Efrat Weiss Published: 01.15.07, 10:17
On the day Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the Construction and Housing Ministry issued a tender Monday morning for the construction of 44 residential units in Ma'ale Adumim.
It is reasonable to assume that the timing was not planned by the ministry, but there are those in the Israeli Left who drew a link between the timing and the tender publication.
Peace Now Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer even said that "this is a spit in the face of the American government."
The tender was published in a newspaper as, as is custom in similar cases. It refers to the construction works in a large and new neighborhood in the city of Ma'ale Adumim, which is located northeast of Jerusalem.
Although Ma'ale Adumim is beyond the Green Line, it is considered a city in the Jerusalem bloc which will remain under Israeli control in any peace agreement signed by centrist parties.
This is the first tender issued by the Construction and Housing Ministry for 2007. In 2006, the ministry published 952 residential units, mainly in the settlement blocs of Ariel, Beitar Illit, Elkana and Ma'ale Adumim.
In the past, usually following such publications, the Left would criticize the move and the US State Department would follow with a condemnation.
"Israel is committed to the Road Map, to halt the construction in the settlements, including the big blocs," Oppenheimer said. "And now, several hours before the Rice-Olmert meeting, the government is blatantly violating its commitment."
'A number of units in a constructed neighborhood'
Ma'ale Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel was unmoved by Peace Now's reaction. Kashriel is now in Paris, where he is raising funds for the development of the education and welfare in Ma'ale Adumim, but he is used to the demand to address publications on the construction in his city.
"There is no connection between the publication of the tender and Rice's visit. This is a completion of a neighborhood which is already mostly constructed. We are talking about a number of residential units in part of the neighborhood.
Kashriel added, "The State of Israel must have a red line. We must also tell the Americans, who are our friends, that we are continuing to build around Jerusalem. The Americans did not like any construction, in certain neighborhoods of Jerusalem as well.
"We are their friends, but friends sometimes also disagree. This is a national interest. Ma'ale Adumim must be strengthened, as well as Jerusalem from the east."