Beit El, Binyamin Regional Council, May 23 – Housing starts in this community north of Jerusalem were put on hold this week following revelations that the development plans for the new homes had only been included in settlement watchdog groups several dozen times, a figure that does not meet official criteria for generating the impression that Israel is expanding Jewish settlements at a blistering pace and not, as the reality on the ground indicates, more slowly than any other government in the country’s history.
Clerks at the Ministry of Housing and Construction reported Monday they were putting a provisional stop on the scheduled construction of fifty-five free-standing and semi-attached houses in Beit El, now that they discovered the deficient figures. According to precedent, development plans beyond the 1967 armistice line with Jordan must be included in no fewer than eighty reports by groups such as Peace Now and Yesh Gvul before actual construction may proceed. Without repeated mention of the same housing units as if they represent many different ones, explained a ministry official, the world will understand the actual figure, and remain unable to characterize Israel’s settlement policy as “radical,” “strangling hopes for a two-state solution,” “pounding mails into the coffin of a peaceful resolution,” or “beholden to far-right settlement zealots.”
“There’s cultural and political precedent we have to respect,” noted Deputy Secretary-General of the ministry Gad Demmitt. “It’s kind of a ritual. The government announces approval of certain plans, the international community condemns them, some time passes, the approval lapses, gets approved again, and Peace Now makes sure not to note the approval applies to units that had already received approval, so everyone thinks there are twice as many houses for Israelis going up than originally planned, but in fact it’s zero. Repeat.”
“Once the requisite number of watchdog reports have been issued, contractors bid for the project,” continued Demmitt. “In this case, however, because of a bureaucratic oversight, the tender was issued without provoking the necessary outrage quotient from the usual suspects, and we will be forced to place a hold on this building initiative until that deficiency is remedied.”
This incident marks the second time is as many months that such a bureaucratic failure has stymied government projects. In early April, the Ministry of Defense shelved an initiative to train the IDF Spokesman’s Office in better use of social media because the six-month quota of UN resolutions against Israel had not been met.
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