J'lem planning c'tee to discuss okaying 56 building projects

Interior Ministry denies other panel cancellations were due to diplomatic dust-up.

By ABE SELIG
March 14, 2010 23:02
2 minute read.
Police officers take positions during clashes on t

Police Temple Mount clashes 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

 
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The Jerusalem Local Planning and Building Committee will convene on Monday to deliberate over 56 construction plans pending throughout the Jerusalem District – six of which concern new housing for Arab residents in the east Jerusalem neighborhoods of Beit Safafa, Ras al-Amud, and Sur Bahir, among others.

The announcement of Monday’s meeting came after officials from the Interior Ministry, which oversees the committee, on Sunday stressed that the cancellation of two committee meetings, which had been scheduled for Sunday and Tuesday, was in no way connected to the diplomatic row with Washington over construction in the capital’s east.

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The committee regularly meets to deliberate on pending construction plans for the Jerusalem District, which includes the capital along with Beit Shemesh, Abu Ghosh, Mevaseret Zion, Kiryat Ye’arim and the Mateh Yehuda Regional Council.

However, reports of the canceled meetings on Sunday fueled speculation of a connection between plans that were to be discussed and the current diplomatic storm regarding construction in areas of Jerusalem located beyond the Green Line. Interior Ministry officials were quick to dismiss the speculation.

“The cancellations were made after it became clear that the committee’s director [Ruth Yosef] had been invited to Knesset hearings that coincide with the committee meetings,” an ministry spokesman told The Jerusalem Post.

“That is the only reason [for the cancellations], there is no other, and let me be clear, the [planning] committee is operating as usual. There have been no changes at all.”

An Interior Ministry source added that the issue was being blown out of proportion.

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“The weekly schedule for the regional planning committee is always changing,” she said. “There’s always cancellations or additions to the schedule, and this is not at all out of the ordinary. The only reason it’s making news is because of last week’s incident.”

However, both comments contradicted reports that the committee was ordered last week to halt all deliberations regarding construction over the Green Line, after it approved plans for the construction of 1,600 housing units in the northern Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, which is situated over the Green Line.

Announcement of the approval came as US Vice President Joe Biden was visiting the country, and prompted numerous international condemnations, most notably from the Obama administration.

The move also led the Palestinian Authority to reconsider the resumption of indirect negotiations with Israel, which had been announced days before the Ramat Shlomo construction approval was made public.

A number of construction plans for new and existing Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem over the Green Line are awaiting the Interior Ministry’s approval.

The Post reported last week that plans for thousands of housing units were at various stages of the process and included the neighborhoods of Neveh Ya’acov, Har Homa, Pisgat Ze’ev, Gilo, and Givat Hamatos – all of which are over the 1949-1967 Green Line.

Both the regional planning committee and the Jerusalem Municipality have come under increasing scrutiny with regards to such plans, as foreign criticism continues to build and left-wing groups like Peace Now and Ir Amim have released lengthy reports documenting the planned housing.

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