Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved Monday the immediate marketing of land for the construction of 436 housing units in the Jerusalem settlement of Ramat Shlomo and 18 new housing units in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramot, which is also beyond the Green Line.
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Construction of these housing units had long been frozen by the prime minister, out of fear of international backlash.
The Jerusalem Municipality's Planning and Building Committee had planned to discuss the construction of 88 housing units in Ramat Shlomo two weeks ago, but the meeting was postponed due to orders from the prime minister's office, according to a senior city official. The prime minister, the source explained, hoped to avoid a diplomatic embarrassment during his trip to Washington, where he met with U.S. President Barack Obama last week.
The U.S. administration is particularly sensitive to the construction plans in the neighborhood, as they were first announced during U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Israel in 2010, and led to a diplomatic crisis.
MK Omer Bar-Lev (Zionist Union) said in response to Netanyahu's decision that the prime minister is "acting like a child who waits for his parents go to bed to sneak out and watch television. As usual, he is cynically taking advantage of the situation to pass his provocative and defiant decision under the radar. Why thaw the construction in Ramat Shlomo now? Because all the world powers are preoccupied with the murderous attack in France and won't be paying attention to denounce the move?"
In May of this year, less than 24 hours after the new Israeli government was formed, the United States objected to the controversial plan to build new Jewish homes in East Jerusalem.
U.S. State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke told reporters the administration was “disappointed” and “concerned” over government approval of the construction plans for Ramat Shlomo in East Jerusalem.
“This is a disappointing development as the new Israeli government has been announced – and we are concerned about it. We need to see commitment for the two-state solution in the actions of the new government,” he said. “Building in East Jerusalem is damaging and inconsistent with the commitment to the two-state solution.”
The criticism came in response to the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee’s decision to go ahead with the construction.
The plan gained recognition 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.