AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
Published — Thursday 20 December 2012
Last update 19 December 2012 10:58 pm
JERUSALEM: An Israeli committee gave final approval yesterday to plans to build 2,610 new homes in Givat HaMatos, a settlement suburb of annexed east Jerusalem, an Israeli NGO told AFP.
“I just spoke with the deputy mayor and they told me the 2,610 units have been approved,” said Danny Seidemann, head of Terrestrial Jerusalem.
The plans, which got the go-ahead from the Jerusalem municipal planning committee, will see more than 2,000 new homes being built in what rights groups say will be the city’s first new settlement neighborhood in 12 years.
Until now, there has been no construction at the site, which is located on the southern flank of east Jerusalem close to Bethlehem.
Terrestrial Jerusalem had on Tuesday flagged up the meeting and said if the committee okayed the plans it would be the final stage of a long approval process with construction likely to start “within a matter of weeks or a few months.”
Lior Amihai, of the Settlement Watch project at the Peace Now group, also said the approval was final. “Officially this is the final decision. There are no more committees for it to go to... It will be published in the coming days and then there’s a 15-day period until it becomes valid and they can start issuing tenders,” he told AFP.
Building in Givat HaMatos would mark the start of the first new settlement neighborhood in east Jerusalem since the establishment of Har Homa in 1997.
That settlement, near the site of Givat HaMatos, was set up during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s first term of office.
The move has infuriated the Palestinians who said its construction would complete a ring of Jewish settlements around east Jerusalem, effectively cutting it off from the rest of the West Bank.
The Peace Now settlement watchdog has described Givat HaMatos as “a game changer” which would significantly change the possible border between Israel and a future Palestinian state.
Plans to build Givat HaMatos were first made public in January 2008 under the government of Ehud Olmert but they could not be implemented without passing through a lengthy approvals process.