Since the furor when plans to build 1,600 new housing units in east Jerusalem's Ramat Shlomo were announced during Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Israel, all discussions by the Jerusalem Regional Planning and Building Committee over new construction in the capital have been frozen, it was announced Wednesday.
Jerusalem Municipality official Yair Gabai made the statement in an interview with Army Radio, and it was later confirmed by the Interior Ministry.
"Unfortunately, since Biden's visit, all committee meetings have been frozen until further notice," said Gabai.
The Interior Ministry later issued a statement, saying that “the prime minister has decided to set up a management committee to coordinate between the various government ministries on the issue of planning and construction, and until directives on the matter are implemented, [Regional Planning and Building] Committee meetings have been postponed."
Meanwhile, as Peace Now condemned the building permits for 20 new Jewish homes in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, the left-wing was accused of playing up news of the already-issued permits in order to torpedo Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's visit to Washington.
Jerusalem city councilman Elisha Peleg even suggested that the Shin Bet [Israel Security Agency] launch an investigation to find out who were the individuals responsible for news of the permits hitting the headlines specifically at this time.
“I would ask the Shin Bet to find out who are those who believe that Palestinian interests are more important than Israeli interests,” he told Army Radio, accusing those elements of “treason.”
"Jerusalem is not a settlement," he said. East Jerusalem neighborhoods, including Sheikh Jarrah and Ras el-Amoud, are part of Israel."
In a statement released on Tuesday night, the Jerusalem Municipality described reports on the fresh building permit as "distorted," adding, "The plan was already approved in July of last year. The approval by the committee [in July] was final, and not an approval in principal, and therefore the granting of [last week's] approval has no additional significance."
The municipality added that the most recent permit was automatically granted after the site's owners had fulfilled their financial obligations.
Gabai told the radio station that the issuing of the permits was not political, but technical.
"It's a technical process of filing a permit that was already approved at the planning and housing committee in July 2009," he said. "Unfortunately, all this is about spin driven by extreme left-wing element who want to ruin Prime Minster Binyamin Netanyahu's visit to the US."
Deputy Jerusalem Mayor and head of the committee Kobi Kahlon also stressed that the final approval of the Sheikh Jarrah plan was simply a technicality and not a political move.
"[US Jewish businessman Irving] Moskowitz submitted the plans many
years ago and they came to us for approval about a year ago. My opinion
has a very little effect since all the planning committees already
approved the building in the 70s," he said. "These are processes put in
motion by professional departments - pure and simple. We are only
responsible for the issue on a technical level, not in terms of the
Likud MK Gilad Erdan also said Tuesday’s publication was "left-wing spin."
simply idle chatter that left-wing elements are looking to use to muddy
Netanyahu's name, even at the expense of ties with the US," he said.
"But the Americans know very well that [the Sheikh Jarrah construction]
is not the issue at hand. I suggest that we all act a bit more
responsibly even if our job is sometimes to attack the government."