Israel informed the United States in advance of its plan to build 692 housing units in Jerusalem neighborhoods located beyond the Green Line, state officials told Ynet on Sunday evening. However, a conflict in the international arena between Israel and the Palestinians, the US and the European Union may be inevitable.
Hatem Abdel Kader, who holds the Jerusalem portfolio in the Fatah movement, told Ynet that "the Americans must respond to this Israeli game."
The tender, which will be issued by the Housing and Construction Ministry on Monday, includes the construction of about 6,500 housing units in 54 communities, including the following disputed neighborhoods: 377 new apartments in Neve Yaakov, 117 housing units in Har Homa and 198 in Pisgat Ze'ev.
According to the officials, the US knew of the plan in advance, including the location of each housing unit. The sources refused to say, however, how the Americans responded to the Israeli construction plan in the three neighborhoods in the Jerusalem vicinity.
Senior state officials clarified that the timing of the tender was not random. According to the source, the Israeli government took advantage of the Christmas holiday, during which American and European government officials are on vacation.
The officials also mentioned that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had nothing to hide. "He explicitly declated, both in the cabinet and immediately afterwards to the entire world, that the decision to freeze construction in Judea and Samaria has nothing to do with Jerusalem. Israel built in Jerusalem before the freeze and will continue to build there now."
The Prime Minister's Office said in response to Ynet's appeal, "The Americans are updated on everything that is taking place in the construction field and has diplomatic consequences. Everything is being done with complete transparency."
'Contempt towards US administration'
The new plan is already being criticized by the Palestinian Authority. Hatem Abdel Kader slammed the decision to build 700 housing units in Jerusalem, saying that the Israeli government was determined to destroy the peace process.
According to Abdel Kader, the claims that the construction was aimed at easing the housing shortage were false. "There is no housing shortage in the settlements in Jerusalem, and in most settlements the apartments are empty. This is a move aimed at creating facts in the ground as part of the Israeli effort to cause the American concept of two states to collapse."
Abdel Kader also slammed the decision to issue the tender during the Christmas period. "This is a serious show of contempt towards the American administration and their efforts on the matter," he said.
"This is mainly a proof of the American weakness to curb Israel and stop the ongoing construction. This move is complete contempt, taking advantage of the vacation for such an opportunistic move, and the Americans must respond to the Israeli game.
"The Israelis have apparently decided to address us only in the security angle," Abdel Kader continued, "and therefore on the one hand they escalate their activity in the West Bank and on the other hand they continue to expand the settlements, mainly in Jerusalem, in order to shut down any possibility for a serious diplomatic process."
The Fatah official said that the world was currently settling for talks and condemnations of the settlements, but was not doing a thing, helping Israel to continue building and destroying the chance for peace.
"It's interesting that the Israelis are talking about a housing shortage and buildings hundreds of housing units, but when 10 people live in one room in the eastern part of the city and in the Old City, that is not considered a housing shortage," he accused.
According to Abdel Kader, the Palestinians received 25 building permits in Jerusalem this year, but are in need of at least 1,800.
Ali Waked contributed to this report