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).

The contractor who won the bid on these last remaining 69 homes had submitted the paperwork regarding their construction to the Jerusalem Municipality’s Local Planning Committee.

On Wednesday, the committee issued the final permits for the project, authorizing the contractor to start building.

The municipality 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.

“We 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.

The 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.

Prime Minister 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 continued.

According to Peace Now, plans for at least 2,480 units have been deposited with the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria since March.

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 Ofran.

“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.”

The organization 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 solution.”

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