Under a precedent established by prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, the prime minister is authorized to freeze construction for Jews in East Jerusalem. Following pressure from then U.S. president Bill Clinton, Rabin agreed to halt the expropriation of hundreds of dunams of land meant to expand the Jewish presence in East Jerusalem.

In April 1995, the government had authorized the expropriation of 530 dunams over the Green Line, most of it owned by Palestinians. The land was located northeast of the neighborhood of Ramot, near Beit Hanina, and in the neighborhood of Sarfat, west of the Beit Safafa. According to the plan, 800 to 900 apartments were to be built there.

The cabinet decision followed an acrimonious debate, with Meretz party ministers strongly opposed. Both the Palestinians and the Arab states responsed angrily. The Clinton administration also voiced opposition to the decision, saying it undermined peace efforts.

At Rabin's suggestion, however, the cabinet decision also included a promise that the government would not expropriate any more land in East Jerusalem for housing.

Daniel Seidemann, founder of the Ir Amim organization, said Thursday that because of the U.S. reaction, the expropriation of additional land for housing was in fact halted.