Hours Before Kerry's Speech, Israel Pulls Plans for East Jerusalem Construction

Official quoted as saying Netanyahu requested delay in vote – which pertains to both Jewish and Palestinian homes – due to fears of further straining U.S. ties.

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before their meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, November 24, 2015.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before their meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, November 24, 2015.Credit: Reuters

Jerusalem canceled Wednesday a planned vote on hundreds of new construction projects beyond the Green Line for both Jews and Palestinians, hours before U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was expected to give a key speech on America's vision for the two-state solution.

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The plan, which was pulled from the Jerusalem Planning and Housing Committee's agenda, would have seen new permits issued for the Ramat Shlomo and Pisgat Ze'ev neighborhoods. In addition, talks on issuing building permits for Palestinian neighborhoods were also canceled.

Construction in in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Ze'ev, December 25, 2016.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

The municipality denied that the Prime Minister's Office directed it to call off construction plans, but in the past couple of years such politically sensitive plans were taken off the city's agenda following the prime minister's instructions.

Moreover, Hanan Rubin, a member of the committee, told Reuters the request to put off the vote came from Netanyahu.

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Haaretz has learned that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov rejected Kerry’s proposal that the Quartet – the United States, Russia, the UN and the European Union – adopt the principles he will present in his speech.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told Israel's Army Radio that if Kerry lays out principles for a peace deal, as he is expected to do in his speech, it will limit President-elect Donald Trump's ability to set his own policy.

Erdan blasted the Obama administration as "pro-Palestinian," saying officials "don't understand what's happening in the Middle East." He said the Obama administration's refusal to veto a the UN Security Council resolution, which calls settlements a flagrant violation of international law, "threatens the security of Israel."

Meanwhile, Oded Revivi, the foreign envoy of Israel's Yesha settlers council, called Kerry "a stain on American foreign policy" saying he was "ignorant of the issues."

Kerry's speech will take place 6 P.M. Wednesday afternoon, Israel time.

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Kerry planned to make an address last Thursday, when the UN Security Council resolution against the settlements went up for a vote for the first time. After Egypt, the sponsor of the original motion, backed down, Kerry's speech was canceled.

Although it is still unclear what Kerry's remarks will include, Israeli officials expect the secretary of state to present the American stance on each of the four core issues of the conflict: borders, Jerusalem, security and refugees.

Kerry's speech will take place against the backdrop of a serious crisis between the Israeli government and the Obama administration following the UN resolution against the settlements that past Friday, which the U.S. refused to veto.

Netanyahu fears Kerry's remarks will be used as basis for international imitative on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Paris peace summit, taking place on January 15, or even in another Security Council resolution that will be put for a vote before Obama leaves office on January 20.

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