Gilo construction
Construction in Gilo Photo by Emil Salman
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The Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee will discuss Monday construction of 942 housing units in the Gilo neighborhood in the south of the city, beyond the Green Line. The plan has been already been approved at the district level. If it is confirmed by the local committee, the public will be invited to voice objections to it.

The plan sees the Gilo neighborhood expanding southwest, onto land currently owned by the Jewish National Fund and private individuals. In addition to the residential units, commercial and public buildings, roads and more are slated for the area. The construction is expected to be followed by further expansion of Gilo in a northwest direction, with another 850 housing units.

After the plan was confirmed by the district planning committee in November 2009, the American administration publicly criticized Israel. Then-White House spokesman Robert Gibbs declared that such an act makes it even more difficult to renew negotiations with the Palestinians.

The United Kingdom also voiced opposition to the plan.

In addition, Jerusalem councilman Yosef Pepe Alalu (Meretz ) attacked it yesterday, saying that the municipality thinks it can ignore existing agreements while the Middle East burns and Jewish neighborhoods expand beyond the Green Line. "Such expansions damage negotiations and in fact damage the future of the neighborhoods themselves," he said.

The Jerusalem municipality said in response that construction on private land is permissible under law, the city is promoting construction for Jews and Arabs alike, and the local committee will consider plans based on purely professional criteria only.

While the Prime Minister's Office had pledged to monitor the work of planning committees directly, fearing they may approve politically sensitive building plans - i.e., over the Green Line - at inopportune moments, the fact that this plan is moving on to the local level may indicate that that policy is being relaxed.

The district planning committee is supposed to discuss 1,608 housing units in neighborhoods beyond the Green Line next week.