A key Jerusalem committee has approved a plan to expand Har Homa, a Jewish neighborhood beyond the Green Line that would host the first major building project across the pre-1967 boundaries since U.S. President Joe Biden took office.
The plan for the neighborhood south of the Old City, cleared Wednesday by the city’s planning and building committee, still needs approval at the district level.
The plan, which calls for the construction of 540 housing units, is expected to be submitted to the district committee in about two weeks. Construction of more than 2,000 additional housing units is slated to begin in another neighborhood across the Green Line, Givat Hamatos northwest of Har Homa.
The construction in the two neighborhoods would cut off the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa from the West Bank. Also, left-wing groups say the two projects would block any possible division of Jerusalem between Israel and the Palestinians as part of a solution to the conflict.
During the Obama administration, Israel was forced to suspend construction in parts of Jerusalem beyond the Green Line. Biden, who was vice president at the time, played a key role in pressuring the Israeli government to prevent such building.
In 2010, a diplomatic flap erupted between Israel and the United States when the district planning committee approved plans for a new neighborhood beyond the Green Line while Biden was visiting Israel.
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The expansion approved Wednesday is considered particularly sensitive for the new administration because Har Homa is one of only two Jerusalem neighborhoods built beyond the Green Line since the signing of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians in the 1990s. Due to international pressure the plans were put on hold – until the Trump administration took over.
Just before the March 2020 election, Netanyahu held a news conference to announce that the plans for Har Homa would go ahead, along with construction bids for Givat Hamatos and a plan to build a major settlement east of Jerusalem in an area known as E1.