The United States said it was "deeply disappointed" on Monday by Israel's announcement of a plan to build over 1,000 new Jewish homes beyond the Green Line in Jerusalem.
"We were deeply disappointed by the announcement of advance planning for new housing units in sensitive areas of East Jerusalem. It is counter-productive to our efforts to resume direct negotiations between the parties," said U.S. State Department Spokesman Philip J. Crowley.
According to Hagit Ofran, who monitors settlement activity for the organisation Peace Now, it is in fact three plans which were deposited for public review in the last few days:
- City Plan No. 10310 – “Har Homa C” – a plan to expand dramatically the East Jerusalem settlement of Har Homa with 983 new housing units.
- City Plan No. 12825 – a plan for an addition of 42 housing units in the already built part of Har Homa.
- City Plan No. 4280b – a plan to build 320 housing units in the East Jerusalem settlement of Ramot.
Ofran adds some remarks about the planning process. It works as follows: The planning authorities publish every plan for public review. The public is granted 60 days to express objections to the plan, after which the Regional Planning Committee would convene to discuss the objections and to approve the plan accordingly. After the final approval of the plan, there is another long procedure before the construction can start. In cases of big projects initiated by the Ministry of Housing, such as the case of Har Homa, there is a need for a public tender, offering potential contractors the opportunity to bid for the right to build. After winning the bid, the contractors apply for a construction permit from the municipality, a procedure that might take a few months to a year, and only then can they start to construction.
The depositing is one major step in promoting the plans, but it is going to take a few years until the bulldozers can start the construction.
So really the fact that the submission of the plans coincides with Netanyahu´s visit to the US, can only be interpreted as a provocation. What Haaretz wrote on Monday, that they might be an embarrasment to the prime minister, does not make sense. It is simply unthinkable that the planning has not been coordinated with him beforehand.
Update Haaretz writes on Tuesday that also a plan for 800 new homes in the settlement Ariel has been approved. According to Haaretz execution of this plan can start as soon as the planning and construction committee of Ariel will give its approval, which it no doubt will do.