More than 2,000 additional housing units have been approved for a southern Jerusalem neighborhood adjoining Talpiot, in a move sure to set off another firestorm of protest in the international community.
Jerusalem's local committee on Wednesday approved building permits for 2,610 housing units in the Givat HaMatos neighborhood in Jerusalem. The approval was passed by a vote of six to one, with former deputy mayor of Jerusalem Pepe Alalu voting against the proposal.
Givat Hamatos is a southern suburb of the capital located in an area restored to the city during the 1967 Six Day-War.
Danny Seideman, head of the NGO “Terrestrial Jerusalem,” told the AFP news agency, “I just spoke with the deputy mayor and they told me the 2,610 units have been approved.”
As with all of Judea and Samaria, any area of Jerusalem seized illegally by Jordan during the 1948 War of Independence and occupied by that country until 1967 is claimed by the Palestinian Authority for its hoped-for state. In particular, the PA has claimed the parts of Jerusalem that were occupied by Jordan to be used for a capital of that state. The international community and leftist organizations support the claim.
But Israel's decision to allow more construction in its capital city is about the needs of its citizens, and not about the Palestinian Authority, asserted Housing Minister Ariel Attias on Wednesday.
“The latest construction plans beyond the “Green Line” were not aimed at undermining Abu Mazen (the nom de guerre of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas -ed.), and were not motivated by the elections,” Attias said.
Construction in Jerusalem, Israel's capital, is the norm, he continued. “Who didn't build in Jerusalem? From [the late Prime Minister Yitzchak] Rabin to [former Prime Minister] Ehud Barak... All we want is to promote building for people so that they will have a roof over their heads,” he said.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Tuesday slammed the Netanyahu government's decision to approve long-needed housing projects in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.
On Tuesday the Housing Ministry announced plans to issue tenders next week for construction of 3,000 new homes in the cities of Karnei Shomron, Efrat and Givat Ze'ev. All three are located in large “settlement blocs” in Judea and Samaria - areas with a large Israeli presence that would remain with the Jewish State regardless of any outcome in final status negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
Another decision that raised ire around the world was approval of the next step in a housing project for the north Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, between Sanhedria and Ramot. The Interior Ministry's planning committee told developers they must reduce the original 1,600 housing units to 1,500 and resubmit modifications to the plans, but then would see “final approval” of the project, which has dragged on for years.
“We are deeply disappointed that Israel insists on continuing this pattern of provocative action,” Nuland told journalists at a briefing in Washington.
“These repeated announcements and plans of new construction run counter to the cause of peace. Israel's leaders continually say that they support a path towards a two-state solution, yet these actions only put that goal further at risk,” she said.