Israel approves hundreds of settlement homes in East Jerusalem
Israel approved building permits on Jan. 22 for hundreds of homes in three East Jerusalem settlements, two days after U.S. President Donald Trump took office, expecting him to row back on the last administration’s criticism of such projects.
The housing projects, on land that the Palestinians seek as part of a future state, had been taken off the Jerusalem municipality’s agenda in December last year at the last minute at the request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in order to avoid further censure from the administration of Barack Obama.
Israel’s right-wing expects Trump’s attitude towards settlements built in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas Israel captured in a 1967 war, to be far more supportive than that of his predecessor.
Netanyahu said he would hold his first conversation with Trump since he took office, by telephone on Jan. 22. “Many matters face us, the Israeli-Palestinian issue, the situation in Syria, the Iranian threat,” he said in broadcast remarks at the start of his weekly cabinet meeting.
Jerusalem’s City Hall approved the building permits for more than 560 units in the urban settlements of Pisgat Zeev, Ramat Shlomo and Ramot, areas annexed to Jerusalem in a move unrecognized internationally.
Meir Turgeman, the chairman of the municipality’s Planning and Building committee, told Israel Radio that the permits had been held up until the end of the Obama administration.
“I was told to wait until Trump takes office because he has no problem with building in Jerusalem,” Turgeman said, adding there were hundreds more units waiting for approval.
The Palestinians denounced the move. “We strongly condemn the Israeli decision to approve the construction,” Nabil Abu Rdainah, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told Reuters.
In its final weeks, the Obama administration angered the Israeli government by withholding a traditional U.S. veto of an anti-settlement resolution at the United Nations Security Council, enabling the measure to pass.