Jerusalem's Ramat Shlomo neighborhoood .
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The US State Department said Thursday it strongly opposes "steps by the Israeli authorities to advance construction in east Jerusalem," following Peace Now's announcement that the Jerusalem District Planning Committee approved the construction of 900 homes in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood.
"This is a disappointing development, and we’re concerned about it just as a new Israeli Government has been announced," Deputy US State Department Spokesperson Jeff Rathke said.
The spokesperson said that Israeli leaders have asserted that they remain committed to a two-state solution, and that the US needs to see that commitment in the actions of the Israeli Government.
"Moving forward with construction of housing units in east Jerusalem is damaging and inconsistent with that commitment. We continue to engage with the highest levels of the Israeli Government, and we continue to make our position clear that we view this as illegitimate," Rathke said.
The initial announcement of funding for the development beyond the 1949 Armistice (Green) Line by the Jerusalem Municipality’s Finance Committee during US Vice President Joe Biden’s 2010 visit to Israel led to a major diplomatic row with Washington.
The plan was also condemned by governments and organizations around the world as a destabilizing factor for peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Moreover, US criticism is widely believed to have contributed to a de facto freeze that nearly brought all construction in Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem to a halt for roughly three years after the development was announced.
To ease tensions at the time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Washington that construction in Ramat Shlomo would not begin for at least two years.