Interior Ministry to advance approvals of 6,500 units in East Jerusalem

After 3 years in limbo following major diplomatic crises between US & Israel, 1,500 apt units in Ramat Shlomo receive final approval.

Additional apartments expected to be approved throughout the week.

PA condemns Israel’s decision to expedite construction.

By MELANIE LIDMAN, KHALED ABU TOAMEH

Four days of marathon meetings in the Interior Ministry and the Jerusalem municipality’s planning committees, which started on Monday, are expected to advance approvals for almost 6,500 apartments over the 1967 Green Line in Israel.

JERUSALEM’S RAMAT SHLOMO neighborhood. - Photo: Ariel Jerozolimski/The Jerusalem Post

JERUSALEM’S RAMAT SHLOMO neighborhood.
Photo: Ariel Jerozolimski/The Jerusalem Post

After spending nearly three years in limbo for causing a major diplomatic crises between the United States and Israel, the 1,500 apartment units in Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo received final approval from the Interior Ministry on Monday. This means construction can begin in the coming year.

On Tuesday, the District Building and Planning Committee will discuss stages B and C of Givat HaMatos, a new Jewish neighborhood located next to Beit Safafa. Stages B and C have a combined 1,363 apartment units. On Wednesday, the Local Committee is expected to give final approval to stage A of Givat HaMatos, with 2,610 units. On Thursday, the District Committee is expected to give final approval to the Slopes of Gilo South, approximately 1,000 apartment units.

“The approval of this program is an important and positive step for the Interior Ministry, in order to improve the housing issue while simultaneously strengthening Jerusalem,” said Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas).

City Councilor Yair Gabbai (Likud) who sits on both the local and district committees, also welcomed the wave of approvals. “The Prime Minister [Binyamin Netanyahu] stopped the discussion of these projects because of due to outside pressure from so many places,” Gabbai said. “The moment Palestinians went to the UN and went unilaterally, the PM gave a green light to do all [of the building in east Jerusalem]. Everything was ready years ago, we were just waiting for green light,” he said.

Veteran left-wing activist Danny Seidemann put it bluntly. “Netanyahu is hemorrhaging settlements,” he said. “This is not tactical maneuvering it’s a strategic thrust. This is Netanyahu going to an end-game with massive settlement activity that will determine the borders of Jerusalem as he sees it,” said Seidemann. “By all empirical standards, never, ever, since 1967 has there been such a frenzy of settlement activity as there has been over the past month, and one is only beginning now to see the full thrust of this,” he added.

The Palestinian Authority leadership Monday strongly denounced the Israeli government’s decision to build 1,500 housing units in east Jerusalem.

The PA is planning to file a complaint against Israel with the UN Security Council over the new project.

Nabil Abu Rudaineh, spokesman for the PA president’s office, said the decision was a “blatant challenge” to the international community and a “disregard for the feelings of the Palestinian people and Arab nation.”

Abu Rudaineh said that the decision would further isolate Israel “after the whole world rejected occupation and recognized the Palestinian state in the 1967 borders.”

Ramat Shlomo, one of the “ring neighborhoods” which include Pisgat Zev, Ramat Shlomo, Ramot, Gilo, and East Talpiyot, is located over the 1967 Green Line, and left-wing leaders consider construction there to be controversial before a final-status agreement is reached.

Ramat Shlomo gained notoriety as part of the “Biden Fiasco,” when the project was approved for deposit during the US vice president’s visit to Israel in March 2010. Biden considered the partial approval a personal insult. Following the incident, the Prime Minister’s Office instituted “increased mechanisms” to ensure the PMO’s office is involved and updated about all east Jerusalem building projects.

The Prime Minister’s Office declined to respond to questions over the large wave of approvals. “These approvals are being done by relevant bodies,” said an official in the PMO, who acknowledged that since the Biden Fiasco the PMO is much more involved in east Jerusalem construction. “This is the normal procedural process,” he said.

 

View original Jerusalem Post publication at: http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=296316

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