Additional Har Homa construction gets initial thumbs-up

The Interior Ministry has given tentative approval to a Jerusalem municipal plan to build nearly 1,000 new homes in the southeast Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa, the city said Wednesday. The neighborhood, which overlooks Bethlehem, is considered controversial because it was constructed during the last decade on land annexed by Israel after the Six Day War, despite opposition from the international community. While Israel differentiates between the status of Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, the international community does not. In all, about 180,000 Israelis live in Jewish east Jerusalem neighborhoods. According to a 2000 peace proposal put forward by former US President Bill Clinton and rejected by the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem would remain under Israeli control while Arab sections would be part of the Palestinian State. Environmental groups who opposed building in the forests outside of Jerusalem voiced support for the housing expansion plan, calling it "ecologically correct." "We do not oppose building in Har Homa because it will not hurt the Jerusalem forest or green spaces in the city," said Naomi Tsur, head of the Society for the Protection of Nature's urban centers.