PM rep must be at housing meetings

Ministerial committee approves new clause in law following Biden visit blunder.

March 12, 2010 13:06
1 minute read.
Ramat Shlomo construction.

Ramat Shlomo construction 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)


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Following the hullabaloo caused by the announcement of an east Jerusalem construction plan during US Vice President Joe Biden’s visit, a ministerial committee has moved to try and prevent the recurrence of such a diplomatic howler.

The Ministerial Committee on Legislation on Friday approved a new clause in the Housing and Planning Law, according to which a prime minister’s representative must be present in discussions about new construction plans and their approval.

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Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog, who proposed the new clause, said that the initiative would be vital in preventing slip-ups similar to that which occurred during Biden’s visit, when a plan to construct an additional 1,600 housing units in Ramat Shlomo was unveiled.

That announcement threatened to deal a blow to the peace process, with Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa saying that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would not enter indirect peace talks with Israel as planned.

However, soon after US Vice President Joe Biden left for Jordan on Thursday, senior Israeli officials said they anticipate the proximity talks with the Palestinians will begin soon, because Biden made clear to the PA leadership that this is what the US expects.

Also Thursday, Israeli officials stressed that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had no intention of rolling back the Ramat Shlomo plans, or pledging no new construction in east Jerusalem.

“Our policy regarding Jerusalem is unchanged,” one senior Israeli diplomatic official said, adding that it was fully clear to the US that Israel has not altered its policy about building in east Jerusalem, which it does not consider a settlement.

What Israel regretted about the Ramat Shlomo incident was the timing of the Interior Minister announcement, government officials said on Thursday, and not the decision to build there.

Herb Keinon contributed to this report

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