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The Palestinian Authority on Tuesday harshly condemned a decision by the Jerusalem Municipal Planning and Construction Committee to expand the Beit Orot Yeshiva in east Jerusalem.
The committee on Monday approved the planned construction of four new residential buildings adjacent to the yeshiva, effectively creating a new Jewish neighborhood of 24 families on the Mount of Olives.
A spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas said that Israel is pretending to want peace "but is actually destroying peace by violating international law, UN resolutions and the Road Map agreement," Channel 10 reported.
The statement went on to warn that the buildings were destined to be demolished. "It's a shame for every shekel Israel wastes on settlement construction," the statement reportedly said.
Senior Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat condemned the move "in the strongest possible terms." He said if Israel wants to resume peace talks, "they must announce a total cessation of settlement activities" in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said that while the US was liable to react adversely to the announcement, the government would remain firm in its policy that building in Jerusalem is no different than building in Tel Aviv.
"Even if the US disagrees with us - we can agree to disagree," Ayalon said in an interview with Army Radio Tuesday evening. "Where Jerusalem is concerned, we have a rock solid position which is common to many political parties and generations."
Ayalon stressed that although the expansion of Jewish Jerusalem was a controversial issue in peace talks, it was not impossible to overcome. "We hope that when we achieve peace with the Palestinians, these issues will be resolved in the process," he concluded.
Meretz chairman MK Haim Oron also expressed disappointment with the decision, saying that "running and leading a city as complex and charged as Jerusalem requires much more responsibility, discretion and restraint than [Jerusalem Mayor] Nir Barkat has showed over the last months."
The Meretz faction of the Jerusalem Municipality appealed the decision to approve the building project for Jewish family homes on the Mount of Olives.
Municipal counsel member Elisha Peleg (Likud), who worked to promote the plan, stressed that "this is a municipal decision, in which the prime minister and ministers were not involved."
He explained that "the municipality will continue building for Jews and Arabs in east Jerusalem, and the move is in accordance with Barkat's policy on construction in the capital."
Peleg went on to say that the Beit Orot project was not the last building project in east Jerusalem, and that he would work to promote similar initiatives.
Municipal councilman Meir Margalit confirmed Tuesday that the local planning committee approved the project, while slamming it as being a provocation meant to torpedo peace efforts in an interview with Army Radio. He said final approval would have to come from a planning committee expected to meet within weeks.
The project is being developed by Irving Moskowitz, an American Jew who has funded Jewish projects in the Holy City.
Last month, the United States harshly criticized Israel after it announced plans to build nearly 700 apartments in the existing Jewish neighborhoods of Neveh Ya'akov, Pisgat Ze'ev and Har Homa.