U.S. Pressure On Jewish Settlements Spurs Sales U.S.-Israel relations are worsening over Israel's refusal to halt new construction in Jewish settlements. But as the Obama administration presses for a halt to all new building, real estate agents are reporting a rush to buy apartments both in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.
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U.S. Pressure On Jewish Settlements Spurs Sales

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U.S. Pressure On Jewish Settlements Spurs Sales

U.S. Pressure On Jewish Settlements Spurs Sales

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, Host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

The Obama administration wants Israel to stop new construction in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to do so. That has placed some strain on relations. And, as NPR's Peter Kenyon reports, it's also boosted demand for apartments in the West Bank.

PETER KENYON: Here in Maale Adumim, in a trailer with a faux log-cabin front, Beth Gordon wraps up a discussion with a real estate agent about a possible place for her kids, still living back in the States. She's lived here in Maale Adumim for three years and is still enchanted by the clean streets, good schools and gorgeous scenery.

(SOUNDBITE OF MACHINERY)

BETH GORDON: And what people call settlements sometimes are a little deceiving. Because I ask people that I know in the States, Well, what do you think a settlement is? And they say, Well, I picture this little caravan up on a hilltop. And I say, You have to come to Maale Adumim and visit us!

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

KENYON: Real estate agent Ayalon Cohen says right now he's selling six to 10 units a month, up there with the fastest-growing towns in Israel. Talk of a freeze, it seems, is very good for business.

AYALON COHEN: (Through translator): There's a lot of demand. The young couple that wants to buy in Jerusalem cannot afford to do so. But we were selling a four-room apartment for 840,000 shekels. But because of Obama's statements and the whole freeze the price went up to 950,000 shekels.

KENYON: A new generation has grown up calling the settlements home. And if some of them may now realize that they grew up in unnaturally privileged surroundings thanks to government subsidies and the constant presence of the army, well, that's all they've ever known - and why shouldn't they want to live near their families?

MAYA: (Foreign language spoken)

KENYON: 30-year-old Maya and her husband, Shakha, recently moved with their three children into a shiny new four-bedroom apartment. Maya says having grown up here, Maale Adumim was always their first choice when it came time to find their own place. Of course, she doesn't mind the economic advantages.

MAYA: (Through translator) No, it's not the same price. I would never have been able to buy a house like this in Jerusalem. We have a lot of friends who've moved here, and of course the price is very significant.

KENYON: Mayor Benny Kashriel is a friendly, aggressive defender of Maale Adumim's right to expand. He says he's down to his last 450 units that have prior government approval for construction and they'll soon be exhausted. He says President Obama's pressure tactics will bring a backlash from settlers in the West Bank, for which he prefers the Biblical names Judea and Samaria.

BENNY KASHRIEL: And now 280,000 people in Judea and Samaria will be together against him, and demonstrate together, and will not let our government compromise with him.

KENYON: Peter Kenyon, NPR News on the West Bank.

INSKEEP: And we'll return to the West Bank tomorrow visiting with members of a Bedouin tribe wedged between two growing Jewish settlements.

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