As condemnations of an Israeli settlement construction plan
continued to pile on from Europe, Asia and the US, an Interior Ministry
committee member announced Monday that he was planning to advance a
controversial project to build 1,600 new housing units in the east
Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo.
The Interior Ministry's
District Planning and Construction Committee will discuss the project in
just two weeks, according to Jerusalem deputy mayor Yossi Deitsch
(UTJ), who told reporters he was pushing the project to show Jerusalem's
sovereign right to build in the capital.
The project already
became a major source of international controversy 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. Following the incident, the
Prime Minister's Office instituted "increased mechanisms" to ensure they
are involved and updated about all east Jerusalem building projects.
The discussion is set for December 17 in the District Committee.
Shlomo is one of five Jerusalem ring neighborhoods, along with Gilo,
Ramot, Pisgat Zev, and East Talpiyot, which are located across the 1967
Green Line. The District Planning and Construction Committee last
discussed the project in August of 2011, during the height of the social
justice tent protests, when Yishai trumpeted the project as a way to
build affordable housing for young people.
Hagit Ofran, the head
of the Settlement Watch Project at Peace Now, said the timing was part
of the large settlement push with the announcement of the resumption of
the approval process for E1. "The government is continuing to advance
everything they can," said Ofran. "I don’t know what they’re thinking of
themselves, but they’re doing everything they can to avoid a two-state
US issues 3rd, 4th censures of Jerusalem settlement plan
The United States on Monday issued its third and fourth consecutive condemnations of Israel's plan to expand settlements
in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, with officials from the White
House and State Department calling the move "damaging" to the prospects
of a two-state solution.
Israel approved the construction of
3,000 new housing units in Jerusalem and in the West Bank on Friday in
response to the UN approving the Palestinian UN bid for non-member
observer state status, government officials stated.
Click to enlarge image.
inner cabinet also decided to give the go ahead for the planning of
thousands of housing units in area E1 that connects Jerusalem and
In a statement by the US State Department, Deputy
Spokesperson Mark Toner said: "The United States opposes all unilateral
actions, including West Bank settlement activity and housing
construction in east Jerusalem, as they complicate efforts to resume
direct, bilateral negotiations, and risk prejudging the outcome of those
He added: "This includes building in the E-1 area
as this area is particularly sensitive and construction there would be
especially damaging to efforts to achieve a two-state solution."
called on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to "cease unilateral
actions and take concrete steps to return to direct negotiations."
House spokesman Jay Carney also condemned the move,
stating: "We urge Israeli leaders to reconsider these unilateral
decisions and exercise restraint as these actions are counterproductive
and make it harder to resume direct negotiations to achieve a two state
"We reiterate our long-standing opposition to Israeli settlement activity and east Jerusalem construction," he added.
Monday statements came on the heels of a harsh condemnation issued by the
White House, with spokesman Tommy Vietor calling the move
"counterproductive" and saying it could make it harder to bring Israel
and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table. Also Friday, US
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized Israel’s plans, saying,
“These activities set back the cause of a negotiated peace."
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu pushed back Monday
against intense international pressure to reconsider the construction
plans, with sources in his office saying no one should expect Israel to
sit on its hands in light of Palestinian unilateral steps at the UN.
As one European country after the next
called in Israel's ambassadors to protest the settlement plans, a source
in the PMO issued a statement saying that Israel would "continue to
stand up for its vital interests even in the face of international
"The Palestinian unilateral move at the UN is a
blatant and fundamental violation of agreements to which the
international community was a guarantor," the official said. "No one
should be surprised that Israel is not sitting with its arms folded in
response to the unilateral Palestinian steps."
Both France and
Britain summoned the Israeli ambassadors to their countries on Monday to
express disapproval over plans to expand West Bank settlements, as
reports swirled that the two European countries were considering the
harsher move of recalling their own ambassadors. The countries were
joined by Spain, Sweden and Denmark, while Germany and Russia both urged
Israel to reconsider its decision. Japan added its voice to the chorus
of condemnation on Monday, saying that it "deeply deplores" Israel's
decision and calling on both Israel and the Palestinian Authority to
The construction announcement also drew harsh condemnation from Israel's domestic Center-Left bloc, with politicians stating that the move would isolate Israel internationally.
International on Monday also condemned the Israeli government's
announcement to expand settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem,
calling on Israel to "immediately halt all construction."
Harrison, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and
North Africa program, stated: "Israel must immediately halt all
construction of settlements and related infrastructure as a first step
towards removing all settlers from the occupied territories."
Herb Keinon, Hilary Leila Krieger and Reuters contributed to this report