Report: Unofficial construction freeze in eastern Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An unofficial freeze in housing starts in eastern Jerusalem is “a temporary hiatus,” Yisrael Beiteinu party head Avigdor Lieberman told an Israeli newspaper.

Army Radio, citing government statistics and the Yesha settlers council, reported Monday that no new housing projects have been started in eastern Jerusalem since the start of 2013.

The number of housing starts in West Bank settlements has risen significantly, however.

Lieberman, the former foreign minister and partner in the governing coalition, told Haaretz that the freeze is “a temporary hiatus” to help U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry succeed in jump-starting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

“You don’t always have to be right; you can also be smart,” Lieberman said.

Likud Party lawmaker Moshe Feiglin said in a post on Facebook, “To all the ostriches with their heads in the sand regarding the ban that the prime minister has imposed against my visiting the Temple Mount I propose we begin to understand that this is part of a comprehensive strategy of relinquishing and actively giving away our sovereignty in the city.”

Also Monday, figures released by the Central Bureau of Statistics showed that in the West Bank, there were 865 housing starts in Jewish settlements between January and March, compared to 313 in that time period in 2012.

The West Bank increase parallels a rise in housing starts throughout Israel.

The figures were released just days before a scheduled visit to Israel by Kerry in his continuing efforts at bringing Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.

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