The Jerusalem Municipality's planning and construction committee approved on Monday three construction plans beyond the Green Line, including 120 housing units in the neighborhood of Ramot and four more in Pisgat Ze'ev.
Just last week the committee approved the construction of 13 housing units in east Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
The 120 apartments in Ramot, which will be built near the Palestinian village of Beit Hanina, are part of a broader plan for the construction of 180 housing units in the neighborhood. The plan was approved in 2004.
"It's not good news," Pepe Alalu of the opposition Meretz party said. "If the City of Jerusalem continues to expand neighborhoods beyond the Green Line – with or without the government's approval – it has apparently reached the conclusion that there is no way to advance the (peace) negotiations. This decision is wrong, because without negotiations it will not be possible to further develop the city."
Elisha Peleg, chairman of the Likud faction in the Jerusalem City Council, welcomed the decision. "There was never any justification to the delays in issuing of construction permits in these neighborhoods," he said.
'Obstacle to peace'
The vote came on the eve of a visit by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who has said that Israeli construction in east Jerusalem settlement harms the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Ir Amim, a group that promotes coexistence in Jerusalem, accused Israeli authorities of boosting settlement construction in the city.
The organization said that since the expiration in September of an Israeli moratorium on West Bank settlement building, Israeli authorities have been "going full speed ahead with an aggressive policy of construction in east Jerusalem."
"This policy makes Jerusalem a political battlefield, and undermines its stability," it added.
Ashton is expected to hold separate talks on Tuesday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as part of a Middle East tour.
"The EU position on settlements is clear," Ashton said in a statement in December. "They are illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace. Recent settlement-related developments, including in east Jerusalem, contradict efforts by the international community for successful (peace) negotiations."
The Municipality said the "construction policy in Jerusalem has not changed in the past 40 years. The City of Jerusalem continues to promote construction for Arabs and Jews alike. New construction is vital for the city's development and to offer young people and students the opportunity to purchase a home here."
AFP contributed to the report
- Follow Ynetnews on Facebook