US condemns East Jerusalem building plan, Palestinians to petition UN

PA to ask Security Council for action on proposal to put 1,500 homes in Ramat Shlomo

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Children playing in Ramat Shlomo in 2010. (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
Children playing in Ramat Shlomo in 2010. (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

The United States on Monday condemned Israeli plans to build homes in East Jerusalem, and the Palestinian Authority threatened to appeal to the United Nations Security Council over the move.

The Interior Ministry approved on Monday the construction of 1,500 new apartment units in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo.

American State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland criticized the move and called on Israel to refrain from unilateral actions. She added that the administration’s position regarding settlement building has not changed.

Two weeks ago, department deputy spokesperson Mark Toner said that the US “opposes all unilateral actions, including West Bank settlement activity and housing construction in East Jerusalem, as they complicate efforts to resume direct, bilateral negotiations, and risk prejudging the outcome of those negotiations.”

PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s spokesperson told AFP that the Palestinian government intends to turn to the Security Council for redress over the Israeli expansion plans.

The Palestinian leadership was prepared to take “important and necessary measures against Israel’s settlement building, including recourse to the UN Security Council, to prevent implementation of these decisions,” Nabil Abu Rudeineh commented to AFP.

An official Palestinian Authority statement added that the move constituted a “stark challenge to the entire international community,” and one that belittled the Palestinians and the Arab nation. Abu Rudeineh further stated that Israel’s settlement construction would further isolate it in the wake of the November 29 General Assembly vote in favor of recognizing a Palestinian nonmember observer state.

The religious nationalist Jewish Home party praised the government’s approval of the expansion plan, adding that it would do its best to ensure that construction goes forward as planned after the elections.

Centrist and left-wing parties were far less enthusiastic about the Netanyahu administration’s move, saying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was trying to sideline right-wing rival Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home party.

Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party condemned the move as a “frantic and irresponsible policy” that undermines Israel’s international standing and delicate relations with the US.

Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-on reacted saying that “the prime minister is determined to fight any voice in favor of the Jewish Home, even at the cost of a crisis with the whole world and igniting a third intifada.”

Dov Hanin of the Hadash party panned the government’s decision, arguing that it needed to focus on the existing lack of housing in Israel proper and not over the 1967 Green Line.

“The Netanyahu-Liberman administration doesn’t miss a single opportunity to provoke the Palestinians and the world,” he said.

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