On the eve of a historic and hotly contested election, Israeli government has just approved the pre-construction marketing to the public of a large number of housing units east of the so-called “green line” denoting the line of the 1948 armistice between Israel and he Kingdom of Jordan.
The approved units run the gamut from well within the Israeli consensus, such as in the new Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem and large cities like Ariel, as well as smaller settlements that are outside of the so-called “settlement blocs”. These “settlement blocs” are supposed to remain under Israeli control under any future peace deal with the Palestinians, while the more isolated Jewish settlements may have to be evacuated. In total, close to a thousand housing units were approved for marketing to the public.
The move to release such a large number of housing units to the public at this time is at least in part an election tactic by Moshe Kahalon’s Kulanu party, which holds the finance and housing portfolios. Kulanu’s minister of housing Dr. Yif’at Shasha Biton stated that “the new wave of housing construction across the country provides young couples with a choice of housing that is right for them.” “We are building for everyone,” she added.
The move is hardly irreversible, since many more permits will be required before actual construction can begin, but it throws down the gauntlet for the new center-left Blue and White party. The recently cobbled together party has had a rough time defining and honing its message and this latest move by one the Likud’s main coalition partners is sure to present them with a further challenge on that front.
The move is also designed to keep Kulanu voters from defecting to the larger Likud party out of fear of opening a gap between it and Blue and White that would be too large to overcome. Moshe Kahalon has built his political career by carefully cultivating the image of someone who does things for lower-middle class Israelis, rather than simply giving them lip service. This announcement of new construction, much of it at affordable prices, is undoubtedly calculated to bolster that image and keep his electoral base intact.