The Israeli-run municipality of Jerusalem Monday approved a controversial project to create a Jewish neighborhood in Abu Dis, an Arab village on the outskirts of Jerusalem, in a move Palestinians called "destructive" for peace.
The city, run by right-wing mayor Ehud Olmert, gave approval for the extreme right group Ateret Cohanim to build 200 housing units on land it owns in Abu Dis, which Israel has promised to hand over to full Palestinian control.
Palestinians immediately slammed the decision as another Israeli step to weaken the peace process between them.
"This is absolutely destructive to the peace process. The decision to transfer Abu Dis was put on hold and the decision to build a settlement is going to go on. That is the irony," senior Palestinian negotiator Saab Erakat told AFP.
The land in question is on a small part of Abu Dis that falls inside Jerusalem's municipal boundaries covering east Jerusalem, which Israel captured and annexed in 1967.
Most of the village is in so-called area B of the West Bank, where the Palestinians have civilian authority but the Israel retains security control.
Israel decided last week to transfer the village to full Palestinian control, but held up the handover because of the violent clashes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip over the past week.
Anti-settlement group Peace Now staged a protest outside the municipality during its meeting, denouncing the plans as illegal.
"It seems that the only thing that is going rapidly, significantly and uninterruptedly are the settlement activities and the confiscation of (Palestinian) land," Erakat said.
Abu Dis has been mooted by Israel as the possible capital of a future Palestinian state.
The Jewish neighborhood would be erected a hundred meters from a building, which the Palestinians might use as their future parliament.
Israel claims east Jerusalem as part of its eternal unified capital, a position not recognized by the international community, while the Palestinians want the sector as a future capital for their state – OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (AFP)
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