The Jerusalem municipal committee on Wednesday approved plans for the construction of more than 3,500 housing units for Jewish Israelis in east Jerusalem, nearly half in a particularly controversial area, according to Peace Now anti-settlement monitoring group.
Peace Now said the construction of the homes would largely cut off the city from the southern part of the West Bank, further complicating any efforts to create a functioning Palestinian state. The United States has repeatedly urged Israel to refrain from such construction projects.
The projects will be considered by a district committee on Jan. 17. It would likely be years before any construction takes place, or if the government adds its approval, but Peace Now says once the approval process is underway, it becomes increasingly difficult to stop.
One plan would build 1,465 housing units between Givat Hamatos and Har Homa, two especially controversial neighborhoods, further cutting off East Jerusalem from the Palestinian city of Bethlehem and the southern West Bank. Another 2,092 homes would be built elsewhere in East Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem municipality says it is committed to building in all parts of the city for the benefit of Jewish and Arab residents. But discriminatory policies had made it nearly impossible for Palestinians to legally build new homes or expand their neighborhoods.
Authorities are advancing "far-reaching plans that post facts on the ground that undermine the possibility of peace," Peace Now said in a statement.
Israel's current government, which includes parties from across the political spectrum, has ruled out any major initiatives to resolve the decades-old conflict but has taken limited steps to improve living conditions in the Palestinian territories.
A similar plan to build some 9,000 housing units on the site of an abandoned airport in east Jerusalem was placed on hold late last year.