Israel continues with east Jerusalem construction despite international censures. Jerusalem's Planning and Construction Committee decided Monday to authorize the establishment of a new Jewish neighborhood in the a-Tur area as an extension of the Beit Orot yeshiva which includes several caravans.
According to the plan, four residential buildings are to be built on the site and accommodate 24 Jewish families.
The territory on which the new neighborhood will be built is situated east of the Old City on private property and for this reason construction on the spot is not subject to the government's consideration.
The Jerusalem Municipality stated, "This is a professional planning decision by the local Planning and Construction Committee and it does not determine whether the units will be inhabited by Jews or Arabs.
The person responsible for the project is Jewish-American Erwin Moskowitz, who is considered the primary funder of the Jewish settlement in east Jerusalem, mainly in the City of David.
One of the committee's members and city councilman Yair Gabai told Ynet, "Just as the American administration will not prevent a person in Washington from building in his city based on race, skin color or religion, so we are sure that the Americans will maintain similar values and endorse construction in this project. Jews will continue building all around Jerusalem."
According to Gabai, "We wish to increase the number of housing units at the site since there isn't maximal use of the land. Just as Arabs in the area file plans so do we. In yesterday's decision we were given a construction permit and a license and it is my estimate that bulldozers will set in within two to three months."
On the other end, city councilman on behalf of Meretz Meir Margalit said that the decision is an act of provocation meant to compromise efforts for the renewal of the peace process.
"This has a very significant timing, which was probably meant on the one hand to cause provocation opposite the Americans, and on the other hand to embarrass Netanyahu who is trying to advance the negotiations. This is a pill which would be very hard to swallow for Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas)," Margalit said.
He further noted that the Beit Orot expansion plan has been in motion for four years, partly through the initiative of former MK Benyamin Elon. He nevertheless estimated that the decision will only be able to be carried out after some time elapses. "It bears no immediate significance, it's more of a declaratory matter," he explained.
MK Yuli Tamir (Labor) commented on the decision and said, "The State of Israel is using doublespeak. On the one hand it says it is interested in renewing negotiations and on the other it is allowing construction in areas which clearly belong to a future Palestinian state."
Tamir added, "Clearly these acts will destabilize Palestinian trust and inflame the streets."
Last week Israel announced its intention of building 692 new housing units in east Jerusalem, a move which was harshly criticized both in the European Union and by the United States.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs noted in a statement, "The United States opposes new Israeli construction in east Jerusalem. The status of Jerusalem is a permanent status issue that must be resolved by the parties through negotiations and supported by the international community."
Sweden, who until last week acted as EU President issued a statement in which it expressed its concern over Israel's decision that defies international law.
The statement noted, "The Presidency of the European Union urges Israel to reconsider these plans as it prevents the creation of an atmosphere conducive to resuming negotiations on a two-state solution."