The French Foreign Ministry on Monday condemned the approval of Israeli construction of 566 new housing units in Jerusalem beyond Israel's pre-1967 borders, in the Ramat Shlomo, Ramot and Pisgat Ze'ev neighborhoods of the city.
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- Hours before Kerry's speech, Israel pulls plans for East Jerusalem construction
"UN Security Council resolution 2334 of December 23, 2016, underscores the illegality of settlements under international law and demands an immediate and complete halt to such activity," the French Foreign Ministry statement said.
"Settlements represent a serious threat to the two-state solution, to which the international community reiterated its commitment at the international conference in Paris on January 15. The two-state solution remains the only possibility for a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians," the statement added.
Sunday's approval by the local planning and building committee in Jerusalem of the 566 housing units came two days after the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump, who is seen as more supportive of Israeli government policy. The committee also approved building permits for 105 housing units for Palestinians in East Jerusalem.
A panel hearing on the construction plans was postponed two weeks ago for fear of pressure from the Obama administration. The committee had also approved building permits for 105 housing units for Palestinians in East Jerusalem. This represented a relatively large number of building permits for structures over the Green Line in Jerusalem.
In recent years, every approval of this type brought on American condemnation and diplomatic pressures. As a result, building plans in the city have often been frozen, usually due to instructions received from the Prime Minister’s Office. In many cases the plans were removed from the agenda shortly before the hearings in order to prevent diplomatic crises with the Americans.
“We’ve gone through eight hard years of Obama, who pressed to freeze construction,” said Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. “Even though we in the Jerusalem municipality didn’t freeze construction often, the government did not grant approval and sometimes the marketing of the apartments was delayed because of American pressure.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told members of the inner security cabinet on Sunday that he has decided to lift all restrictions on Israeli construction in East Jerusalem resulting from international diplomatic pressures, two senior officials who have been briefed on what transpired at the meeting said. Netanayhu added that he also plans to advance construction in West Bank settlement blocs.
Netanyahu's decision was one of the factors that convinced ministers from the hard-right Habayit Hayehudi party to agree to defer proposed legislation that would annex the West Bank settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim, just to the east of Jerusalem.
Netanyahu told the cabinet that he support the annexation of Ma'aleh Adumim, and that it was clear that the settlement will be under Israeli sovereignty in any future peace deal with the Palestinians. However, Netanyahu added that it was important not to surprise the new U.S. administration days after Trump took office.