On Monday, Jerusalem city manager Yair Ma'ayan told the Knesset Economics Committee that the government was holding up construction of hundreds of apartments in Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem due to the negotiations with the Palestinians.
"There is no delay, limitation, or suspension of the construction of Jewish neigbhorhoods in East Jerusalem," Boim told Israel
Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupoliansky also weighed in on the issue Tuesday, saying he "won't allow Jerusalem to be turned into an illegal outpost.
Following the Annapolis conference last fall, several media reports about ongoing construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem angered the Palestinians and Americans. In response, Olmert ordered all building in the settlements frozen, including those settlements that are part of the greater Jerusalem area.
But with regard to East Jerusalem, which was formally annexed to Israel in 1967, he merely ordered that he be kept informed of any building plans, and he recently promised Shas Party Chairman and Industry Minister Eli Yishai that there was no freeze on construction in the capital.
At Monday's Economics Committee meeting, however, Ma'ayan said that the Housing Ministry has postponed marketing 750 apartments in East Jerusalem's Pisgat Ze'ev neighborhood and another 150 apartments in the Har Homa neighborhood. In both cases, he said, the ministry told him that Olmert had not yet approved the projects.
Boim denied this, however, saying the tenders for the Pisgat Ze'ev construction were in the final stages of coordination with the Jerusalem Municipality, and that the tenders for Har Homa - which he said were for 360 units - would be published soon.
Dov Gal, deputy director of the Housing Ministry's Jerusalem District, also denied the report, saying there was no order that construction in East Jerusalem needed approval from the government.
But Ma'ayan said that Gal was behind the times - and several Knesset members said that Ma'ayan's statements had been confirmed to them by Boim himself.
Gal did confirm that he had been ordered to freeze construction in the settlements around Jerusalem, including Efrat, Gush Etzion, Givat Ze'ev, Adam and Beitar Ilit. MK Uriel Ariel (National Union-National Religious Party), who requested Monday's meeting, said that altogether, the Housing Ministry has halted marketing of some 2,300 apartments in and around Jerusalem.
In response, the Prime Minister's Office said that construction in East Jerusalem has not been frozen, but because of its diplomatic sensitivity, Olmert has asked to be informed of all building plans there, so that he will not be taken by surprise.
After the meeting, Ma'ayan told Haaretz that despite this directive, the municipality is moving forward with plans to build some 10,000 apartments in Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, including Ramot, Ramat Shlomo, Pisgat Ze'ev, Neveh Ya'akov, East Talpiot, Har Homa and Gilo. The largest of these calls for building some 4,000 apartments in Givat Hamatos, in the city's southern section. That plan is currently being discussed by the regional planning and building committee.
Nir Barkat, who heads the opposition in the Jerusalem city council, told the Economics Committee that the capital continues to suffer from a negative balance of migration, in part because of soaring apartment prices. This conclusion was echoed in a study by the Knesset's research division that was presented to the committee on Monday.
The study also found that while all governments talk about developing Jerusalem, few actually do anything about it.
Barkat, who belongs to Olmert's Kadima Party, also asked Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to deny recent claims by Palestinian officials that Israel has already agreed to concessions in Jerusalem, including ceding the city's Arab neighborhoods to the Palestinians. Alternatively, if the reports are true, he demanded that she "reveal all the secret agreements on the floor of the Knesset."
Livni's media advisor, Gil Messing, responded that the minister does not comment on reports about her talks with the Palestinians, and therefore refused to either confirm or deny that the future of Jerusalem had been discussed.
But the Palestinian comments increased pressure on Shas to quit the government, as it has repeatedly pledged to leave the moment negotiations on Jerusalem begin.