J'lem Municipality set to approve Har Homa funding

US State Dept. dubs plans "harmful for peace"; Meretz city councilman: Plans show municipality wants to undermine peace.

Har Homa neighborhood of Jerusalem 370 (photo credit: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)
Har Homa neighborhood of Jerusalem 370
(photo credit: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)
The Jerusalem Municipality was set to approve funding Monday for infrastructure construction on housing tenders for 930 homes in the east Jerusalem Jewish neighborhood of Har Homa, resulting in condemnation by the east Jerusalem portfolio head and the US government.
Construction in the contested neighborhood is part of a large-scale project approved in August 2011 to build roughly 1,000 units in the area, for which tenders were issued in April 2012 – pre-dating the alleged “de facto freeze” on new building tenders there since January.
“I’m very critical of this decision, especially because of the timing,” said Meretz city councilman Dr. Meir Margalit, who holds the east Jerusalem portfolio.
“It looks like someone in the municipality wanted to imitate the ‘Biden incident,’” he added, referring to the diplomatic flap that transpired in 2011 when the Interior Ministry announced plans to build in Ramat Shlomo during the US vice president’s visit to the country.
The US State Department preemptively criticized the likely passage Sunday as “harmful for peace,” one day before US Secretary of State John Kerry left the country after unsuccessfully attempting to restart peace negotiations.
Margalit said he viewed the approval as evidence municipality members want to “undermine the peace process.”
“This is proof that many people in strategic positions within the municipality want to undermine the peace process,” he said by phone Monday.
“If this happened intentionally, then that’s bad. If it happened unintentionally, it’s worse, because the meaning is that many people here don’t understand the political context of what they’re doing.”
During Monday’s meeting the municipality and the Knesset Finance Committee discussed over 130 items pertaining to a variety of municipal issues, including allocating funding for new classrooms for Arab students in east Jerusalem and developing public and green spaces in the Har Homa neighborhood.
The municipality patently denied the construction project will obstruct peace negotiations, claiming new construction is essential for the city’s development by lowering costs for Jewish and Arab students and young adults alike.
“We continue to build in all city neighborhoods according to zoning plans for Jews and Arabs,” it said in a statement.
“In the coming years, we intend to build tens of thousands of homes throughout the city for the different population sectors.”