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PM said to give final okay for 454 East Jerusalem homes

City seeks to advance 1,000 more housing units in Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, which sparked row with US in 2010

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)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyau has given final approval for the construction of nearly 436 units in Jerusalem’s Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, which is situated over the Green Line, Hebrew media reported Tuesday.

Another 18 units were reportedly authorized for the Ramot neighborhood, in northeastern Jerusalem, bringing the total number of new units approved to 454.

Meanwhile, the Jerusalem municipality is set to develop land for an additional 1,000 units in Ramat Shlomo, which in 2010 provoked a crisis in US-Israel ties when a project in that ultra-Orthodox neighborhood was announced during Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel, Army Radio reported

“We are currently developing 1,500 units in Ramat Shlomo, adjacent to [East Jerusalem’s] Shuafat,” Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Meir Turgeman, who also heads the city’s Local Planning and Building Committee, told Army Radio on Tuesday.

“So far, 500 units have been approved. I decided to take action and to turn to officials in the Construction and Housing Ministry and in the Israel Land Authority to forward the development of 1,000 more units,” he said.

Plans to build 1,500 homes in Ramat Shlomo were first announced in 2010 while Biden was visiting Israel. In May of this year, one day after Netanyahu announced the formation of a new governing coalition, the municipality approved the construction of an additional 900 housing units. The announcement provoked fierce American opposition and triggered a months-long diplomatic spat with Washington.

Two weeks ago, Army Radio reported that the planning committee had ordered a construction freeze on both Jewish and Arab building projects in the east of the city ahead of Netanyahu’s trip to Washington to meet with US President Barack Obama on November 9.

The freeze included Ramat Shlomo, according to the report, and took into account the sensitive timing, ahead of the Netanyahu-Obama meeting.

The Obama administration has had a cold relationship with Netanyahu, with continued construction for Jews over the pre-1967 Green Line — a move that the international community views as a major obstacle to peace with the Palestinians — playing its part.

Israel annexed East Jerusalem after capturing it in the 1967 Six Day War, and says it retains the right to build in any part of its capital.

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