The Israeli government has approved another “technical” step in the long bureaucratic process for the Ramat Shlomo housing project that infuriated the United States last March. This time, there has been no reaction because the United States “is too busy with the oil spill” to worry about other issues, Ambassador Michael Oren said Wednesday.
This most recent stage of approval grants legal status to the project and enables it to now go forward, after the American-caused delays since March. Committee member Yair Gabbai told Army Radio, “Finally the initiative is on its way, and afterward we will get other projects going in Jerusalem as well for young couples.”
The ratification of the project by an Interior Ministry committee did not escape the attention of the Palestinian Authority, which alleged that it violates an Israeli commitment to the Obama administration to halt the process.
PA minister Hassan Abu Libda told Army Radio Wednesday, “This is a worrisome and absurd development that totally contradicts Israel commitments to the American government and the European Union. It will have a direct influence on efforts for upcoming talks,” which are mediated by U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell.
Peace Now accused Israel of continuing to damage relations with the United States.
The project calls for 1,600 more housing units in the Ramat Shlomo area, a Jewish neighborhood across the highway from the huge Har Hotzvim industrial area and one hill away from the Jewish neighborhood of Ramot. However, like most of Ramot, Ramat Shlomo is in a part of Jerusalem that the PA demands to be the capital of a new Arab country it wants to be established within Israel’s current borders.
The previous approval in the seven-step bureaucratic process came in March, the same day that U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Israel. The timing touched off a crisis between Israel and the United States, one that set off an unprecedented condemnation of Israel by U.S. President Barack Obama and a plunge in his popularity among Jewish supporters.
Oren told Voice of Israel government radio Wednesday morning that the Obama government has not commented on the Interior Ministry’s move, which it said is purely technical, pointing to the massive U.S. oil spill as being almost the only subject that has tied up President Obama and his staff.
The Interior Ministry committee’s approval Tuesday ratifies the project, and the next step is opening the doors for the public to oppose the project. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has pointed out that the long bureaucratic process will preclude any building from taking place for nearly two years.