Arutz Sheva's Hebrew-language news service asked Saar what he had to say to Jews in Judea who suffered under the Likud-led Judea and Samaria construction freeze. “We are in a very difficult and complex situation, diplomatically speaking,” Saar answered. “I am convinced that we know how to deal with the problems that stand before us regarding Jewish settlement.”
The first step Israel should take is to renew construction in majority-Jewish regions of Judea and Samaria, known as “settlement blocs,” Saar continued. “It's absurd that there are no land sales in the cities of Efrat, Ariel, Maaleh Adumim, and Beitar Illit, at a time when building is taking place in Jewish villages in Judea and Samaria,” he said.
Efrat has been waiting eight years for government approval to market 1,000 housing units. The Housing Ministry prepared the groundwork for the housing, spending tens of millions of shekels in the process, yet the government now refuses to give the project final authorization.
Saar was also asked to explain the difference between the Likud's platform and that of opposition party Kadima, whose party head, MK Tzipi Livni, visited Judea several weeks earlier. Livni also said during her visit that Israel should allow construction in settlement blocs.
“You would not want to be shown the difference between Likud and Kadima,” Saar warned. “Just the most recent documents revealed show that Kadima is willing to give up the very heart of Jerusalem.”
Recently published documents show that the Olmert administration had been prepared to give Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority, and to put the Old City and the Temple Mount under international control.
A conference regarding the area known as Greater Jerusalem was held on Tuesday in the Knesset. The conference, which was initiated by MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), was attended by Knesset members as well as heads of cities and communities. Its main purpose was to promote the status of Jerusalem through the “Greater Jerusalem bill” which was initiated by Knesset members from both the coalition and opposition: Tzipi Hotovely, Avi Dichter (Kadima), David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu), Avraham Michaeli (Shas), Ze'ev Elkin (Likud) and Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas).
“The main problem today is housing,” said Hotovely. “The younger generation cannot purchase apartments in Jerusalem because of the lack of land reserves for construction in the city. The Greater Jerusalem bill reflects a broad consensus that sees communities such as Betar Illit, Maale Adumim, Givat Ze'ev, Mevasseret Zion, Gush Etzion and Efrat, as part of the State of Israel.”
Hotovely noted that there is a potential to reverse the negative migration from Jerusalem and turn it into a positive migration. “The major arteries which provide access to the city from all directions are at a very low quality and this severely hurts the industrial zones in Greater Jerusalem,” she said.
MK Avi Dichter said that “Everyone knows the data on Jerusalem, and what is disturbing is the fact that this city sets a global precedent, where no country recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital. This bill is a first step in the common effort of all Knesset parties to make Jerusalem the official Israeli capital. We will ensure that the bill does not harm the independence of other authorities in Greater Jerusalem.”
Aryeh Hess, chairman of the Movement for the Strengthening of Greater Jerusalem, said: “As a resident of Jerusalem whose children left the city due to employment and housing problems, it is important for me to say unequivocally that within the current boundaries of Jerusalem there is no solution for the demands of younger people to live in the city. This is a need of Israel’s capital so that it can continue to grow and not continue to fade.”
Maale Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel said that “now is the time to promote the trend of the development of Jerusalem and the communities surrounding it. Already in 1992, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin coined the term Greater Jerusalem. There is no desire here to change the unique nature of each of the localities but rather to create a perception of a spatial region.”
Former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Yoram Ettinger, noted that “Anyone who studies the history of Jerusalem from 1948 to this day always sees development as a precondition for Jerusalem to leap forward. An airport in the city of Jerusalem is essential because lacking an airport detracts from its status worldwide. Upgrading the transportation infrastructure in the city and developing the land east of the city will bring an additional 20,000 residents to Jerusalem each year.”