New embarrassment threatened to cast a cloud over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's latest U.S. trip Monday as Israeli authorities approved construction of over 1,000 Jewish homes beyond the Green Line in Jerusalem.
Ruth Yosef, who chairs the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee, published over the weekend details of a program that will allow 930 housing units to be built in the Har Homa C area, with another 48 units in Har Homa B.
An additional 320 units are planned for Ramot, also beyond the Green Line.
The news coincided with a trip to the United States by Netanyahu, which included a meeting with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. It was during a trip by Biden to Israel earlier in the year that a diplomatic row erupted between the allies over Israeli plans for 1,600 new Jewish homes in another East Jerusalem neighborhood, Ramat Shlomo.
Har Homa, which lies south of the city center, is itself steeped in controversy and was the cause of a high-profile rift between Netanyahu and the U.S. administration when building began there in the late 1990s.
The Interior Ministry responded to the latest reports of settlement building by saying that the program's details were published in accordance with the law and were approved long before they were published.
During Biden's meeting with Netanyahu on Sunday, the vice president raised the subject of the diplomatic row. The vice president said that he and his old friend Bibi (Netanyahu’s nickname) had talked the matter through while sitting in Netanayhu’s home. Disagreements between Jerusalem and Washington "have only been tactical in nature," he said, adding that the ties between the two countries are "literally unbreakable."
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