The US, Russia and France have condemned Israel’s plan to build 238 homes in two
east Jerusalem Jewish neighborhoods, saying it runs counter to the peace
Russia and France have asked the government to reconsider the
decision.RELATED:France 'deeply disappointed' by east J'lem building plans
The government, however, has stood firmly behind the Ministry
of Construction and Housing’s publication on Thursday of tenders for 80 new
homes in Ramot and 158 in Pisgat Ze’ev.
The Palestinian Authority has
said that building in the settlements and in east Jerusalem must stop for the
peace process to continue, while Israel has insisted that there is no reason why
talks cannot move forward despite such building.
“In no way is this
construction antithetical to a historic peace agreement with the Palestinians,”
a government official told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday night.
tenders are for construction in neighborhoods that every peace plan for the past
20 years has stated would remain part of Israel in a finalstatus agreement, the
Although Israel froze new construction in West Bank
settlements from November 26, 2009 through September 26 of this year, it has
refused to consider a similar measure in east Jerusalem.
construction in all parts of Jerusalem, has been a consistent government policy,
about which “we have been frank and above board,” the official
“There is no policy change here. Even when there was a moratorium,
it never included Jerusalem, the official said.
The US was informed of
the new construction before Thursday’s publication of the tenders, which were
included in a list of 4,000 new homes to be built nationwide.
Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters on Friday that in response the
US told Israel, “We felt this was contrary to what we were trying to do, to get
direct negotiations resumed.” He added that the US was
The State Department and Israel have long been at odds
over east Jerusalem construction, with Israel insisting that it has a right to
build in the city which is its eternal capital.
Israeli and US officials
held telephone conversations about the new construction over the
Meanwhile, US Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-New York), who chairs the
House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, issued a strong statement
in defense of Israel on Friday, taking to task those who have equated the
capital with West Bank settlements.
“Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.
It is not a settlement,” Ackerman told the press.
It has been “the
singular geographic center of the hopes and aspirations of the Jewish people for
three millennia,” he said.
“Construction in Jerusalem is not a
justification for a crisis, a showdown, a meltdown or even a hissy fit,”
“Ramot and Pisgat Ze’ev are going to be part of Israel in
any conceivable final-status deal, and to pretend otherwise is pointless,” he
“Those who earlier complained about the inadequacy of Israel’s
unilateral and uncompensated settlement freeze, who chose to waste those 10
months instead of diving aggressively into direct talks on peace, cannot
reasonably now turn around and complain that the end of the freeze and the
resumption of Israeli construction in Jerusalem... is either a shock or an
insurmountable obstacle to peace,” Ackerman said.
Such construction “is
neither a show of bad faith, nor a justification for avoiding negotiations aimed
at achieving a final-status agreement.
“The legitimate aspirations of the
Palestinians are not going to be achieved by violence and they’re not going to
be achieved by the equivalent of holding their breath until their lips turn
blue,” he said.
“Direct negotiations are sole pathway to their goal, and
the sooner they recognize this fact, the better,” he said.
announcement marked the first time since March that east Jerusalem tenders have
According to Hagit Ofran of Peace Now, tenders for 377
housing units were published for the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Neveh
Ya’acov on March 10, tenders for 48 were published for Pisgat Ze’ev on January
7, and another 150 in that same neighborhood on December 31,
Separately, in a move that deeply angered the US, the Interior
Ministry’s District Committee for Planning and Construction in March approved a
plan to build 1,600 homes in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo,
during a visit by US Vice President Joseph Biden. The announcement of the Ramat
Shlomo plan caught the Prime Minister’s Office by surprise, and new mechanisms
have since been put in place to ensure that the prime minister is kept abreast
of east Jerusalem construction. No tenders have been issued yet for the Ramat
Right-wing politicians and activists have complained that a
de facto freeze exists in east Jerusalem, an allegation that has been denied by
the Prime Minister’s Office and the Jerusalem Municipality.
Deputy Mayor Kobi Kahlon, the head of the Jerusalem Local Planning and Building
Committee, the 238 new homes for Ramot and Pisgat Ze’ev are in projects that
were begun in 2003 or even earlier.
It will be two to three years before
construction begins on the projects, he said.
Kahlon denied that there
was any political motivation behind the approvals, noting that the growing
neighborhoods had asked for the new buildings years ago.
going along with the status quo, like we’ve been doing for 40 years,” Kahlon
told the Post.
These Jerusalem neighborhoods “are not settlements,” he
Kahlon noted that almost everyone agrees that Ramot and Pisgat
Ze’ev will remain a part of Israel in any peace agreement “Published tender”
means that a construction project has passed the government’s lengthy approval
process, and after a contractor is chosen, the project will be released back to
the municipality for the final building permit, which enables contractors to
begin construction. The list of published tenders is significant because it is
one of the last steps in the approval process where the government can control
what buildings are built in what areas. After the tender is published, the final
approval rests with the municipality.
Hilary Leila Krieger contributed to
Jerusalem Post Annual Conference. Buy it now, Special offer. Come meet Israel's top leaders