Israeli Approves New Settlement Building in the Heart of Silwan

Jerusalem repeatedly falls victim to eviction notices and repeated demolitions. (Photo: Via Ma’an, file)

Hours after Israel’s Jerusalem municipality cancelled plans to vote on approving construction of hundreds of new Israeli settlement units in occupied East Jerusalem, Jerusalem’s city planning commission instead approved a plan to build a three-story building for Jewish settlers in the heart of the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, Israeli media reported.

Reuters news agency reported earlier Wednesday that the municipality cancelled a vote to approve settler units to avoid further strain on diplomatic relations with the US, as US Secretary of State John Kerry was set to give a speech addressing his vision for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a new United Nations Security Council resolution that reaffirmed that Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory are illegal under international law.

In the days following its passage, reports emerged that Israel’s Local Planning and Building Committee in Jerusalem municipality was expected to approve thousands of housing units in occupied East Jerusalem for illegal settlements. However, newer reports said the coming plans would have been just for the approval of 492 building permits in Ramot and Ramat Shlomo.

Members of the Jerusalem committee told Reuters Wednesday that the cancellation of the vote came at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request out of fear the approval of the new settlements would have given Kerry “ammunition before the speech.”

However, just ahead of Kerry’s speech, a vote on the Silwan project took place, according to Israeli daily Haaretz,. The report also said that the Jerusalem municipality denied Netanyahu had called for the earlier vote on the unites in ramot and Ramat Shlomo to be put off.

The Silwan settlement project was introduced by the Israeli pro-settlement nonprofit organization Ateret Cohanim, and its approval was been postponed many times in the past due to political pressure, according to Haaretz.

The plan will permit Ateret Cohanim to construct a new building located near the site of controversial Beit Yonathan, which was sold to Ateret Cohanim by the custodian of absentee properties, without a tender.

Ateret Cohanim focuses on “Judaizing” East Jerusalem through a Jewish reclamation project working to expand illegal settlements and facilitate Jewish takeover of Palestinian properties across the Green Line into Palestinian territory.

Israeli settlement construction plans were just one aspect of the UNSC resolution’s fallout, with the Netanyahu government also calling for an end to all non-security related coordination with the Palestinian Authority, and drastically limiting diplomatic ties with UNSC members states.

(Ma’an, PC, Social Media)

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