Construction to Begin on Controversial East Jerusalem Housing Project

The plan caused a diplomatic crisis in 2010, when it was announced while U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was visiting Israel.

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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An ultra-Orthodox man walks past the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood of East Jerusalem.Credit: Emil Salman
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

The Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee on Thursday removed the last obstacle to the commencement of construction on a controversial plan to build new homes in Ramat Shlomo, a Haredi neighborhood in the eastern part of the capital.

The plan became notorious in 2010, when it was announced during a visit to Israel by United States Vice President Joe Biden, leading to a diplomatic crisis between the two countries.

Though the plan was approved in November 2013, construction was put on hold until the completion of a new traffic interchange at the entrance to the neighborhood.

On Thursday, the committee acceded to a request by the lead contractor to begin the construction of 900 homes (of the 1,600 in the plan) without completion of the interchange.

Construction is likely to begin in the near future in the wake of the committee's decision.

On Wednesday, a group of Israeli settlers took over a disputed building in the heart of the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, in East Jerusalem.

Residents of Silwan said that some 20 Jewish youths moved in around 1 A.M. while the Palestinian family residing there wasn't home.

The house, knowns as Abu Nab, is adjacent to another building, known as Beit Dvash, which is owned by settlers. Nearby is Beit Yonatan, another disputed apartment building inhabited by settlers.

According to some accounts, the residents of Abu Nab sold it and left it willingly. The settler group Ateret Cohanim has waged a lengthy legal battle over the building, which early in the 20th century was a synagogue that served the small Jewish Yemenite community that lived in Silwan.

The Jerusalem municipality said it wasn't dealing with the case since as far as it is known the building was empty and is owned by the settlers.