Despite International Uproar, Israeli Planning Committee Advances New Construction Plan Beyond Green Line

The newly approved plan for 1,000 housing units in Jerusalem's Gilo neighborhood is among more than 5,000 new settler homes Israel pressed ahead over the past weeks.

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Israel is advancing a plan for the construction of 942 homes beyond the Green Line in southern Jerusalem's Gilo neighborhood, called "the Gilo Slopes."

The Jerusalem planning committee on Monday approved the project after objections to the plan were discussed last Thursday. Contractors can now submit bids to build them, the Interior Ministry said Tuesday. Once a bid is awarded, construction can begin on the project, though it can take months, if not longer, to reach that point.

An additional 300 units can be built after further planning, said attorney Daniel Seidemann, an expert on Jerusalem construction who sees the building as an obstacle to peacemaking. About 40,000 Israelis live in Gilo.

At a Likud-Beiteinu campaign launch event in Jerusalem Tuesady evening, Prime Minister Netanyahu said "God willing, we will continue to live and build in Jerusalem, which will remained the undivided under Israeli sovereignty."

Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said the new Israeli announcement was a "red line" that would block the chance for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in which a Palestinian state would be established alongside Israel.

"The Palestinian Authority will take all the possible means available to respond to this," said Abu Rdeneh. The statement was posted on the official Palestinian news agency Wafa.

Hagit Ofran, who coordinates settlement tracking in Peace Now, said in response that "the Netanyahu government continues to use every minute until the elections to establish facts on the ground that will make it difficult to reach a two-state solution."

The newly-approved homes are among more than 5,000 new settler homes in East Jerusalem that Israel pressed ahead over the past week. Palestinians do not recognize Israel's 1967 annexation of the territory and say any Israeli construction there undermines their claims to it. The international community has not recognized Israel's 1967 annexation of East Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched a settlement construction push to punish the Palestinians after the United Nations recognized a de facto Palestinian state in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip last month. Israel says the Palestinians can achieve a state only through negotiations with the Israeli government, and regards the UN bid as a maneuver to sidestep talks.

The Palestinians have said they hope the upgraded status will allow them to return to the negotiating table with a stronger hand. Talks stalled four years ago, primarily over settlement construction.

The construction push in East Jerusalem has drawn international condemnation, as have plans to build thousands of more settler homes in the adjacent West Bank. Israel captured both areas and Gaza in 1967.

It withdrew settlers and soldiers from Gaza in 2005, but blocks most access to the territory and retains control over the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit to the Gilo neighborhood in Jerusalem, Oct. 23, 2012.Credit: AP