Residential construction in East Jerusalem halted

Published November 2nd, 2015 - 12:03 GMT

The Jerusalem Municipality has suspended all building activity in the eastern portion of the capital, which will impact the controversial residential construction plan in Ramat Shlomo, Army Radio reported Monday morning.

According to the report, the construction freeze order, which will be submitted this week to the municipality’s Local Committee on Planning and Building, applies unilaterally to Palestinian and Jewish homes.

The announcement comes as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu travels to the US to repair badly frayed diplomatic ties, and against the backdrop of a city-wide terror wave.

The committee was scheduled to convene on Wednesday to approve dozens of housing units in the primarily ultra-Orthodox Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, Army Radio reported.

In May, the United States and Peace Now roundly condemned the approval of 900 new homes there, which came shortly after Netanyahu finalized his new and narrowly formed right-wing coalition.

The initial announcement of funding for the development beyond the 1949 Armistice (Green) Line, by the Municipality’s Finance Committee during US Vice President Joe Biden’s 2010 visit to Israel, led to a major diplomatic row with Washington.

The plan was also condemned by governments and organizations around the world as a destabilizing factor for peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. To ease tensions at the time, Netanyahu told Washington that construction in Ramat Shlomo would not begin for at least two years.

When the Interior Ministry’s Jerusalem District Planning and Construction Committee ratified the plan in June 2012, city councilman Yair Gabai, a member of the panel, praised the development as “the first in a series of essential developments that will add to the prosperity of Jerusalem, help curb emigration from the capital, and strengthen Israeli sovereignty in all parts of the city.”

At the same time, Hassan Abu Libda, the Palestinian Authority’s minister of national economy, denounced the move, calling it a “resumption of settlement activity.”

When the NIS 62.4 million infrastructure budget for the neighborhood was approved in 2013, Jerusalem Deputy Mayor and Finance Committee head David Hadari lauded the funding, deeming it “Jerusalem’s vaccination shot against those who think about dividing it somehow.”

In a statement at the time, the Jerusalem Municipality noted there has been no changes in its construction policy over the past four decades, adding that it would continue to “build in all of the city’s neighborhoods according to statutory plans” for both Jews and Arabs.

“In the coming years, tens of thousands of housing units will be built all over the city for all sectors,” the statement said. “New construction in Jerusalem is necessary for the development of the city, and in order to give young people and students the opportunity to live and buy houses in the capital.”

Meanwhile, Army Radio said that Netanyahu did not order the edict, reporting that he claimed it was the municipality’s decision.

By Daniel K. Eisenbud

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