Ramat Shlomo construction 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Despite recent reports of a de facto construction freeze in the capital’s eastern neighborhoods, it was announced this week that the Jerusalem District Planning and Construction Committee would convene in the coming days to deliberate plans for a limited number of housing units in the area.
While it remains unclear whether the housing units in question will be for Jewish or Arab residents, next week’s meetings – two have been scheduled, one on Tuesday and the other on Thursday – will mark the first time the committee has met since it approved 1,600 housing units in the capital’s Ramat Shlomo neighborhood while US Vice President Joe Biden was visiting the country.
The announcement of that approval set off a diplomatic row with the US administration, which has called on Israel to halt all construction in Jewish neighborhoods over the Green Line in an effort to jump-start peace negotiations with the Palestinians.
Although the first committee meeting next week will not deal with projects in east Jerusalem, the session on Thursday will discuss a number of small plans that include prospective construction plans in eastern sections of the city.
It remained unclear on Thursday what reaction, if any, such plans would evoke from the US.
While the district committee has refrained from meeting since the Ramat Shlomo approval, the Jerusalem Municipality’s Local Planning and Construction Committee has convened and authorized minor construction projects in over-the-Green Line neighborhoods such as Gilo and Pisgat Ze’ev – which escaped condemnation despite the diplomatic cloud hanging over them.
However, in a signal that officials were still wary of the potential
diplomatic fallout that could accompany such projects, Army Radio
reported this week that Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) had
instructed the district committee to submit any politically-sensitive
building plans to him for approval before advancing them.
Earlier this week, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who is currently in
Washington, termed the current US calls for a building freeze in the
city “a slap in the face.”
Speaking to reporters in Washington, Barkat also denied that a de facto freeze had begun to take hold.
“It’s simply not true,” Barkat told reporters.
Barkat stressed that instead, there had only been a temporary freeze in
the wake of tensions with the US over the Ramat Shlomo construction
approval, and planning and construction would gradually begin moving