x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Israel weighs major Jerusalem settlement plans

At least one project in annexed east Jerusalem is set for final planning approval this week.

JERUSALEM // Israeli planning committees are to weigh several plans for nearly 5,000 new settler homes in neighbourhoods of annexed east Jerusalem this week, with at least one major project set for final approval.

Peace Now and Terrestrial Jerusalem, NGOs that track settlement construction, said Jerusalem municipal and district committees will consider four projects this week in the Givat HaMatos and Gilo neighbourhoods.

The projects are up for discussion after Israel on Monday gave the green light for the construction of 1,500 homes in the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Ramat Shlomo, in a move which has already drawn sharp US criticism.

The other settlement plans being weighed this week are all in southern sector of the city, near Bethlehem in the West Bank.

Critics say construction in these areas would effectively sever Bethlehem from Jerusalem.

The regional planning committee was to hear objections yesterday to two projects in the unbuilt Givat HaMatos neighbourhood, Givat HaMatos B, comprising 549 units, and Givat HaMatos C, with 813 units, Terrestrial Jerusalem said.

Today, another committee is expected to give final approval to the biggest bloc of units in Givat HaMatos.

"On Wednesday, the Jerusalem municipal planning commission will give its final green light to a project for the construction of 2,610 units in Givat HaMatos, with tenders to be published in coming months," Peace Now's Hagit Ofran said.

Tomorrow, a commission will hear objections to plans to build 1,000 new units in the nearby settlement neighbourhood of Gilo near Bethlehem.

A plan for 1,100 hotel rooms in Givat HaMatos will be up for consideration on January 7, the NGOs said.

The projects are likely to spur more international criticism of Israel, which does not view construction in east Jerusalem as settlement building, and describes both halves of the city as the "eternal, undivided" capital of the Israel.

"The building of new homes in Jerusalem is based on old planning and zoning," Ofir Gendelman, a spokesman for the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, wrote on Twitter yesterday. "No country needs or asks permission to build in its own capital."

Israel captured east Jerusalem during the 1967 war and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.

The Palestinians want east Jerusalem for the capital of their future state, and slam Israeli settlement there as a violation of peace treaties and a blow to the two-state solution.