Laborers work at a construction site in Har Homa .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Jerusalem’s municipal planning committee approved the construction of 78 homes (50 in Har Homa and 28 in Ramot), in a move likely to aggravate Palestinian anger at a time when violence has flared, including a deadly attack on a synagogue.
Jerusalem has seen unrest in the past few weeks over access to the Temple Mount, the city’s most sacred and politically sensitive site, holy to both Jews and Muslims.
On Tuesday, two Palestinians killed four rabbis and a policeman at a Jerusalem synagogue, the worst attack in the city since 2008.
The Palestinians have also been angered by a recent slew of plans Israel has advanced for about 4,000 housing units on West Bank land annexed to the city.
However, Jerusalem Councilman Dr. Meir Margalit (Meretz), who holds the east Jerusalem Portfolio, said the nominal number of approved housing units in the contested areas is inconsequential amid such a significant crisis.
“These numbers are irrelevant,” he said shortly after the announcement. “We have more dramatic problems than these numbers, so I think we can live with them. We have to keep this development in proportion; it’s not so dramatic that we need to make problems.
I can live with them.”
Asked why the municipality approved such a scant number of housing permits, Margalit opined that City Hall may have adopted a different strategy.
“Maybe now instead of approving a thousand units at once... they’re doing a few at a time every week or two,” he said. “Nobody will pay attention to such small numbers.”
Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said of the latest announcement: “These decisions are a continuation of the Israeli government’s policy to cause more tension, push towards further escalation and waste any chance to create an atmosphere for calm.”
Israel’s settlement activities have drawn criticism from the European Union and from the United States, which like most countries views settlements as illegal.