View from Gilo toward Beit Jala and Bethlehem. In the foreground Road 60 for Jews only (the Tunnelroad) and the Wall. (Photo David King).
The Jerusalem District Planning Committee approved 1,100 new housing units in Jerusalem's contested Gilo neighborhood on Tuesday, despite past U.S. objections concerning any construction that expanded Gilo further across the Green Line.
The plan was submitted by a subsidiary to the Jewish National Fund, and must pass 60 days in which the public may oppose it before being finally approved by Jerusalem's planning authorities.
According to the proposal, 20 percent of the units in Jerusalem's southern neighborhood would be allotted for young couples, in compliance with a directive by Interior Minister Eli Yishai. The plan also includes the construction of a boardwalk, public structures, and a commercial center.
The plan was met with a chorus of Western criticism. Britain and the European Union called on Israel to reverse the decision, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said new settlement building would be "counter-productive" to the efforts to revive peace talks.The so-called Quartet of international mediators -- the United States, the European Union, Russia and the U.N. -- has called for talks to begin within a month and urged both sides not to take unilateral actions that could block peacemaking.
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said the new housing units Israel wants to build represented "1,100 'noes' to the Quartet statement" urging a resumption of negotiations.