Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

1 Adar I 5768 - February 7, 2008 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











PM and Defense Minister Freeze Givat Ze'ev Housing Project

By G. Lazer

The State notified the Jerusalem District Court that it would not approve at present continued construction on the Agan Ayalot Basin neighborhood, a project to build 600 apartment units in Givat Ze'ev, which lies just north of Jerusalem. It cited a directive by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to freeze settlement construction, though the State has already invested NIS 100 million ($27 million) in the project.

According to a report in Ha'aretz the notification to the court contradicts remarks last week by Minister Eli Yishai (Shas), who said Olmert had promised him there would not be a building freeze in the greater Jerusalem area.

The lots for the construction of Agan Ayalot were first marketed by the Housing Ministry and the Israel Lands Administration in 1999, but when the Second Intifadah broke out towards the end of the 2000 fiscal year, the project was halted. Contractors who had won tenders beforehand and had paid development costs and loan guarantee payments sued the State for breach of contract, demanding cancellation of the deal. Throughout years of court hearings the State refused, and held its ground until a few weeks ago.

Atty. Rachel Wosner, the State's legal counsel, had told the Jerusalem District Court, "The State believes in the project, put NIS 100 million into it, completed the infrastructures and access roads in a way that would allow the apartments to be lived in if construction is completed, would like to move forward — and does not agree to cancel the deal."

After years of halted construction, several contractors recently managed to unfreeze the project and began selling dozens of apartments in Agan Ayalot to religious buyers. Some even began negotiations with the State about revoking their lawsuits filed against it. When the contractors recently wanted to extend the land development contracts with the Israel Lands Administration and the Housing Ministry, contracts that expire after three years, they found the State refused to do so due to the directive from Olmert and Barak. Without extending the contracts, which have already expired, building permits cannot be issued and bank loans cannot be obtained to provide funding and guarantees for apartment purchasers based on the Purchasers' Sale Law.

The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, through Atty. Shlomo Gan Tzvi, asked Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to decide which of the State's two positions reflects his view: the one that rejected the contractors' request to allow the contracts to lapse or the more recent one stating the project has been frozen due to the government directive.

Atty. Gan Tzvi said the State's refusal to extend the development contracts would bring about the project's collapse because it would be impossible to continue selling units.

"What's absurd is that a project initiated by the State, which invested a fortune in it, a project whose entire infrastructure system has already been finished after the State pressed on despite the contractors' desire to cancel — will collapse right when an opportunity has arisen to extract it from its difficulties," said Gan Tzvi.


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