More controversial construction on track for Jerusalem, official sayshttp://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/
Jerusalem (CNN) -- Israeli officials could approve plans for building more than a thousand houses in a disputed neighborhood of Jerusalem, a city councilman said Sunday.
The Jerusalem municipality's planning commission is set to consider the construction of 1,400 more housing units near the neighborhood of Gilo, a large Jewish community on the southern outskirts of the city.
Meir Margalit, a Jerusalem city councilman from the left-wing Meretz party, said plans to build the units will be presented to the planning commission January 24.
"Even though it will take years before the construction begins, this action is beyond the last nail in the coffin of the peace process," he said. "After the peace process has already been killed they are firing a few more bullets into it, to make sure it's dead."
The spokesman's office for the Jerusalem municipality said Sunday that the planning commission is obligated by law to discuss any plan presented to it.
"When the plans reach the commission, they will be reviewed to see if they meet the professional criteria for city plans," the office said.
"There has been no change in the planning policy in Jerusalem in the last 40 years. The Jerusalem municipality continues to advance construction for both Arabs and Jews according to the city plans," the office said. "New construction in Jerusalem is necessary for the development of the city."
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told CNN, "We condemn this Israeli decision in all possible terms. It is time for the United States administration to hold Israel responsible for the failure of the peace process. In view of that, we seek to the United Nations Security council this week a resolution declaring all Israeli settlements illegal."
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs considers Gilo an Israeli settlement built on Palestinian land.
Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future Palestinian state. Israel, which annexed the eastern part of Jerusalem in 1967, considers the entire city to be its sovereign capital, a claim not recognized by the international community.
The Obama administration and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been at constant odds over plans for construction in disputed areas of Jerusalem.
In November 2008, the United States strongly opposed a plan to build 900 housing units in Gilo. And a plan to build 1,600 houses in Ramat Shlomo, announced during U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's visit to the area last March, caused a major rift between Israel and the United States.
Settlement construction remains a divisive issue in Israel.
American-sponsored talks between Israelis and Palestinians fell apart in September when Israel resumed settlement construction in the occupied West Bank after a 10-month freeze.
Erakat told CNN that was the reason Palestinians would not return to the negotiating table.
"The Israeli government had the choice between settlements and peace and they chose settlements," he said last month.