A plan to build 200 new housing units in the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramot, beyond the 1967 Green Line, was approved on Wednesday by the Jerusalem district planning and building committee.
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The U.S. State Department said on Wednesday it was deeply concerned about the Israeli decision. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the decision impeded attempts to reach a two-state solution between the Israelis and Palestinians.
The new plan is apparently meant to address the needs of the city’s ultra-Orthodox population.
Last week the U.S. administration condemned Israel for approving construction in the adjacent neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, also beyond the Green Line. “It is unfortunate for this to move forward given not just the view of the United States, but the view of many in the international community,” said Psaki.
The new construction will take place north of Ramot and will eventually include 600 new units. Deputy Mayor Yosef Allalo, who is a member of the Jerusalem Municipal Council (Meretz) and of the district planning committee, strongly condemned advancing the plan now. “In these difficult times Prime Minister Netanyahu and Mayor Nir Barkat are trying to show who is the ‘true’ right. They know that expanding the neighborhood will hurt any chance of reaching a settlement and that the world community will not accept this new settlement.”
The Jerusalem Municipality rejected the criticism, noting that this is an initiative by a private developer, and that the council will also discuss the construction of 176 new units in Arab neighborhoods. A senior official at City Hall called objections to the plan hypocritical and based on a double standard. “The American Constitution also forbids discrimination based on religion, race or sex. In the U.S. no one would prohibit a private contractor from building just because he is Jewish or black.”