The Israeli government is continuing with a controversial plan to build a Jewish quarter in East Jerusalem. Construction companies will be able to report in the coming weeks with a proposal for the construction of more than 1200 homes. The planned district will be located in Givat Hamatos, an area in the southeast of the city.
Plans for the construction of the district have been in existence for years, but have been cancelled by previous governments under international pressure. For example, the European Union repeatedly called on Israel to abandon the project. The United Nations Middle East Envoy also spoke against it this year.
The international community fears that East Jerusalem, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians live, will be further closed off from the occupied West Bank by the construction of the district. A Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital would thus become even further out of sight.
The Dutch ambassador to Israel is also concerned about the building plans on Twitter:
Slap to Peace Dance
the Palestinian side, a conviction was not long in coming. “This is a continuation of Israeli government policy to prevent the two-state solution,” said a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The Israeli Peace Now action group calls the plans a big blow to the prospects of peace.
But the deputy mayor of Jerusalem, Arieh King, praises the decision on the news site Times of Israel. He expects that the housing costs in the city will decrease as a result of the construction of the new homes and expresses the hope that these are the first signs of further construction plans in the east of the city.
Parliamentarian Miki Zohar, Prime Minister Netanyahus party associate, speaks of an indispensable opportunity to strengthen our grip on Israel. Moreover, the houses are not intended exclusively for Jewish families, but a small number is also intended for Palestinians.
Just within Trumps term
The timing of the decision does not seem accidental, a few months before the entry into office of a new US administration. Under President Trump, Israel has been given considerable scope to expand the settlements in occupied Palestinian territory. Under international law, these Israeli villages and towns are illegal, but the Trump government does not see it that way.
Under incoming President Joe Biden, that American position is likely to change. The Democrat is known as an opponent of Israeli settlement policy. The construction of the district could therefore put the ties with the new US government to the test. The tender will close in the days surrounding Bidens scheduled entry into office on 20 January.
Pompeo to Israel
Before the time comes, the US Secretary of State will come to visit this week. Mike Pompeo is expected to visit an Israeli settlement on the West Bank, something his predecessors have always avoided.
Israel conquered the West Bank, like the Gaza Strip, in 1967 during a war with its Arab neighbours. Since then, more than 600,000 Jewish settlers settled in the area, including in East Jerusalem. Israel fights that the settlements in which they live are illegal, and considers the entire city of Jerusalem to be its eternal and undivided capital.