Jerusalem council drops construction, apparently due to U.S. crisis
Likud whip to Netanyahu: Don't change East Jerusalem policy; Livni: Netanyahu leading to political landslide.
The Jerusalem District Planning and Building committee has canceled two meetings planned for this week, apparently out of concern that any more decisions on construction might result in further tensions with the United States.
As reported in Haaretz last week, the committee had already pulled from its agenda discussion of all Israeli construction over the Green Line.
The Interior Ministry has said that the meetings were canceled due to technical reasons, as the director of the committee Ruth Yosef had been invited to overlapping Knesset sessions.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai denied last week having ordered the committee to change its agenda following the recent crisis with the U.S. ? but committee members nevertheless have received a new schedule, on which all meetings pertaining to controversial construction areas were erased.
Yishai last week gave the city approval of a plan to build 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem, a decision which led to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's most serious crisis with Washington since taking office a year ago.
Members of the building and planning committee were instructed last week not to hold any more discussions or approve any more announcements regarding construction in East Jerusalem.
Sources close to the matter have said that the meetings in question were to have dealt with minor construction plans.
Likud faction whip Ze'ev Elkin earlier Sunday urged Netanyahu not to deviate from his policy on East Jerusalem construction, saying Israel must keep the capital undivided and under its sovereignty.
Netanyahu had not included East Jerusalem in his declaration of a 10-month construction freeze, but Israel's recent approval of 1,600 new housing units during U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's visit has raised tensions between the two allies.
The timing of the disclosure deeply embarrassed Biden, whose visit coincided with Palestinian agreement to restart peace talks suspended since December 2008 in the form of indirect, U.S.-mediated negotiations with Israel.
Opposition leader and Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni on Sunday cast her own criticism of Netanyahu regarding the recent row, saying his weakness to his coalition partners was costing the government its stability.
"The coalition agreement is not a substitute for a set path and a vision," Livni said, adding that "we have a prime minister who does not know what he wants and this weakness is leading to a political landslide."
"Israel is paying the price for the fact that her government is not making decisions and it will continue to pay for it," Livni added.
"It is not God's decree for the world to be against us," said the opposition leader. "We can change the reality, but for this we need a prime minister who has a clear policy and strategic path, who doesn't place national security in the hands of [Interior Minister] Eli Yishai."