Israel to build housing in eastern Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israel has solicited bids to build nearly 700 new apartments in Jewish neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem.

The plan to build in the Pisgat Ze’ev, Neve Ya’akov and Har Homa neighborhoods was announced on Monday. The communities sit on land captured by Israel from Jordan in 1967. Israel has annexed the territory, but that move has never been recognized by the international community, which considers the territory to be Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Eastern Jerusalem was not included in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s commitment to a 10-month settlement construction freeze.

"We make a distinction between the West Bank and Jerusalem. Jerusalem is our capital and remains such," government spokesman Mark Regev told reporters Monday. 

Palestinians say the building projects are a sign that Israel is not serious about peace.

The apartments were part of a tender issued for 6,500 housing units in 54 communities throughout Israel.

Obama administration officials knew about the construction plans in advance of the announcement, Ynet reported Monday, citing state officials.

The White House responded to the announcement: "The United States opposes new Israeli construction in East Jerusalem. The status of Jerusalem is a permanent status issue that must be resolved by the parties through negotiations and supported by the international community," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Atias said Monday that 500 housing units were recently authorized in the eastern Jerusalem Arab neighborhood of Silwan, Ynet reported. Only two of the 500 are for Jewish families. Atias made his remarks to counter Palestinian allegations that Israel has not allowed Arabs to build in Jerusalem.

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