International Uproar Over Jerusalem Building Approvals
France, Russia and the U.S. are calling on Israel to freeze construction in all areas of Jerusalem claimed by the Palestinian Authority for its hoped-for state.
The French Foreign Ministry expressed “deep disappointment” Saturday over a municipal decision to move ahead with the sale of 240 plots of land in the neighborhoods of Ramot and Pisgat Ze'ev. Both neighborhoods are located on the northern edge of the capital.
The Israel Lands Authority and the Housing Ministry together this week announced the sale of a total of 4,000 plots for the construction of housing units, only 240 of which were in Ramot and Pisgat Ze'ev.
French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero expressed concern that the approval of the tenders would damage chances of renewing direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. “France calls on the Israeli government to reconsider the decision,” he said.
Valero's statement echoed a similar statement made Friday by U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, who said the Obama administration was “disappointed by the announcement of new tenders... It is contrary to our efforts to resume direct negotiations between the parties.”
Russia also stated its displeasure over Jerusalem's decision to move ahead with plans to build more housing for its residents. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reportedly wrote on the country's government website, “The Israeli government's plans are perceived with extreme concern and disappointment in Moscow. They contradict international efforts aimed at the resumption of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. We consider it important that the sides avoid unilateral actions which may affect the fate of settlements.”
However, U.S. Representative Gary Ackerman (D-NY), meanwhile, bluntly expressed his strong support for Israel's right to build housing in its capital.
“Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” said Ackerman, chairman of the U.S. Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia. “It is not a settlement. As such, the resumption of construction in Jerusalem is not a justification for a crisis, a showdown, a meltdown or even hissy fit.”
Jerusalem neighborhoods such as Ramot, Pisgat Ze'ev, French Hill, Ramat Eshkol, Gilo and others, which have been home to tens of thousands of residents for more than 40 years, are referred to as “settlements” by the PA .