City hall said looking to revive huge East Jerusalem housing project
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City hall said looking to revive huge East Jerusalem housing project

Jerusalem Municipality expected to approve program for 10,000 homes in ultra-Orthodox neighborhood, frozen in the Obama years

Illustrative: A housing construction site in Jerusalem, October 27, 2013. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative: A housing construction site in Jerusalem, October 27, 2013. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Jerusalem Municipality appears set to revive plans to build 10,000 apartments for ultra-Orthodox Jews in East Jerusalem, Channel 10 News reported Tuesday.

If it goes ahead it would be one of the largest housing projects over the pre-1967 Green Line in recent years, a period when Israel faced significant international pressure to halt construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The buildings will abut Palestinian homes in a section of Atarot, which is located in the north of the capital, close to Ramallah. It formerly served Jerusalem’s airport and is now occupied by a large industrial estate.

Channel 10 said Housing Minister Yoav Galant (Yesh Atid) was in favor of the Atarot building plan and that the Jerusalem Municipality was expected to approve it in time for Jerusalem Day, which begins May 23.

The plan was frozen during the tenure of former US president Barak Obama, a harsh critic of Israel’s building policy in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

President Donald Trump, seen as more conciliatory on the subject than his predecessor, has nevertheless said that he does not consider settlements “a good thing for peace” and has asked the Israelis to “hold back” on settlement building. Israel, which annexed East Jerusalem after the 1967 war and considers it part of its undivided capital, does not regard building in the city as “settlement.”

Housing Minister Yoav Galant speaks at a signing ceremony for an agreement to build thousands of new apartments in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Ramat Beit Shemesh, outside Jerusalem, April 03, 2017. (Hadas Parush/FLASH90)
Housing Minister Yoav Galant speaks at a signing ceremony for an agreement to build thousands of new apartments in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Ramat Beit Shemesh, outside Jerusalem, April 03, 2017. (Hadas Parush/FLASH90)

Officials from the municipality and the housing ministry have been meeting to take the idea forward.

In a statement, the municipality said it had not yet decided how to use the area of the old Atarot airport and was reviewing several options.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last month that he would not “negotiate” on halting construction of new homes in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.

In March, during a visit to China, he told reporters that while he was still working to reach an understanding with the Trump administration on settlement building in the West Bank, the topic of placing restrictions on building in East Jerusalem was off the table.

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