Netanyahu’s office said blocking construction of 2,000 new homes in Har Homa

PMO reportedly rejects plans to build in Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem due to ‘diplomatic difficulties’

The East Jerusalem Jewish neighborhood of Har Homa, February 15, 2017. (Dan Balilty/AP)
The East Jerusalem Jewish neighborhood of Har Homa, February 15, 2017. (Dan Balilty/AP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office is blocking attempts to promote the construction of some 2,000 new homes in Har Homa, a Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem, the Kan public broadcaster reported Tuesday.

The Jerusalem Municipality has sought to advance the approval of the plan with the backing of Mayor Moshe Lion, the report said, but the Prime Minister’s Office has rejected it due to “diplomatic difficulties.”

The PMO did not deny the report, Kan said. An unnamed diplomatic source was quoted as saying in response: “Israel has built in Jerusalem, is building in Jerusalem and will continue building in Jerusalem — while exercising judgment.”

The Defense Ministry body responsible for authorizing settlement construction green-lighted plans for nearly 2,000 Israeli homes in the West Bank on Sunday and Monday.

A picture taken on November 19, 2019 shows a new housing construction site in the Israeli settlement of Elazar, near the Palestinian city of Bethlehem south of Jerusalem, in the West Bank. (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)

The number of homes advanced, 1,936, was significantly fewer than the 3,000-plus that Netanyahu claimed would be approved beyond the Green Line, when he spoke at a campaign event ahead of last month’s Likud leadership primary.

Only 786 homes of the number were granted final approval for construction, with the remaining 1,150 advancing only through an earlier planning stage.

The vast majority of the homes that will eventually be constructed as a result of this week’s approvals will be located in settlements deep in the West Bank, as opposed to roughly 400 that will be built within the so-called blocs that most Israelis believe will be maintained in any peace deal.

Meanwhile on Monday the High Court of Justice dismissed a petition against the legality of a central West Bank settlement’s construction master plan, in a move that residents hope will pave the way for the legalization of the entire community, which was largely built on private Palestinian land.

New prefabricated homes are seen under construction in the West Bank between the Israeli outpost of Amona and the settlement of Ofra (background), north of Ramallah, on January 31, 2017. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

The petitioners, from the Palestinian villages of Ein Yabrud and Silwad, had argued that the master plan submitted by the neighboring Ofra settlement in 2014 covering approximately one-third of its area should have been dismissed due to its inclusion of nearly a dozen acres of land that had been registered to residents of their respective towns.

Rejecting the Palestinian claims, the panel of judges ruled that the majority of the master plan — roughly 60 acres’ worth — which had been a Jordanian military base before 1967 but was subsequently expropriated by Israel, could be used by the residents of Ofra.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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