Barak approves 277 apartments in Ariel settlement

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak approved a plan to build 277 apartments in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, including 100 for families evacuated from the Gaza Strip.

Barak approved the marketing of the apartments last week, the Defense Ministry announced Monday. Building permits for the apartments had been awarded previously, but marketing of the apartments had been delayed due to diplomatic concerns, Haaretz reported.

Construction of the units in Ariel, which is home to about 20,000 Jewish settlers, is expected to take three years.

More than one-third of the apartments will go to Jewish families removed from their homes in the Netzarim settlement in Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip in 2005.

The announcement comes a week after Israel’s interior minister gave final approval to a project to build 1,600 housing units in Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish neighborhood of eastern Jerusalem, and two weeks after 930 housing units in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa were given final approval by the Interior Ministry’s Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee.

President Obama is among the world leaders who has denounced the building in eastern Jerusalem.

Israeli protesters for a month have been calling for more available and affordable housing.

E. Jerusalem apartments staying in Jewish hands

An Israeli supermarket magnate will develop a Jewish apartment complex in an Arab neighborhood of eastern Jerusalem after its contractor ran into debt problems.

About one-quarter of 400 planned Jewish-only apartments had been built in the Nof Zion complex in the Jebl Mukaber neighborhood of eastern Jerusalem when the contractor, Digal Investments, was forced to put the rest of the project up for sale.

Israeli businessman Rami Levy and his Australian Jewish partner Kevin Bermeister made a surprise offer Sunday to buy the rest of project.

Owners of the existing apartments reportedly were alarmed when Palestinian-American businessman Bashar al-Masri made an offer to buy the struggling company and announced that he would sell the rest of the apartments to Palestinians.

The national religious community began trying to prop up the company or find a Jewish buyer for the project. Levy’s offer was less than that of al-Masri, according to reports.

Al-Masri, who was represented by Jewish attorney Dov Weisglass, who served as the director of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s office, is also building the new Palestinian city of Rawabi near Ramallah in the West Bank.

E. Jerusalem apartment construction begins

Construction began on apartment buildings in eastern Jerusalem for married students attending a nearby yeshiva.

Work clearing the land for the three buildings for Yeshivat Beit Orot, funded by American businessman Irving Moskowitz, began Wednesday. The 24 apartments on the Mount of Olives Ridge will be located a short walk from the Hebrew University campus.

“We are joyful and honored to commence the construction of our new neighborhood which strengthens the Jewish presence in united Jerusalem and stresses the fact that Jerusalem is the home of every Jew in Israel and throughout the world,”  yeshiva head Rabbi Dani Isaac said in a statement on the yeshiva’s website.

The Jerusalem municipality approved the construction in May. Construction is expected to be completed in one year.