'Gilo a neighborhood in heart of J'lem, not a settlement'

Netanyahu spokesman: Decision to build 1,100 homes in neighborhood located over Green Line doesn't contradict peace efforts.

By REUTERS,
September 28, 2011 20:45
2 minute read.
A construction site in J'lem's  Gilo neighborhood

Gilo Construction 311. (photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner)

 
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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday rejected Western and Arab complaints that the planned construction of 1,100 new homes in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo would complicate Middle East peace efforts.

"Gilo is not a settlement nor an outpost. It is a neighborhood in the very heart of Jerusalem, about five minutes from the center of town," Netanyahu's spokesman Mark Regev said.

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In every peace plan on the table in the past 18 years, Gilo "stays part of Jerusalem and therefore this planning decision in no way contradicts" the current Israel government's desire for peace based on two states for the two peoples, he added.

Netanyahu also stressed the construction approval announced on Tuesday was a "preliminary planning decision".

The United States, Europe and Arab states said the announcement would complicate efforts to renew peace talks and defuse a crisis over a Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations.

Britain and the EU called on Netanyahu to reverse the decision, and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said new settlement building would be "counter-productive".

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In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Netanyahu addressed the Gilo building project saying, "I think people now understand that in a metropolitan area like Jerusalem, with three-quarters of a million people, there is planning that takes place for new projects. People have families, families have children, and communities grow: they grow in the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem and they grow in the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem.

"I have to say that this is one of the areas where Israel’s massive planning bureaucracy gets full international attention. We have so many planning stages, so many phases of approval that every time a plan moves through one of these stages, it gets world headlines."

Netanyahu added: "We plan in Jerusalem. We build in Jerusalem. Period. The same way Israeli governments have been doing for 44 years, since the end of the 1967 war. We build in Jewish neighborhoods, the Arabs build in Arab neighborhoods, that is the way the life of this city goes on and develops for its Jewish and non-Jewish residents alike."

An Interior Ministry Committee gave initial approval to the new project on Tuesday. The south Jerusalem neighborhood ogf Gilo is located over the 1967 Gree Line.

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