Israel Ignores US, OKs 900 New Houses On Disputed Jerusalem Land

Gilo settlement. i

New construction site at the Jewish West Bank settlement of Har Gilo, on Jerusalem's outskirts, Monday, Sept. 7, 2009. Sebastian Scheiner/AP Photo hide caption

itoggle caption Sebastian Scheiner/AP Photo
Gilo settlement.

New construction site at the Jewish West Bank settlement of Har Gilo, on Jerusalem's outskirts, Monday, Sept. 7, 2009.

Sebastian Scheiner/AP Photo

(This posting was revised since its initial posting to update with the White House's reaction.)

Obama Administration efforts to persuade Israel to stop expanding settlements aren't exactly having the desired effect. Local officials in Israel on Tuesday approved the construction of 900 housing units in a Jerusalem area that lies beyond the Green Line, essentially giving the green light to building in an area Palestinians consider theirs.

The approval came despite a last minute requests by George Mitchell, President Barack Obama's special envoy to the Middle East, that the Israeli government stop the approval of the additional housing units on the disputed land.

An excerpt from, the online presence of Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth:

American pressure against construction in east Jerusalem continues to mount, but Israel shows no signs of folding. On the backdrop of the new American demand to freeze construction in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, the regional committee for planning and construction on Tuesday approved a motion to expand Gilo and south Jerusalem and build 900 new housing units in the neighborhood.

"The fact that the United States is against this or not is not a factor," one of the committee members told Ynet. "According to what is accepted at the moment, this territory belongs to Jerusalem and to Israel, and thus the Israeli planning and construction law applies to it and the committee must discuss the plan..."

The White House issued the following response:

We are dismayed at the Jerusalem Planning Committee's decision to move forward on the approval process for the expansion of Gilo in Jerusalem. At a time when we are working to re-launch negotiations, these actions make it more difficult for our efforts to succeed. Neither party should engage in efforts or take actions that could unilaterally pre-empt, or appear to pre-empt, negotiations. The U.S. also objects to other Israeli practices in Jerusalem related to housing, including the continuing pattern of evictions and demolitions of Palestinian homes. Our position is clear: the status of Jerusalem is a permanent status issue that must be resolved through negotiations between the parties.

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... The Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported about the new dispute on Tuesday morning, following a demand made Monday evening by US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell in a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's emissaries.

Mitchell demanded an immediate stop to the construction in the neighborhood, which is located beyond the Green Line, after receiving information about the expected approval.

An official at the Prime Minister's Office told the newspaper in response that "this is a routine procedure being held at the regional committee," stressing that "the Gilo neighborhood is an integral part of united Jerusalem, and there is no difference between building there and building in Tel Aviv or Haifa."



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