Israeli flag flutters over settlement of Ofra 311 R.
(photo credit: Laszlo Balogh / Reuters)
The Jerusalem Local Building and Planning Committee gave initial approval to a
plan for 942 homes in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, which is
located across the 1967 Green Line.
The move came the day before
President Shimon Peres was to meet with President Barack Obama, reminding many
of the fiasco in March 2010 when the Interior Ministry approved 1,600 housing
units in Ramat Shlomo during a visit by Vice President Joe Biden, causing a
crisis in Israeli- US relations.
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The Jerusalem Municipality denied that
there was any political message in the timing of the discussion, adding that the
project was being proposed by a private developer and the committee was required
by law to discuss applications for proposed real estate projects.
reminder, Jerusalem was united more than 40 years ago, and since then there has
been no change in construction policy,” said a municipality spokeswoman. “The
municipality is continuing to build for Arabs and Jews according to the Master
The spokeswoman added that the Local Building and Planning
Committee was also poised to approve dozens of houses in Arab neighborhoods, but
would not specify how many or where the houses would be located.
one of the five ring neighborhoods in Jerusalem that were developed immediately
after the Six Day War. In a final-status agreement, such as one based on the
Clinton Parameters that calls for predominantly Jewish areas to stay part of
Israel, Gilo and the other ring neighborhoods are almost certain to stay part of
City Council opposition head Pepe Alalu (Meretz), who sits on
the committee, accused the municipality of proceeding “one-sidedly” in east
“The moment that we sit and talk to eye-to-eye, I believe they
will agree that these areas will be Jewish, but now they want it to be part of
Palestinian state,” Alalu told the Post
. “When there is an agreement, I think
we’ll get to a point where we can build in Gilo, but we’re not there
Peace Now drew parallels between the Gilo approval and the recent
approvals for construction projects in several West Bank settlements.
see the progress as part of a bigger move that is being taken by the government
that also includes projects in four settlements in the West Bank in the past
four days,” said Peace Now Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer.
municipality was also set to discuss a separate project for 1,400 housing units
in Gilo but it was taken off the agenda at the last minute, after the
municipality said there were technical problems with the project.
current project will expand Gilo in the direction of Beit Jala to the south and
the Gilo forest to the west. Part of the land belongs to the Jewish National
Fund, said Alalu. The rest is privately owned.
According to reports, the
plan will encompass 88,000 square meters, and includes zoning for up to 300
additional units in the future.
The project must still pass the approval
of the Interior Ministry’s District Planning and Construction Committee, and it
will be years before construction could begin.