The Jerusalem Municipality’s decision to green light building in three Jewish neighborhoods in the city beyond the 1967 lines drew sharp international condemnation, with EU foreign policy chief Catherin Ashton calling on Israel to reconsider and reverse the decision.
The capital’s Planning and Building Committee approved permits for 386 new units in Har Homa in southern Jerusalem, and 136 for Neveh Ya’acov and another 36 for Pisgat Ze’ev in the northern part of the city.
Ashton, increasingly criticized by government officials for swiftly condemning every building announcement beyond the 1967 lines but not protesting similarly Palestinian incitement or violence, issued a statement saying she was “deeply concerned” by the announcement.
“These plans could put at risk the prospects of Jerusalem becoming the capital of two states and, in particular, the territorial contiguity between east Jerusalem and the southern West Bank,” she said.
“The EU and the international community have repeatedly warned that any unilateral action prejudging the final status of Jerusalem threatens the current peace negotiations and, as a consequence, the two-state solution,” she added. “Any such developments must be avoided at all costs.”
Despite Ashton’s adoption of the Palestinian position that Jerusalem will be the capital of a future Palestinian state, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said repeatedly that he is opposed to dividing the capital.
The Jerusalem Municipality’s approval is just one in a number of stops the plans must go through before bulldozers actually start preparing the ground. The next step is approval by the Jerusalem District Planning Committee, and if approved there, tenders will be issued. Each stage of the planning process generally brings with it international censure, meaning Israel will get slammed a number of time for the same projects.
Ashton was not the only voice raised against the permits.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at the daily press briefing in Washington on Wednesday that the US position on Jerusalem was clear.
“We oppose any unilateral actions by either party that attempt to prejudge final status issues, including the status of Jerusalem,” she said. “We’ve called on both sides to take steps to create a positive atmosphere for the negotiations.”
Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, called the moves a “deliberate provocation of the Palestinians to drive them to leave the negotiations.”
“Israel is not only capable of sabotaging the talks, but it is flagrantly destroying the chances of peace and stability throughout the region,” Ashrawi said in a statement.
Michael Wilner and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.