM’s part was Housing Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) whose office publicized its construction plans for the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood in East Jerusalem on the very week Vice President Joe Biden was visiting Israel, unintentionally causing a serious crisis in Israel’s relationship with the White House.
Following that incident, Netanyahu was forced to block construction in Jerusalem for almost a year, to patch things up with the Americans.