Palestinians infuriated over "Israeli provocation" – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday spoke with Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa following Israel's plan to build 1,600 housing units in east Jerusalem.
The Ministry of the Interior claimed the timing of the decision was coincidental, however the Palestinian president asked Moussa to reassess their stance following what he called "the provocative and predetermined Israeli escalation, following the Palestinian authority's decision to renew the negotiations."
Ynet has learned that the decision to renew negotiations was not solely up to the Palestinian Authority, but was also dependant on the Arab League's monitory committee.
Palestinian Presidential Spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeina said Tuesday evening that the District Committee for Planning and Construction's decision to approve construction of 1,600 housing units in east Jerusalem's Ramat Shlomo neighborhood torpedoes negotiations.
In a special notice, Abu Rudeina said, "The decision to build 1,600 units – settlement units in occupied Jerusalem – is a dangerous decision, liable to torpedo negotiations and make US efforts (to renew talks) fail before they have even started."
The spokesman also said, "It is now clear that the government of Israel is not interested in negotiations or in peace."
He added, "The US government must respond to this provocation with concrete steps. These provocations must not be met with silence, and massive US pressure is required to compel Israel to stop this behavior that destroys the peace process."
Earlier Tuesday, Minister of Internal Affairs Eliyahu Yishai (Shas) approved the government's decision, and confirmed ministry sources who had claimed the timing of the approval was coincidental and unrelated to US Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Israel.
Yishai added that the plan "has been dragging on for more than three years, and this is one stage in a long process which will continue for some time."
The ministry confirmed that the housing units in question are located beyond the Green Line. "This means nothing to us, since the area is in Jerusalem's municipal territory," a source from the committee told Ynet.
Ramat Shlomo highlighted in green, beyond Green Line
Embarrassment at PM's office
Sources at the prime minister's Office were embarrassed by the interior minister's decision, which they were not informed about. The prime minister, who was trying to present a seemingly frank effort to promote negotiations with the Palestinians did not reprimand Yishai, however the crucial timing – with Biden's visit to the region – seemed potentially devastating, said sources close to Netanyahu.
Netanyahu, who met with Biden twice on Tuesday, was taken by surprise following the unexpected announcement. Sources in Jerusalem expressed concern over the outcome of Biden's visit.
The interior minister is not required to inform the prime minister of such decisions, which are considered procedural, and sources close to Netanyahu hope Biden will understand that it is a mere procedural matter that pertains to an existing three-year-old plan
The plan will extend the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood in a southeasterly direction, upgrade the entrance road and add an access road from the west. The plan spreads across some 580 dunams (143 acres), while the average size of each housing unit is 120 square meters (1,290 square feet).
The plan has been submitted for public comment. The public has 60 days to file an objection to the plan, which will then be discussed by the committee – a process that could take some time.
Roni Sofer contributed to this report