Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu issued a directive on Monday to move forward in the planning of 1,060 new housing units in neighborhoods in Yerushalayim beyond the 1967 lines.
According to the Prime Minister’s Office, 660 of the units will be constructed in Ramot Shlomo, and another 400 in Har Homa.
Infrastructure projects in Yehuda and Shomron were also given the green light, including for roads that will serve the Palestinians as well.
The U.S. predictably condemned the move, but in unusually strong terms, saying it is “incompatible” with peace, and the Obama administration is in “unequivocal” opposition to it.
“If Israel wants to live in a peaceful society, they need to take steps that will reduce tensions,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a briefing with journalists. “Moving forward with this sort of action would be incompatible with the pursuit of peace.”
“We’re engaging at the highest levels from our embassy on the ground to get more information,” she said.
But as in the past, such “announcement decisions” do not mean the arrival of bulldozers in those areas anytime soon.
Pepe Alalu, a left-wing member of the Yerushalayim municipality’s planning and housing committee, told Reuters that the proposed projects were not new. “The plans have existed for a long time,” Alalu said, adding that no building permits had been issued.
Still, the Palestinians protested. “We strongly condemn the latest Israeli announcement to expand its illegal settlements,” Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said in a statement.
Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid objected on pragmatic grounds. The projects “should not be promoted now because there is a crisis with the U.S. and the world.
“The crisis with the world should not be made worse,” he told reporters.
Netanyahu rebuffed such criticisms. “It’s a consensus, or at least I thought so,” he said, of building in all parts of the capital. “All Israeli governments have done so — it is also clear to the Palestinians that these territories will remain within Israel’s borders in any deal.”
“For some there is a never a convenient time to build homes in Yerushalayim, and if it had depended on them, we would never have built one home during the last 60 years because it was never the appropriate time,” he said.