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Israel Okays 600 Housing Units for Arabs in Jerusalem Neighbourhood

At the same time, Netanyahu and Lieberman promote plans for 800 housing units for Jews in East Jerusalem and Ma'aleh Adumim, in move meant to 'sweeten the pill,' according to a senior Israeli official.

by Barak Ravid  and Nir Hasson    3 July 2016        Haaretz
Benjamin Netanyahu visiting the East Jerusalem settlement of Har Homa, March 16, 2015. Olivier Fitoussi
Israel has approved plans for the construction of 600 new housing units for Arabs in Givat Hamatos in East Jerusalem, over a month after a court rejected the state's claims that the construction plan could not go forward due to a secret decision by senior policymakers.
At the same time, plans for the construction of 800 new housing units for Jews in East Jerusalem and in Ma'aleh Adumim have also been pushed forward by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. The move, a preliminary step to issuing actual tenders for the construction, has been described by a senior official as an attempt to sweeten the pill of the announcement regarding Givat Hamatos, where plans for a new Jewish neighborhood have been halted due to international pressure. 
The state has had trouble recently in explaining to the Jerusalem District Court why the process for issuing tenders for the construction of housing for Arabs in Givat Hamatos hasn’t been set in motion, despite the fact that a corresponding plan for Jews at the same site has been published, though since frozen.
The state tried to claim that this was because of secret and diplomatic considerations that it was unable to elaborate on – a claim that was rejected by the court. "The responsible body approved a building plan. The court has not received an explanation why the petition should be rejected. If it's so important to you to retain the secrecy, then approve the plan," the judge said.
The minister for Jerusalem affairs, Ze'ev Elkin, criticized the plans for construction in Givat Hamatos on Sunday, saying that the 600 units for the Arab population must be balanced with construction for Jews on the same site.
"Anyone who cares about a Jewish majority in the capital of Israel can't promote construction for the Arab population alone," Elkin said. "I call on the prime minister to also approve construction in the Givat Hamatos neighborhood for Jews. Jerusalem needs this neighborhood and over 2,000 housing units urgently."
The plan for the construction of Jewish housing on Givat Hamatos is regarded as being particularly sensitive and many countries are following its progress. Its completion will surround the Arab Beit Safafa completely with Jewish suburbs, a fact that will complicate division of the city in any future peace agreement.
On Friday, following a fatal terror attack in the settlement of Kiryat Arba, Netanyahu and Lieberman decided to re-open a tender for the construction of 42 housing units in the Hebron-area settlement. The tender was published a year and a half ago but was frozen after no contractors applied. The bidding process is now re-opened.
The decision has been criticized from the right, when Habayit Hayehudi called it a "recycling of an old decision."
In a report released last Friday, the Quartet on the Middle East – the U.S., Russia, the EU and the UN – asserted that the current track taken by the Israelis and Palestinians has distanced the possibility of a two-state solution.
It called on Israel to stop settlement construction Area C in the West Bank, in which Ma'aleh Adumim is situated. It also called on the PA to stop incitement, step up efforts to stop terrorism and condemn attacks against Israelis.
Israel Approves Construction of 42 Units in West Bank Settlement Home to Slain 13-year-old
Sources say Israel has also decided to set up a special graveyard for Palestinian terrorists killed during attacks, thus avoiding the need to return their bodies to their families.

by Barak Ravid     2  July  2016          Haaretz
The West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba, June 30, 2016.Mussa Qawasma, Reuters
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Friday approved the construction of 42 housing units in the West Bank settlement in which a 13-year-old girl was killed in her bedroom.
The tender was published a year and a half ago but was frozen after no contractors applied. The bidding process is now re-opened.
Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office said that after a number of meetings in recent weeks on the topic it was decided Israel would set up a graveyard for Palestinian terrorists, and thus avoid returning their bodies to their families.
Israel has been reluctant to return the bodies of alleged assailants, citing fears their funeral processions would turn violent and glorify acts of terror.
Ahead of Saturday evening's cabinet meeting, sources close to Education Minister Naftali Bennett criticized Netanyahu and Lieberman. "These [aforementioned] moves are too little too late and will not stop the viral terror [that] recycle decisions from a year and a half ago.
"It is time for a radical change of direction. This is a new type of viral terror and it demands new actions. It is clear that the terrorists are not deterred and do not fear us. While we mourn, the murderers' families are celebrating and will soon get a nice paycheck [from the Palestinian Authority]."
On Thursday, Hillel Yaffa Ariel was sleeping when the Palestinian assailant, identified as Mohammed Tra'ayra, 19, broke into her house and stabbed her, after jumping over the settlement's perimeter fence.
Netanyahu promised to strengthen the settlement during a Friday condolence call to the Ariel family. 
The spate of terror attacks will also be discussed by the security cabinet in an emergency meeting on Saturday night.
Two Israelis have been killed and six wounded in four terror attacks since Thursday. Two Palestinian assailants have also died.
In an initial response to the attacks, the Prime Minister's Office announced on Friday that Israel will immediately deduct the amount of money paid monthly by the Palestinian Authority to terrorists and their families from tax proceeds it collects on behalf of the Palestinians.

 Netanyahu Vows to Bolster West Bank Settlements in Response to Latest Terror Attacks

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Netanyahu's remarks come after pressure by ministers. In inner cabinet meeting, Defense Minister Lieberman barred army officers from answering Minister Bennett's questions.

by Barak Ravid   3 July 2016       Haaretz

Netanyahu during a cabinet meeting, June, 2016.Mark Israel Salem

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that, in wake of the recent attacks, the government will allocate additional aid to fortify the settlements in the West Bank.

"We will make a special effort to strengthen the communities and will propose a special plan for Kiryat Arba at the next cabinet meeting," Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, adding, that he has instructed all government ministries to do their part to help West Bank settlements.

Haaretz has learned that Netanyahu's remarks on Sunday morning came after some of the ministers pressured Netanyahu during Saturday's emergency security cabinet meeting. The ministers called for a massive round of construction in the settlements in response to recent terror attacks. Netanyahu promised them that he will examine the issue. Just two weeks ago, the cabinet approved a special allocation of 82 million shekels ($21.3 million) to West Bank settlements, citing security concerns.

On Friday, following the Thursday attack in Kiryat Arba, Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman ordered the reopening of a tender to build 42 housing units in Kiryat Arba. The tender was published some 18 months ago, but was suspended when no bids were received. Ahead of the security cabinet meeting on Saturday, figures close to Education Minister Naftali Bennett and other members of his Habayit Hayehudi party derided the measure as "recycling an old decision from a year and a half ago."

During Saturday's security cabinet meeting, Lieberman and Bennett clashed verbally. At one point, after Bennett asked for details from army officers attending the meeting, Lieberman ordered the officers not to reply and to move to the next item on the agenda. Senior officials privy to the meeting said Netanyahu sided with Lieberman. The confrontation between Lieberman and Bennet was first reported by Israel's Channel 2.

Lieberman took aim at Bennett several times during the cabinet meeting, accusing him of leaking information. It was the fourth cabinet meeting under the current government that he was attending, he said, and each time the contents of the meeting had been leaked.

He took great exception to Bennett's remarks to the media on Friday, two days before the cabinet meeting, in which he outlined the operational plan he intended proposing in the wake of the recent terror attacks.

"I don't remember anyone in government proposing a plan for mathematical studies before it had been announced by the Education Ministry," Lieberman said.

Several cabinet members, including Construction and Housing Minister Yoav Galant, joined Lieberman's criticism of Bennett.

"There are government ministers who create an atmosphere of crisis" without any real need, Galant said.

Netanyahu remarked that "the cabinet has become as leaky as the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. If it continues, I will hold our discussions in a smaller forum."

The inner cabinet meeting concluded after 2 A.M., some four and a half hours after it began. Senior officials in Jerusalem said that the ministers decided that steps will be taken to block allowances paid to the families of assailants by the Palestinian Authority, staring with the family of the assailant in Thursday's attack in Kiryat Arba. It was also decided to immediately investigate relatives of Palestinian attackers who express support for their actions. The ministers on the panel also resolved to accelerate the demolition of hundreds of buildings erected without permits by Palestinians in parts of the West Bank classified as Area C, which are under complete Israeli control, starting with the Southern Hebron Hills, where the Kiryat Arba assailant resided.

"We are in a protracted fight against terrorism," Netanyahu said at the cabinet meeting on Sunday. "This struggle has ups and downs. We are using various means, including aggressive measures that we have not used in the past. This includes cordoning off the entire Hebron district, 700,000 people; revoking work permits from Bani Naim, the village six terrorists have had come from; a massive reinforcement of two battalion, with emphasis on securing the roads; automatically investigating all family members of murderers and terrorists and their arrest as per their involvement.... We are giving full backing to the Israel Defense Forces, the Shin Bet security service and the security services," Netanyahu said.

Barak Ravid

Haaretz Correspondent