Settlement Construction 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Jerusalem Municipality will hold a meeting Monday with members of the
Knesset Finance Committee to approve funding for infrastructure construction on
previously approved housing tenders for 930 homes in the east Jerusalem Jewish
neighborhood of Har Homa.
Construction of the homes are part of a
large-scale project approved in August 2011 to build roughly 1,000 units in the
controversial area, for which tenders were issued in April 2012, according to
the NGO Peace Now and Jerusalem city councilman Meir Margalit
The announcement drew a swift condemnation from the US State
Department on Sunday, as “contrary to previous Israel commitments” while
Secretary of State John Kerry visits the region to restart peace
“The policy of ongoing construction in the settlements is
unacceptable to us,” the State Department wrote in a statement. “Both sides must
work to rebuild trust… and Israel must recognize that the policy of construction
beyond the Green Line is harmful for peace.”
To assist the US in creating
a calmer climate for renewed peace talks with Palestinian leadership, Israel has
agreed to a “de facto freeze” on new tenders in West Bank settlements and Jewish
east Jerusalem neighborhoods, which it has upheld.
However, no such
freeze has been applied to previously approved building tenders, including Har
Indeed, Israel has refused to accede to Palestinian demands to halt
all West Bank settlement activity and Jewish building in east Jerusalem as a
precondition for resuming talks.
The Jerusalem Municipality issued a
statement Sunday noting that approval for the units was given three years ago
and that Monday’s meeting is a “standard procedure for all development
Referring to the timing of the meeting, which coincides with
Kerry’s visit, it added that the municipality does not “coordinate their
schedule with visiting political delegations.”
“Discussion on how to
develop public land in Har Homa is neither dramatic nor new – it was established
over three years ago, and it has nothing to do with the fact that [Kerry] is
visiting Jerusalem this week,” the statement said. “This is a standard and
automatic procedure that happens with every development project.”
municipality did not directly address queries about the planned vote to allocate
funds from the Construction and Housing Ministry’s budget to proceed with
preliminary construction in Har Homa.
In its statement, it said that
during Monday’s meeting the municipality and the Knesset Finance Committee will
discuss over 130 items “pertaining to a variety of municipal-related issues,”
including allocating funding for new classrooms for Arab students in east
Jerusalem and “developing public and green spaces in the Har Homa
Jerusalem city council member Elisha Peleg (Likud) said
approval for the construction of the project proves that “the temporary freeze
in construction beyond the Green Line is over,” according to
Peleg noted that past efforts to enforce construction freezes in
east Jerusalem “does nothing” to aid peace talks with the Palestinian leadership
and only exacerbates the present housing crisis in the region. Upon approving
construction permits for 69 new homes in Har Homa on Wednesday – the day before
Kerry arrived to Israel – the municipality emphasized that construction policy
in Jerusalem has not changed in 40 years.
However, Peace Now claimed that
the approvals in Har Homa, on the eve of Secretary Kerry’s visit, prove that a
“freeze of tenders is not a freeze at all.”
“The true policy of the
Israeli government is to continue to develop the settlements in east Jerusalem
and in the West Bank,” it said.
The organization added that it was
dubious that the de facto housing freeze, with respect to issuing new tenders
for construction since January, is “indicative of a serious commitment by the
Israeli government to go to peace.”
“The government is continuing to
allow and promote the creation of facts on the ground which will be devastating
for the two-state solution,” it said.
The municipality flatly denied Peace
Now’s assertion, claiming new construction is essential for the city’s
development by lowering costs for Jewish and Arab students and young adults
“We continue to build in all city neighborhoods according to
zoning plans for Jews and Arabs,” it said.
“In the coming years, we
intend to build tens of thousands of homes throughout the city, for the
different population sectors.”
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.