Israel has revived a plan to construct 1,600 new homes in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo that raised U.S. objections when it was first announced in 2010, an official told AFP on Monday.
"In the next two weeks the interior ministry's district committee for Jerusalem will convene to discuss the objections to the program that was approved for deposit over two years ago," said interior ministry spokeswoman Efrat Orbach.
"The committee will then have to decide which of the objections -- if any -- it accepts, and make changes accordingly," she added, in reference to concerns raised by the public.
The Ramat Shlomo project caused a diplomatic rift between Israel and Washington when it was first announced in March 2010 but it has lain dormant since August 2011, when Interior Minister Eli Yishai gave final authorization for it.
The project was initially announced on March 9, 2010, as U.S. Vice President Joe Biden met top Israeli officials in Jerusalem to boost peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Ramat Shlomo, despite being described by some as a “Jewish settlement in east Jerusalem”, is in fact located in northern Jerusalem, between Ramot with 60,000 Jewish residents and the Har Hotzvim Industrial Park.
The area was empty hills before the reunification of the city in 1967. Arabs and anti-Zionist media call all areas reunited with Jerusalem in 1967 "eastern Jerusalem", giving the impression that the eastern, Arab-populated section that was occupied by Jordan until then is going to have an influx of thousands of Jews that will crowd Arab out.
Monday's announcement comes after the United States and European nations expressed their discontent to Israel over its decision to build 3,000 new Jewish homes in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem in response to the PA’s unilateral move to achieve upgraded status at the United Nations.
Israel said on Monday it will not give in to international pressure to halt plans to build the new homes, a source in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's office.
"We continue to insist on our vital interests, even under international pressure,” the source said. “There will be no change in the decision that has been made.” One day after the United Nations voted to grant nonmember observer state status to the Palestinian Authority, Israel's government approved the new housing units in various locations, including the area between Jerusalem and the suburb of Maale Adumim known as “E1”.
Russia urged Israel on Monday to rethink its plans to build the homes, saying the project risked harming the chances of reviving the peace process with the PA.
In Paris, foreign ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot said Israeli ambassador Yossi Gal had been summoned so France could express its "grave concern" over the construction plan.
Britain's Foreign Office said it had called in Ambassador Daniel Taub to express its concerns and urged Israel to reconsider the plans.
Germany for its part said it was "deeply concerned" about the settlement plans but would not "for the moment" summon its ambassador to Berlin.