Jerusalem Municipality denies report of unilateral construction freeze in east Jerusalem

"The Jerusalem municipality continues to advance construction throughout the city for all populations," says City Hall.

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November 2, 2015 13:19
2 minute read.
Ramat Shlomo

Jerusalem's Ramat Shlomo neighborhoood . (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

 
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The Jerusalem Municipality on Monday denied an Army Radio report stating that all building activity in the eastern portion of the capital, which would impact the controversial residential construction plan in Ramat Shlomo, will be suspended.

According to the report, a construction freeze order, to be applied unilaterally to Palestinian and Jewish homes, was to be submitted this week to the municipality’s Local Committee on Planning and Building.

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The report comes as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu travels to the US to repair badly frayed diplomatic ties, and against the backdrop of a city-wide terror wave.

However, in a statement on Monday, the municipality claimed that construction would continue, unabated, throughout the capital.

“The Jerusalem municipality continues to advance construction throughout the city for all populations,” the statement said. “The plans will be presented later.”

The municipality also denied Army Radio’s  report that the Planning and Building Committee is scheduled to convene on Wednesday to approve dozens of housing units in the primarily ultra-Orthodox Ramat Shlomo neighborhood.

No such meeting is on the municipal schedule, a spokesperson said on Monday.

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In May, the United States and Peace Now roundly condemned the approval of 900 new homes there, which came shortly after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finalized his new and narrowly formed right-wing coalition.

The initial announcement of funding for the development beyond the 1949 Armistice (Green) Line, by the 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. To ease tensions at the time, 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, denounced the move, calling it a “resumption of settlement activity.”

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 at the time, 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.”

Meanwhile, Army Radio said that Netanyahu did not order the edict, reporting that he claimed it was the municipality’s decision.

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