The Jerusalem Municipality approved construction permits on Wednesday for 69 new
homes in the Jewish east Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa – just one day
before US Secretary of State John Kerry is due to arrive in hopes of rekindling
direct Israeli-Palestinian talks.
The homes are the tail end of a large
project of more than 1,000 units in Har Homa that received approval in August
2011 and for which tenders were issued in April 2012, according to the NGO Peace
Now and Jerusalem city councilman Meir Margalit (Meretz).
who won the bid on these last remaining 69 homes had submitted the paperwork
regarding their construction to the Jerusalem Municipality’s Local Planning
On Wednesday, the committee issued the final permits for the
project, authorizing the contractor to start building.
said the permit had gone to a private contractor for a project that had already
been approved for Har Homa. It added that the city had no right to deprive
property owners of their rights.
The policy in Jerusalem with respect to
construction has not changed in 40 years, the municipality said.
continue to build in all city neighborhoods according to zoning plans for Jews
and Arabs. In the coming years, we intend to build tens of thousands of homes
throughout the city, for the different population sectors,” it said.
municipality added that new construction was essential for the city’s
development, and that it allowed students and young adults to purchase
apartments and rent homes there.
Israel has refused to cede to the
Palestinian demands to halt West Bank settlement activity and Jewish building in
east Jerusalem as a precondition to resuming talks.
Binyamin Netanyahu’s third government has allowed the bureaucratic process of
Jewish building over the pre-1967 lines to continue in spite of a push by the
United States to rekindle direct Israeli and Palestinian talks, which have been
largely frozen since December 2008.
But to help the US foster a climate
for renewed talks, Israel has agreed to a de facto freeze on new tenders in West
Bank settlements and Jewish east Jerusalem neighborhoods. No new housing tenders
have been issued over the pre-1967 lines since January, even though according to
Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel, there are thousands of such tenders
ready for final authorization.
But all other settlement activity has
According to Peace Now, plans for at least 2,480 units have
been deposited with the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria since
The most recent set is 325 new homes in the Sansana settlement on
the pre-1967 line northeast of Beersheba.
The council approved the plans
for deposit in April, but actually deposited them three days ago, on June 24,
according to Hagit Ofran of Peace Now.
Plans for 694 new homes in the
Alei Zahav settlement were approved for deposit in September 2012 and officially
submitted to the council in May, according to Ofran. She explained that the
project had actually been initiated in the 1990s – it had received approval, and
construction had begun. But the plans were resubmitted to the council when it
was discovered that some of the project was slated to go up on private
Palestinian property, she said.
Plans for 25 new homes in the Kfar Adumim
settlement were approved for deposit in 2011 and deposited on May 23 of this
year, according to Ofran.
In May, plans for 212 homes in the Modi’in
Illit settlement were approved for deposit, followed in June by plans for 675
homes in the Itamar settlement and 550 in the Bruchin settlement, according to
“The approvals in Har Homa C, on the eve of Secretary Kerry’s
visit, prove that a ‘freeze’ of tenders is not a freeze at all,” Peace Now
stated. “The true policy of the Israeli government is to continue to develop the
settlements in East Jerusalem and in the West Bank.”
added that “the fact that we haven’t seen any new tenders for construction in
four months is not indicative of a serious commitment by the Israeli government
to go to peace. Rather, the government is continuing to allow and promote the
creation of facts on the ground which will be devastating for the two-state