Ahead of Kerry speech, new East Jerusalem homes off the agenda
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Ahead of Kerry speech, new East Jerusalem homes off the agenda

City Hall discussion of housing permits is canceled, reportedly by request of prime minister, amid growing pressure in wake of UN’s anti-settlement vote

Illustrative photo of a construction site in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, December 2012 (AP/Dan Balilty)
Illustrative photo of a construction site in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, December 2012 (AP/Dan Balilty)

The Jerusalem municipality reportedly called off a Wednesday discussion on issuing permits for hundreds of new homes in East Jerusalem, a move that would have defied a UN Security Council resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement building and expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

According to Army Radio, the measure was pulled from the Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee’s agenda at the request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

There was no immediate comment from the Jerusalem city hall over the shift, which came amid mounting global pressure on Israel to halt settlement expansion and ahead of a major speech later Wednesday by US Secretary of State John Kerry on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The vote on the permits could be taken up again in the future.

“It is likely that the move came at the direction of the prime minister as attention now moves to anticipation of forthcoming remarks from US Secretary of State John Kerry outlining the current administration’s vision of steps to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the left-wing settlement watchdog group Ir Amim said in a statement.

Ir Amim has said the planning committee was to discuss permits for 618 housing units in Pisgat Zeev, Ramat Shlomo, and Ramot neighborhoods.

According to the organization, 140 units were being considered in Pisgat Zeev, 262 in Ramat Shlomo, and 216 in Ramot.

Jerusalem deputy mayor Meir Turjeman, who also heads the committee, had reportedly also spoken of seeking to advance plans for some 5,600 other units at earlier stages in the process.

On Tuesday, he told AFP there were no plans to call off discussions in response to the UN vote. The hundreds of building permits were on the agenda before the resolution was passed.

“We’ll discuss everything that’s on the table in a serious manner,” he said.

And on his Facebook page Turjeman: “I’m not concerned by the UN or anything else trying to dictate our actions in Jerusalem.

“I hope the government and new US administration will give us the momentum to continue and make up for the shortage created over the eight years of the Obama administration,” he said of settlement construction.

US Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks on the fighting in Syria on December 15, 2016 at the State Department in Washington, DC. (AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards)
US Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks on the fighting in Syria on December 15, 2016 at the State Department in Washington, DC. (AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards)

Friday’s UN Security Council resolution 2334 demanded that Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.” It passed 14-0, with the United States abstaining.

By declining to use its veto, the United States enabled the adoption of the first UN resolution since 1979 to condemn Israel over its settlement policy.

The resolution infuriated Netanyahu, who lashed out at US President Barack Obama, accusing him and his administration of colluding with the Palestinians, and vowed not to abide by it.

In response, Israel summoned ambassadors and deputy ambassadors of countries that voted for the “shameful” resolution, while Netanyahu met personally with US Ambassador Dan Shapiro.

On Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry said it was “temporarily reducing” visits and work with embassies of nations that voted for it.

And even as Israel reacted with fury, Kerry was preparing to offer a “comprehensive vision” of how to revive the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process in a speech on Wednesday.

“We haven’t given up on this and we don’t think the Israelis and Palestinians should do either,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters Tuesday.

Settlements are built on land the Palestinians view as part of their future state and seen as illegal under international law.

Some 430,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank and 200,000 Israelis live in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians see as the capital of their future state.

US President-elect Donald Trump, who takes office on January 20, has signaled far more favorable policy toward Israel and had called for the United States to veto the resolution.

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