Gilo Israel news photo: Flash 90

The southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo will expand to the east and south, gaining 942 new housing units, thanks to a committee decision Monday in Jerusalem.

A zoning decision by the city's Building and Planning Committee may allow an additional 300 housing units in the future as well.

The land where the units are to be built is owned by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and private individuals, according to media reports.

“The private owners [of the property] are asking to advance building plans in accordance with the law,” said the municipality in a statement quoted by UPI. Also on the agenda were plans to discuss the building of “scores of units for the city's Arab sector, as it does every week,” city officials said.

Four Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria – Eshkolot, Hemdat, Nofim and Rotem – are also to be approved for urban zoning, according to Defense Ministry sources. Such zoning allows for higher- density apartment buildings.

“These are legal settlements that were built on state lands, [and] received authorizations from the government, but their urban construction plans were not arranged,” said the ministry in a statement to the media. “Only recently were those arrangements completed. This is an approval for the current situation. Any additional construction will require additional authorization,” the statement said.

The approvals came at the start of a visit to the U.S. by President Shimon Peres, who was set to meet Monday afternoon in Washington DC with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Before leaving for the visit, Peres was told the committee planned to discuss expansion of three other neighborhoods as well: Ramat Shlomo, Har Homa and Pisgat Ze'ev. The president allegedly asked the committee to postpone the discussions.

Peres is expected to meet for a working lunch Tuesday with President Barack Obama. Both meetings are to be held at Blair House, where Peres is staying, rather than at the White House, for reasons that are unclear. Blair House is the president's official guest house in Washington.