Housing crisis? Build in East Jerusalem of course

August 12, 2011
Sarah Benton

Housing crisis?’ Israel will build 930 more units in occupied East Jerusalem
Paul Mutter, Mondoweiss

Well, that’s one way to address the housing crisis in Israel today: build 930 new houses . . . in East Jerusalem!

I can just see PM Netanyahu saying to a Cabinet minister: “Housing crisis? I have just the thing!”

Absolutely brilliant (no, really, it is – well, kind of, at least in that ultimately self-defeating way we’ve come to know and love from Netanyahu and friends).

The sooner you get the settler protesters out of their tents ( the cry of “To your tents, O Israel!” has never boded well for Jewish rulers) and back to the Occupied Territories, the less chance there is that they might turn on you in elections and – Herzl forbid – vote for Labour or something crazy like that. Class solidarity is a terrifying thing for a government built on a different kind of solidarity altogether.

Although it would be a really ungrateful thing for said settlers to do that when right and center-right dominated governments have spent twice as much on the average settler in the Occupied Territories as they do on the average Israeli citizen living in, say, Tel Aviv, Ashkelon, Haifa or Acre.

Building new settlements (in Har Homa, between Jerusalem and Bethlehem) to resolve the housing crisis brings to mind the image of an Ouroboros, aka, the serpent that eats it’s own tail (one worth US$17 billion, to be precise). And, truthfully, it’s just more of the same. It’s not a new tactic, but it’s a tried and true one for garnering support (and building “facts on the ground” for legitimizing the settlements, which are illegal under international law).

As two +972 Magazine bloggers writing in the NYT have noted, the roots of this housing crisis lie in decisions made during the 1990s (back when Israeli governments said they were seriously considering giving the Palestinians their own “state”) to increase government subsidies for settlement housing over public housing projects within Israel’s pre-1967 borders. This encouraged Israelis – ardent Zionists and otherwise – to move to East Jerusalem and other destinations in the Occupied Territories (so that de facto annexation would precede – and justify – eventual de jure annexation).

We really don’t praise Bibi’s genius enough here. He has made more housing available (though only a certain number of demonstrators would probably want to live in them) and made East Jerusalem even more “fundamentally” part of Israel. What more could the Israeli right ask for?

(Well, a few things, but you get the idea.)

Saeb Erekat, Fatah spokesman and a leading negotiator with Israel over the settlements, had this to say (from Haaretz):

“Israel makes clear its intention to turn this occupation into an effective annexation . . . . Israel is armed with the impunity brought on by decades of international leniency and lack of consequences to its illegal actions. It is now the responsibility of the international community to make clear that it will no longer tolerate this impunity and destructive consequences.”

Netanyahu’s 5,524 ‘Concessions.’ Or, ‘All your onions chopped to perfection without shedding a single tear!’
Paul Mutter, Mondoweiss

The most tangible gain an Israeli protester can hope to win from the housing protests in Israel, is, well, a house (leave aside “intangibles” like political clout and minority rights, ok?). And the Israeli government is making concessions!

No, really! Don’t change the channel!

Has Netanyahu got a deal for you!

You want houses? Well, then, they’ll give you houses!

We have the 930 housing units (“they’re just the thing you need!”) in Har Homa I reported on earlier in the week, plus the 1,600 announced homes in Ramat Shlomo and 2,700 more pending in Givat Hamatos (2,000) and Pisgat Zeev (700) that Adam mentioned in his post earlier today (“we’re practically giving them away!”). And don’t forget the 294 new homes announced for Beitar Illit and Karnei Shomron at the very end of July.

And it’s all Israel’s for just three easy payments of US$185.33 million annually!

That’s 5,524 “concessions”* to the demonstrators in less than two weeks! These are tangible gains we are talking about here (the fine print: assuming you want to live in East Jerusalem – otherwise, you’ll have to put your name and a deposit down on a waiting list for that Haifa co-op you’ve been eying).

“But wait, there’s more!” Netanyahu will also negotiate with the protesters over the cost of living in Israel! Such beneficence! And don’t think for a second that 5,524 is the limit. Oh no, at a minimum, we have at least 1,500 more in stock for this season!

Will the protesters soon have guns or butter moment and say to themselves “Hey, you know what? The cost of the Occupation is an indirect tax digging into our pocketbooks, and it’s a moral tax on Israel’s image, too. Maybe these 5,524concessions* are actually symptomatic of the problem! This isn’t a solution! This is a cop-out!” Is Bibi on the ropes?


Netanyahu, like an American infomercial host, knows exactly what kind of snake oil he’s selling. Beyond Tent 1948 and its environs, several hundred thousand pigeons are either happily snapping up the crumbs the PM is tossing them, or are too skittish to shy away from him and disrupt the flock.

*This figure does not include indirect concessions, such as the roughly 400 home demolitions that have taken place just this year in the West Bank.

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