Planning Panel to Approve 1,400 New East Jerusalem Homes

The plan includes 1,400 housing units on an area near Gilo and is expected to draw widespread international criticism.

The Jerusalem planning commission is expected to approve next week a new large-scale construction project beyond the Green Line.

The plan, called Gilo: Southern Slopes, includes the construction of 1,400 housing units on an area between the neighborhood of Gilo toward the Cremisan Monastery, and the settlement of Har Gilo. It is expected to draw widespread international criticism.

More than a year ago, the United States expressed its strong opposition to another development plan in the area, one on the western slopes of Gilo, which included the construction of 900 housing units.

Permission for the development by the planning commission drew international criticism.

Gilo construction
Emil Salman

That was the first in a series of clashes with the United States over Israeli construction in East Jerusalem, which culminated with the building project at Ramat Shlomo, approved during the visit to Israel by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

Following that crisis, the planning commission altered its decision-making guidelines in order to avoid diplomatic bungles in the future.

The planning commission, which is answerable to the municipality, is expected to approve the new development plan, which includes building 780 housing units during the first stage and 600 more at a later stage.

Public buildings to be constructed, too

In addition to the housing units, public buildings will be constructed as will commercial buildings, roads and parks.

Sources familiar with the project said that the project will expand the borders of the neighborhood toward the West Bank and not toward Israel.

"This is a more dangerous plan than its predecessors because of the mass of construction planned, and also because it is construction on the edges of Gilo and not inside the borders of the neighborhood," said Jerusalem councilman Meir Margalit, a member of Meretz.

"This is a genuine takeover and it constitutes another nail on the coffin of the peace process," he added.

In spite the dispute with the Americans, many construction projects are expected to be approved over the Green Line, and especially in southern Jerusalem.

Authorities explain that the cancellation of a number of projects over the years has left the municipality with only one option for development - eastward, beyond the Green Line.