Jerusalem's Ramat Shlomo neighborhoood .
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Following a purported and protracted “de facto freeze” during the Obama administration, a Jerusalem Municipal official on Sunday claimed that city hall is prepared to approve construction of 1,400 housing units in the northeastern Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, amid expectations of a thaw under the new US president.
The unidentified official told Channel 2 that President-elect Donald Trump’s rhetoric signaled far more favorable terms for construction in contested neighborhoods located beyond the 1949 Armistice Green Line, including the growing, primarily ultra-Orthodox Ramat Shlomo.
“Even if [Obama’s] State Department or White House condemns it, it won’t be worth much at this point,” the official said. “In Jerusalem, it’s as if Trump is already in office. The problem is that nobody knows what his policies will actually be.”
The city official added: “There’s an unstated understanding between us, that whatever we’ll be able to accomplish in the coming months may not always be an option later.”
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City hall did not officially confirm the report by mid-afternoon on Sunday.
The announcement of funding by Jerusalem Municipality’s Finance Committee for the controversial development, made during US Vice President Joe Biden’s 2010 visit to Israel, led to a major diplomatic row with Washington.
Ramat Shlomo has been a powerful point of contention between the US and Israel, with the former claiming construction of more Jewish homes there would imperil a two-state solution. However, the Jerusalem Municipality has called that assertion patently false.
“Anyone who has been to Ramot Shlomo knows that in any possible peace agreement – even peace plans put forward by the Palestinians – this neighborhood will stay a part of Israel, and in no way does this [construction] hinder the possibility of moving forward in peace,” an official, who requested anonymity, said.
Nonetheless, MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Union) on Sunday lambasted the construction approval report as “crazy,” adding that whoever approves the measure is “out of his mind.”
Moreover, Shai said the move will further alienate Israel internationally, “just like sticking a finger in the eyes of the incoming and outgoing American government.”
The municipality’s Planning and Construction Committee is scheduled to meet on Wednesday to approve the measure.Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.