Jerusalem's Ramat Shlomo neighborhoood .
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The Jerusalem District Planning Committee approved the construction of 900 homes in the primarily ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, Peace Now announced on Thursday.
The decision comes hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finalized his new and narrowly formed right-wing coalition.
“They’ve approved the request, and now they’re allowed to build,” Peace Now spokeswoman Hagit Ofran told AFP.
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.
When the Interior Ministry’s Jerusalem District Planning and Construction Committee ratified the plan in June 2012, city councilman Yair Gabai, a member of the panel, praised the development as “the first in a series of essential developments that will add to the prosperity of Jerusalem, help curb emigration from the capital, and strengthen Israeli sovereignty in all parts of the city.”
At the same time, Hassan Abu Libda, the Palestinian Authority’s minister of national economy, condemned the move, calling it a “resumption of settlement activity.”
Meanwhile, when the NIS 62.4 million infrastructure budget for the neighborhood was approved in 2013, Jerusalem Deputy Mayor and Finance Committee head David Hadari lauded the funding, deeming it “Jerusalem’s vaccination shot against those who think about dividing it somehow.”
In a statement, the Jerusalem Municipality noted there has been no changes in its construction policy over the past four decades, adding that it would continue to “build in all of the city’s neighborhoods according to statutory plans” for both Jews and Arabs.
“In the coming years, tens of thousands of housing units will be built all over the city for all sectors,” the statement said. “New construction in Jerusalem is necessary for the development of the city and in order to give young people and students the opportunity to live and buy houses in the capital.”
AFP contributed to this report.