JERUSALEM (JTA) — The White House expressed dismay over the approval of the construction of 900 housing units in an eastern Jerusalem neighborhood.
The Jerusalem muncipal planning committee approved the plan for four- to five-bedroom apartments abutting Gilo on Tuesday, just hours after an Israeli newspaper published an article reporting that the Obama administration objected to the community’s expansion.
"We are dismayed at the Jerusalem Planning Committee’s decision to move forward on the approval process for the expansion of Gilo in Jerusalem," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Tuesday afternoon. "At a time when we are working to re-launch negotiations, these actions make it more difficult for our efforts to succeed. Neither party should engage in efforts or take actions that could unilaterally pre-empt, or appear to pre-empt, negotiations.
"The U.S. also objects to other Israeli practices in Jerusalem related to housing, including the continuing pattern of evictions and demolitions of Palestinian homes. Our position is clear: the status of Jerusalem is a permanent status issue that must be resolved through negotiations between the parties."
Gilo, which is located over the Green Line, has a population of more than 40,000. The new development, called "Gilo’s western slopes," is designed to attract more well-off residents, Ha’aretz reported.
On Monday, special U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell, in a meeting in London with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s aide Yitzhak Molcho, asked Israel to stop building in Gilo, according to Yediot Achronot. The newspaper said Molcho rejected the request.
"This is related to a routine procedure of the regional planning committee to approve construction in the Gilo neighborhood of Jerusalem," officials in Netanyahu’s office reportedly told Yediot. "The Gilo neighborhood is an integral part of Jerusalem, in the same way that the Ramat Eshkol, Rehavia, French Hill, and Pisgat Zeev neighborhoods are part of the united city, and there is no difference between construction in these neighborhoods of Jerusalem and construction in Tel Aviv or Haifa."