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April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Uri Ariel’

Binyamin (Kerry) Netanyahu Freezes New Homes for Maaleh Adumim

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has ordered Housing Minster Uri Ariel to cancel plans for 1,200 housing units that could accommodate thousands of people in the “E-1” area of the city of Maaleh Adumim, located 10 minutes east of Jerusalem and overlooking the Dead Sea.

The cancellation was ordered shortly after the Haaretz newspaper reported that the Housing Ministry has hired an architect to plan construction of residential units for a reported 20,000 people in Maaleh Adumim and in smaller communities in Judea and Samaria. The cancellation affects only E-1 and not other areas.

The Office of the Prime Minister was unusually honest, although inaccurate, in explaining the order to Ariel, a leading Jewish Home minister.

“There is no need to pay international prices for a process that does not have great significance,” it told the Yediot Acharonot newspaper.”

Not of “great significance?” Apparently, the Prime Minister’s office was being sarcastic. More probable, it was being cynical.

E-1 has become a flashing red line for the Palestinian Authority. Building Jewish homes in E-1 would guarantee that the Palestinian Authority would not endanger Israeli security with a contiguous land mass from eastern Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria.

Constant reports that E-1 would “cut off” the Palestinian Authority are patent lies because highways connect Arab villages and cities in all directions.

It has been a political ping-pong ball within Israel, with nationalists such as Ariel fighting tooth and nail for Israel to stand up and take a position that the mostly vacant 4.5 square mile area, which is part of the city of Maaleh Adumim, will be a home for Jews, sooner and not later.

Almost everyone except the Obama administration knows that it will happen. Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas once upon a time may have had little hope that he could prevent E-1 from being developed, but the Obama administration has effectively become his spokesman and is dead set against its development.

The Bush administration gets the first “credit” for opposing construction in E-1 after President George W. Bush came out with his “Roadmap Plan,” which eventually fell off a cliff, a better result than the Oslo Accords that literally exploded in Israel’s collective face.

The saga of E-1 is a prime example of why Israel cannot depend on promises from the United States. President Ronald Reagan once wrote Prime Minister Ariel Sharon a letter that promised recognition of Israel’s right to build there. The promise was not a legal document, and its worth was only as long as Reagan was in office. The Obama adminstration has said it is not committed by the letter.

It was none other than Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, whose memory has been defaced into an image of Peace Now, who in 1994 provided Maaleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel with documents to make E-1 an official part of the city.

Nearly 30 years later, all that Israel has built on E-1 is a police station. The Arabs have woken up and have sent Bedouin families to dot the area so they can tell foreign and local reporters how they have been living on the land for centuries.

E-1 has been a toy, or pawn, for Prime Minister Netanyahu.

He has defied nationalists and has toed the line in Washington to keep the bulldozers out of the area.

True, after Abbas went to the United Nations last November to upgrade the PA’s status in the General Assembly to that of a non-member state, Netanyahu unleashed the E-1 pawn and announced plans to build 5,000 residential units there.

So much for hot air.

Not a single house has been built there. In fact, Netanyahu inflicted an unannounced building freeze on almost all of Judea and Samaria until last month, one hour after Israel freed the second batch of terrorists in the four-step program to release 104 murderers in return for the privilege of officially arguing with the Palestinian Authority.

Netanyahu’s policy on E-1 sounds like a broken record.

In January 2009, Netanyahu secretly promised President Barack Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that Israel would not build in E-1, according to an Al Jazeera report in 2011.

Netanyahu, of course, denied the report, prompting Maaleh Adumim Mayor Kashriel to demand that the Prime Minister “order the defense minister to submit the master plan for the neighborhood immediately and progress with development on site, as former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon did during his tenure.”

Rally of 3,000 at Protests Release of Terrorists

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Approximately 3,000 protesters, including Jewish Home party Knesset Members, protested at the Ofer prison near Jerusalem Monday night, where 26 terrorists will be freed during the night.

Their “human chain” has no chance of stopping the release of terrorists, but the demonstrators hope their presence may add enough angry sentiment among Israelis to stop the next release in the four-step program to free 104 terrorists so that the United States can stage and produce the “peace talks” charades.

The Jewish Home party cast aside coalition politics and took a strong ideological stand against Monday night’s release of terrorists.

Party MKs Uri Ariel, who is Minister of Housing, Ayelet Shaked and Shuli Moalem ignored Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s criticism of the Jewish Home’s opposition to the government decision to play along with  U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

“The Shamgar Committee recommended against releasing prisoners. Why doesn’t the government adopt the report? Releasing prisoners isn’t according to Jewish values,” said Ariel, a veteran MK who consistently has been more honest in backing up his beliefs than have been many previous national religious legislators.

Gila Molcho, sister of Ian Feinberg who was murdered by terrorists in Gaza before the 2005 expulsion, said, “My brother believed justice lies with people, but a great wrong has been done here. His first murderer was released in the course of the Shalit deal, his second murderer was released on the first batch and the third will be released tomorrow.

“We’re not a goodwill gesture, we’re the people of Israel. The Prime Minister must wake up – we’re giving a horrible message here.”

Another relative of a victim of terrorists stated, “My country betrayed me. My brother’s blood was spilled for nothing.”

Israeli Law May Apply to Citizens in Judea and Samaria

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

Following an angry government debate, the Netanyahu government decided to accept the recommendations of Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi). Ariel recommended that all laws directly affecting and relating to citizens be automatically applied to citizens living in Judea and Samaria without special additional legislation or rulings. The Ministry of Justice has been told to begin working on this significant change to have it apply within the next few months, according to a report by the Tazpit News Agency.

Until now, anytime a law that was passed that affected private citizens, a second law or ruling needed to be passed to apply to citizens living in Judea and Samaria. The doppelganger law needed to be passed either in the Knesset, or by the IDF military commander in Judea and Samaria.

MK Orit Struck (Bayit Yehudi) recently initiated a doppelganger bill so that a new labor law for women, would also apply to women in Judea and Samaria.

Surprisingly, her bill raised the hackles of certain members of the Knesset, and in particular Minister Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid party, who attempted to block the legislation from passing.

As a result, the discussion was elevated to the level of the government, where in the end Minister Uri Ariel’s position was accepted.

Ariel argued that Israeli citizens in Judea and Samaria fulfill their obligations as every other citizen of Israel does, and it makes no sense that they need to fight separately that every law will also apply to them.

Previously, Ariel taunted Lapid with a variation of Lapid’s campaign slogan, “If there are no rights, there are no obligations”, openly stating that if Israeli citizens in Judea and Samaria don’t benefit from the rights of Israeli law, then why should they have the obligation to pay income and VAT tax.

Left Targeting Jewish Home Housing Minister for Ouster

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Gush Shalom, which defines itself as the “hard core” of Israel’s peace camp, is going after Jewish Home Housing Minister Uri Ariel, who is, apparently, to blame for anything that has and will surely go wrong in the explosive Middle East.

The reason Gush Shalom, headed by the aging but still very charismatic journalist Uri Avneri, who was the first Israeli newspaper publisher to meet openly with the late PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, is going after Minister Ariel has to do with something he said this month:

“We should make clear to Secretary of State Kerry that Israel will never return to the Auschwitz borders, will not freeze the settlements endeavor, and will not agree to be sacrificed so that he could receive the Nobel Peace Prize. I am sure the prime minister will not be partner to abandoning Israel’s security.”

And on Sunday, on the occasion of the inauguration of the new neighborhood of Leshem in the town of Alei Zahav, a few miles away from the city of Ariel in Samaria, Minister Ariel said:

“It should be clear to any thinking person: there are no two states for two peoples west of the Jordan River, there will be no such thing, even if we’re sitting at the negotiations table, this is not on the agenda.” He then added: “We will build everywhere in the Land of Israel, and certainly in Samaria, and certainly in Judea.”

The reaction from the left was furious:

“With the winds of war blowing in our region, Housing Minister Uri Ariel pours more oil on the flames by establishing the new ‘Leshem’ settlement on the West Bank. In the inflammatory speech which he delivered on that occasion he shows himself a dangerous extreme right provocateur,” reads the Gush Shalom press release, responding to the Minister’s relatively benign, if somewhat excited statement.

The entire press release reads like the stuff Avneri used to dish out on a weekly basis, back in the roaring 1970s. The next paragraph is vintage Avneri:

“This is far from an unexpected development. Ariel’s rampage could have been predicted from the moment when the settler cat was placed in charge of the housing cream. Ariel is not a private individual, he the Minister of Housing in the government of Israel.”

It’s interesting to note that Alei Zahav, established a little over 30 years ago, in 1982, is more likely to vote Likud-Beiteinu than Jewish Home: its 130 families (now a few more, with the opening of the new neighborhood) are 80 percent non-religious. So you can’t quite accuse Minister Ariel of being the cat taking all the cream to himself – not if he shares the cream with other cats…

Also, Deputy Minister Ophir Akonis of Likud Beiteinu, who also graced the inauguration with his presence, repeated everything the minister had said: “There are indeed negotiating with the Palestinians, but that does not stop anyone from building homes in Israel,” he said. “Out of this place, a message is emanating, that a Palestinian state will never be established.”

“Look around you,” Akunis said, “who needs another Arab country in this area?”

Nevertheless, Avneri et al are after Uri Ariel, despite the fact that his message is not different at all from what’s being said these days by the majority of the Likud Beiteinu ministers. The reason is obvious: if you portray the situation as it is, meaning that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Justice Minister and chief negotiator Tzipi Livni are way to the left of the government in which they serve, then you must abandon hope of the two-state solution becoming a reality in the near future.

But if you portray Jewish Home as the extremist, settler holdout in a government eager to plant a second Hamas entity right next door to Ben Gurion International Airport – then you’ve got something to work with.

This is precisely Avneri’s next point:

“There is not one government which is busy building settlements and spitting in the face of the Palestinians, and a different government which is supposed to negotiate and reach a peace agreement with the same Palestinians. It is the same government, and all its ministers are responsible for Ariel’s acts of provocation.”

Jewish Home Minister Forces Apartment Buying During ’9-Days’

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

Anyone who bought an apartment in Jerusalem from May 5 on, will be eligible, as of Sunday, July 7, to receive a grant of NIS 95 thousand ($26 thousand) for an apartment purchased on land belonging to the Land Authority, or NIS 70.5 thousand ($19 thousand) for an apartment on private land.

But the schedule, set by the ministries of Finance and Housing, raises a halachic question for potential buyers: can they sign a contract next week, the period of the “Nine Days,” during which one avoids buying apartments and other large ticket items?

Although each individual must consult their own rabbi, it is likely that most rabbinic responses would permit the purchase, since the halacha is permissive regarding “davar ha’aved,” something of value that would be lost if not purchased during this period. There’s no doubt that anyone who misses the date on the eve of Tisha B’Av stands to lose as much as $26 thousand.

It’s puzzling, however, why Minister of Housing Uri Ariel, an observant Jew who should be well versed with halacha, did not use his influence to extend the grant period a few days after Tisha B’Av, to allow those who would prefer not to sign until after the fast to do so without the anxiety associated with the fear of transgressing or even just skirting the law.

After weeks of procrastination at the Ministry of Finance, affecting many buyers, this weekend the Accountant General Dept. of the Treasury and the Ministry of Housing Occupancy Dept. passed the new guidelines to mortgage banks.

The grants will be awarded to anyone who bought an apartment from May 5 until next Monday, the eve of Tisha B’Av, July 15. The majority of lots in Jerusalem are owned by the Land Authority, so that most apartment buyers will receive the higher award.

Those who signed a purchase contract within the specified dates don’t need to rush, according to government sources, because they have one whole year to use their right to the grant. On the other hand, if they haven’t signed, they should hurry up and sign a contract in the next few days. The grants are conditioned on continued occupation for 10 years, as each year an additional 10 percent of the award will become a grant. Selling the apartment in less than 10 years will require that owner pay back a portion of the grant.

Families in need that expand an existing apartment will also be entitled to a grant, under the same conditions.

Things will change for the worse come July 15. According to the guidelines, from July 15 to October 31, apartment buyers in Jerusalem will receive a grant of NIS 100 thousand ($27 thousand), contingent on the following conditions:

1. The new grant will be given only to first apartment buyers.

2. The new grant will only be given to buyers of new apartments.

3. The new grant will not be awarded to families in need who extend our apartment.

4. The new grant will be given only to apartments that cost NIS 1.8 million (roughly half a million dollars) or more (not including VAT).

The Jewish Press requested a comment from the Housing and Construction Ministry’s spokesperson, but so far we have not received one.

It’s Not the Economy, Stupid

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

“What will become of the housing market?” I asked Uri Ariel, betraying my worries about my daughter and  son-in-law living in a chicken-coop-turned-apartment on a moshav.

Ariel told me about his plan to create a special cabinet whose job will be to promote the construction of rental apartments in every possible place throughout the country, thus flooding the market with rental units.  But I’m worried.  Experience shows that good people’s good ideas ultimately end up in the hands of less good people.  Ariel won’t be the housing and construction minister forever, after all.

“When your plan meets the marketplace,” I asked him, “who can guarantee that it will follow the rules that you and your associates set for it?  Why not have the state do the construction, so at least that part will stay in the hands of the government?”

“Because it’s been shown that when the state builds, it ends up costing more.”

“Why?  Because of the shenanigans?  Because of the bureaucracy?”

Uri didn’t go into details and he is not about to come out against those employed by his ministry.  In any event, he and others who know the subject firsthand agree that if the state builds, it costs more.

“But when the construction tenders start being issued,” I asked, “how can you keep the usual suspects from entering bids and making illicit gains off of taxpayers’ backs, as happened in the past?”

Uri explains that this time, such people will be treated as criminals.

Right … but we’ve been down this road before.  Take these two examples:

In the early seventies, a large rental project in the French Hill section of Jerusalem got off the ground.  The state sold the land at a good price to some kindly disposed Jews from the U.S., after convincing them to invest their money in the construction of high-quality rental units.  The state promised them that the units would yield a reasonable amount of rental income.  Yet for some reason—to this day no one seems to know why—the foreign investors found that no one was coming to rent their apartments.  There was no demand.

But that wasn’t the end of it.  The investors had to go find a buyer for their property.  A certain Jerusalemite who was famed as a theoretical communist and a practical capitalist was offered an opportunity to buy the apartments by a friend of his—a senior bureaucrat at the Ministry of Construction and Housing.

“But I don’t have the money!”

“Don’t worry.  We’ll see to it that you get a good loan.”

The ministry contacted a bank, recommending that it extend a loan to that Jerusalemite in exchange for a lien on the property.

Pay day came quickly enough.  Thanks to his contacts, the Housing Ministry made a gesture that it had not been kind enough to extend to the previous investors.  He was given permission to sell the apartments on the open market.  And suddenly there were buyers.

Greed doesn’t discriminate between political stripes, though.  Here’s a parallel case from the right:

In a settlement in Judea, adjacent to the Green Line, the government held a lottery for parcels of land on which to construct homes.  Those young couples that did not win lots were told just to wait a bit: soon there would be a tender for contractors to build denser housing, and they would be able to get a home for 900,000 NIS.

The price quoted was sensible, taking into account the low cost that the contractors paid for the land, development and construction costs, and a nice profit for the contractors.  But the young couples are still waiting.  Better-off people are living in those apartments.  Once the contractors (including one of “our” public corporations) received the land at a bargain basement price, without so much as a government tender, they took one look at the housing shortage, moved the prices up to 1.8 million NIS, and pocketed one million NIS per apartment: profit of one hundred percent.

Where were the regulators?  At best, they fell asleep on the job.  The land was sold at a pittance for the benefit of the public.  Their job was to impose reasonable limits on the prices.  Yet at the end of the day, three hundred seventy apartments were built at a profit of 370 million NIS.  The contractors made their personal fortune at the taxpayers’ expense.

So who can guarantee that once Uri Ariel has left the ministry, these shenanigans won’t return?  There is no guarantee.  Quite the opposite: it is reasonable to assume that there always will be business people and politicians who know how to game the system.  You can’t trust business people as a group, because they always want to maximize their profits.

To counter this dynamic, the public needs new, idealistic forces both inside and outside the establishment.  The public has to understand that it needs to take action on economic matters the same way it takes action on settling Judea and Samaria—a key political truth that the young social protesters of two summers ago understood well.

Aside from distributing the ethical work Mesilat Yesharim to contractors, here are some recommendations for the minister of housing and construction to consider:

– Build a no-nonsense regulatory force to supervise construction together with an no-nonsense legal department.

– Encourage the establishment of public bodies and associations to keep tabs on what is happening—preferably in every government ministry, but certainly in the Construction Ministry as it embarks on the major undertaking that Ariel and his cabinet are planning.

– Encourage the creation of institutes for the grooming of ethical government officials who see their work as a mission.  (There is one such institute named for Ido Zoldan, which was founded by his father, Nachman.)

– Encourage the activity of institutes of economic ethics, such as the one at the Jerusalem College of Technology (Mechon Lev).

If all these ideas are successfully pursued, then there will be no need for legislation against excessive concentration of economic power.  And it won’t hurt to add a prayer to God that all those involved be individuals of absolute integrity.  And where will we find them?  As Rabbi Maimoun said to Ben Gurion: For a little money, you can even find individuals of absolute integrity.

Originally published in Makor Rishon, May 17th, 2013. Translated from Hebrew by David B. Greenberg.

Report: Kerry Won Five-Week Unofficial Building Freeze from Bibi

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been quietly enforcing a de facto building freeze on all construction for Jews in Judea and Samaria and areas in Jerusalem claimed by the Palestinian Authority, Israeli media reported Tuesday.

The Prime Minister promised U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to curtail construction for Jews until mid-June to give PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas time to fulfill his condition for a return to face-to-face negotiations with Israel.

Army Radio reported that Prime Minister Netanyahu told Housing Minister Uri Ariel, who lives in  the Judea and is a senior member of the Jewish Home party, to suspend publishing tenders for 3,000 residential housing units, including those to advance plans and construction of homes in the E-1 area of Maaleh Adumim.

Ariel insisted there has been no building freeze but added that the Prime Minister has delayed progress for new building, and he referred reporters to the Prime Minister, who arrived in China Sunday for a six-day visit.

Netanyahu’s reported agreement to a five-week freeze, much shorter than the 10-month freeze announced in September 2010, might be a gamble that Kerry will not be able to convince Abbas to resume direct talks with Israel.

There have been no real discussions since the 2010 building freeze, which Abbas demanded before resuming negotiations and then refused because it did not include a freeze in eastern, southern and northern Jerusalem, and did not cover public building in Judea and Samaria.

The E-1 area has become red line for both Abbas and Netanyahu. Any building activity there would infuriate Abbas and win him more support to continue to place the Palestinian Authority on various United Agencies.

If Israel were to even offer a hint to surrender the area, the Jewish Home party would probably pull out of the coalition, and it is doubtful if Likud-Beiteinu would agree to continue to rule with a new coalition that would include the Labor party.

However, Israel desperately needs an approved government budget for this year, and any party that forces new elections without a budget is liable to be severely punished at the polls.

Someone is going to have to climb down from the limb.

If Abbas misses another opportunity to miss an opportunity and starts demanding more conditions, Kerry and Netanyahu can walk away from the tree and leave him hanging there.

White House Already Criticizes Housing Minister over Settlements

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

The White House wasted ho time in expressing dissatisfaction with Israel’s new Ministry of Housing Uri Ariel, one day after he took office. Ariel said there will be no change in policies and that construction for Jews will continue in Judea and Samaria as in the past.

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters at a press briefing Monday that building for Jews anywhere in “settlements’ is a “unilateral action.”

“Well, I don’t have anything specific on that particular announcement, except what our general position is, is that unilateral actions that make it more difficult to engage – to resume face-to-face negotiations, direct negotiations, are not things that we view favorably.,” Carney said. “And that was true of unilateral efforts at the United Nations by the Palestinians, and it’s been true of actions by the Israelis.

“It is in our view and it’s the position of the Israeli leadership that a two-state solution is the preferred goal here for both Israelis and Palestinians, and that all of us who are party to that process, but in particular the Israelis and Palestinians, ought to take steps that enhance the prospect of progress. But beyond that, I haven’t gotten any specific reaction.”

Along with that response, Carney said that President Barack Obama is coming to Israel with a message of “the unshakeable commitment the United States has to Israel’s security.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/white-house-already-criticizes-housing-minister-over-settlements/2013/03/19/

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