The Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee cancelled a meeting on three building plans in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo.
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The meeting was scheduled to take place Wednesday, shortly before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama were scheduled to meet in New York.
The three building plans were for 68 housing units in three buildings in the outskirts of Gilo, a Jerusalem neighborhood beyond the Green Line. The area is supposed to be the site of a new large neighborhood, which had already raised the ire of the American government in the past. The three building plans appeared on the daily docket, but were removed in the last minute. The opening of the meeting was postponed, and when it eventually began, the plans discussed were those that came after the three Gilo plans. Sources in City Hall confirmed that outside pressures led to the cancelling of the discussions.
The phenomenon of removing the planning committee discussion on building plans beyond the Green Line, when these would be diplomatically un-politic, has been common in recent years. Usually this takes place when important diplomatic meetings take place or when dignitaries are visiting Israel. The government is notified in advance before diplomatically sensitive plans are discussed in committee – usually for building projects beyond the Green line.
The city of Jerusalem responded saying "There is no building freeze nor in the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee, nor will there be one. Sometimes, there are delays for non-fundamental reasons lasting several weeks, due to technical issues."
City Council Woman Laura Wharton (Meretz) responded, saying "I regret that city hall is continuing with the game of cat and mouse with the international community, and is playing tricks that eat away at international law. It is time the city and the government seriously respond to the objections against building beyond the Green Line."
Despite the meeting between Netanyahu and Obama, the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee approved a building plan in Ramot, a north Jerusalem neighborhood, which is also beyond the Green Line, on Tuesday. The plan doesn't include the construction of housing units and includes 6 dunams (roughly 7,000 sq. yards), which slightly go beyond the neighborhoods limits. The plan includes the construction of a number of public buildings including a synagogue, kindergartens and outdoor exercise facilities.
"The expansion of Jerusalem beyond the Green Line is not done for urban reasons but as a diplomatic provocation," said attorney Oshrat Maimon, the director of the department for policy development in the NGO Ir Amim.