Dozens of new homes said set to be approved in East Jerusalem
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Day after US-Israel aid package signed

Dozens of new homes said set to be approved in East Jerusalem

Construction in Gilo bound to infuriate the Americans, Channel 2 says, adding that numerous other building plans also to be ‘taken out of the freezer’

Homes in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo on December 17, 2015. (Lior Mizrahi/Flash90)
Homes in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo on December 17, 2015. (Lior Mizrahi/Flash90)

The Jerusalem city council will next week reportedly approve plans for the construction of dozens of homes in Gilo, a Jewish neighborhood that sits over the Green Line on land captured in the 1967 war.

The new construction, on territory regarded by Israel as part of its capital city but widely seen internationally as disputed land, is to be green-lighted by the city’s planning committee after years of delay, Israel’s Channel 2 said.

It added that the move would likely infuriate the US administration, which considers building in such areas to constitute settlement expansion.

The TV report, which was not confirmed by the municipality, also quoted an unnamed senior source in the municipality claiming that numerous other plans for building in East Jerusalem neighborhoods were now being “taken out of the freezer” and would be approved in the next few months, as the Obama administration nears the end of its term. Projects “big and small” will be approved, the source was quoted as saying, and “never mind the political pressure.”

The Gilo construction consists of three buildings containing “dozens of apartments,” the TV report said. It said the construction contract has been awarded to a company that builds homes for ultra-Orthodox Jews.

The signing of the US-Israel military aid deal in the State Department on September 14, 2016 (Israeli Embassy, Washington)
The signing of the US-Israel military aid deal in the State Department on September 14, 2016 (Israeli Embassy, Washington)

The Obama administration routinely and bitterly criticizes the Netanyahu government for building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, since it considers such construction to undermine efforts for a negotiated Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

Hailing the new US-Israel military aid package on Wednesday, President Barack Obama said the unprecedented $38-billion, 10-year agreement would help Israel to defend itself, but stressed that “the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine.”

US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro talks to Channel 10 television on January 29, 2016. (screen capture: Channel 10)
US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro. (screen capture: Channel 10)

Dan Shapiro, the US Ambassador to Israel, told Channel 2 Thursday night that Obama will “do everything he can” in his final months in power to ensure that the two-state solution remains viable.

Shapiro also said there was “no decision” yet on whether Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would meet in the coming weeks. Netanyahu flies to the UN General Assembly next week.

Last week, Washington fumed publicly at comments made by Netanyahu in a video in which he accused the Palestinians of advocating ethnic cleansing of the Jewish population in the West Bank.

US State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau told reporters last Friday that, the administration is “engaging in direct conversations with the Israeli government” about the video.

“We obviously strongly disagree with the characterization that those who oppose settlement activity or view it as an obstacle to peace are somehow calling for ethnic cleansing of Jews from the West Bank. We believe that using that type of terminology is inappropriate and unhelpful,” Trudeau said.

She said Israel expansion of settlements raises “real questions about Israel’s long-term intentions in the West Bank.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a clip posted on Facebook on Friday, September 9 2016 (Screen capture Facebook)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a clip posted on Facebook on Friday, September 9 2016 (Screen capture Facebook)

Netanyahu on Friday decried what he said was the world’s silence on the issue.

Speaking in English in a video message posted on his Facebook page, Netanyahu asked whether people in other parts of the world would accept such demands in their own countries.

It’s “outrageous that the world doesn’t find it outrageous,” Netanyahu said, urging viewers to ask themselves whether they would accept “a territory without Jews, without Hispanics, without blacks” in their nation.

“Since when is bigotry a foundation for peace?” he asked.

I'm sure many of you have heard the claim that Jewish communities in Judea Samaria, the West Bank, are an obstacle to peace.I've always been perplexed by this notion.Because no one would seriously claim that the nearly two million Arabs living inside Israel – that they're an obstacle to peace. That's because they aren't. On the contrary.Israel's diversity shows its openness and readiness for peace. Yet the Palestinian leadership actually demands a Palestinian state with one pre-condition: No Jews.There's a phrase for that: It's called ethnic cleansing.And this demand is outrageous.It's even more outrageous that the world doesn't find this outrageous. Some otherwise enlightened countries even promote this outrage.Ask yourself this: Would you accept ethnic cleansing in your state? A territory without Jews, without Hispanics, without blacks?Since when is bigotry a foundation for peace?At this moment, Jewish schoolchildren in Judea Samaria are playing in sandboxes with their friends.Does their presence make peace impossible?I don’t think so.I think what makes peace impossible is intolerance of others. Societies that respect all people are the ones that pursue peace. Societies that demand ethnic cleansing don't pursue peace.I envision a Middle East where young Arabs and young Jews learn together, work together, live together side by side in peace.Our region needs more tolerance, not less.So the next time you hear someone say Jews can't live somewhere, let alone in their ancestral homeland, take a moment to think of the implications.Ethnic cleansing for peace is absurd.It's about time somebody said it.I just did.

Posted by ‎Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו‎ on Friday, 9 September 2016

“At this moment, Jewish schoolchildren in Judea [and] Samaria are playing in sandboxes with their friends,” he said, referring to the West Bank by its biblical Hebrew name. “Does their presence make peace impossible? I don’t think so.”

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