The Jerusalem Local Planning and Building Committee on Sunday approved the construction of hundreds of building units beyond the Green Line, or the pre-1967 borders, in Jerusalem. Some of the committee’s hearings were postponed in recent weeks for fear of pressure from the Obama administration.
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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.
It appears that the inauguration of President Donald Trump and the change in administrations in Washington is already beginning to have an effect, as the committee approved building 566 housing units in the Pisgat Ze’ev, Ramot and Ramat Shlomo neighborhoods. The committee 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.
“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.
"I hope that era is over and that from now on we will continue to build and develop Jerusalem for the good of its residents, Jews and Arabs alike, in order to strengthen the sovereignty over a united Jerusalem as capital of Israel and offer solutions to young couples. It is the right thing.”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' spokesperson, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, condemned the plans for new construction, saying it represents an obvious challenge of UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which severely criticized Israeli settlement buildup. "We call on Security Council for urgent action based on resolution 2334, to put an end to the extremist policy of the Israeli government which is destroying the two-state solution," he said.
MK Tamar Zandberg (Mertetz) responded: “The decision to build hundreds more housing units is a finger in the eye of the whole world and completely disregards the international reality, but it is particularly anti-Israeli in that it comprises a direct continuation of the strangling of the two-state solution and strengthens the policy of isolation. It appears that the ecstasy of the right following Trump’s ascendancy is causing them to lose it completely and act against the interests of the State of Israel.”
Ir Amim, a non-profit group that advocates for more equitable distribution of the city's resources to Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, said that: “The proximity of the approval of building permits in Ramot and Ramat Shlomo to the inauguration of President Trump proves that the government of Israel is busy playing cat-and-mouse games with the American administration instead of managing a responsible policy on Jerusalem."