PM goes to Gilo, pledges unabated building in J'lem

"This is our country, I'll continue to support building in J'lem," Netanyahu says on visit to neighborhood.

Netanyahu speaking against Gilo backdrop 390 (photo credit: Moshe Milner / GPO)
Netanyahu speaking against Gilo backdrop 390
(photo credit: Moshe Milner / GPO)
A day before meeting EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, who slammed Israel on Friday for plans to build some 800 new housing units in Gilo, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu visited the Jerusalem neighborhood on Tuesday and declared he would continue to build throughout the city.
“United Jerusalem is Israel’s eternal capital,” Netanyahu said. “We have the full right to build in it. We built in Jerusalem, we are building in Jerusalem, and we will continue to build Jerusalem.”
Netanyahu, who, in his successful 1996 prime ministerial race against Shimon Peres, ran under the slogan “Peres will divide Jerusalem,” said that “This is our country and I will continue to give support to building in Jerusalem.”
Government officials would not confirm that the visit to Gilo was intended as a message for Ashton, scheduled to meet Wednesday with Netanyahu, Peres, and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman.
On Sunday, at the weekly cabinet meeting, the prime minister reacted to Ashton’s censure of the project in Gilo – which is beyond the pre-1967 lines – saying Israel would not place any restrictions on building in its capital.
“This is our capital, and just as they build in every capital – London, Paris, Washington or Moscow – Israel builds in Jerusalem,” he said. “We have no less a historic and strong connection to our capital.”
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who accompanied Netanyahu on his visit, said Jerusalem was a united city that would not be divided again. He praised the prime minister for being a “true friend of Jerusalem” and for providing the capital with support and resources.
“We will continue to build tens of thousands of apartments throughout the city,” Barkat pledged.
Gilo Community Center director Yaffa Shitrit said that the international outrage over building in Gilo was a result of “a lack of understanding in the world over Gilo’s location.”
“They need to look at the map. When they get here, they understand that it’s not a settlement, it’s part of Jerusalem,” she added.
Shitrit said the city needed tens of thousands of new apartments if it wanted to stop young people from leaving.
There are about 2,000 apartment units in different stages of the approval process in Gilo, including the latest project, 807 units in the Western Slopes of Gilo project. This project received approval from the municipality’s Local Planning and Building Committee last week, setting off a firestorm of condemnation led by Ashton.
The project is still years away from construction and must now receive approval from the Interior Ministry.
Last September, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon hosted a similar press conference to explain to the foreign media that Gilo was an integral part of Jerusalem, after similar criticism erupted over the approval for more than 1,000 units in the Southern Slopes of Gilo project.
Ironically Shitrit and the Gilo Community Center oppose the building projects because they are concerned about the destruction of the Gilo forest and an increase in traffic.
Shitrit said the center supported additional building in the area, but only after the neighborhood of 29,600 residents had sufficient infrastructure and enough new roads.