JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the finalizing of a plan to build nearly 800 apartments in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo.
"We place no limits on construction in our capital city," Netanyahu said Sunday at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting. "Just as they build in London, Paris, Washington and Moscow, we will continue to build in Jerusalem." Gilo is in the southeastern part of the city.
Netanyahu’s response came after an exchange between the European Union policy chief Catherine Ashton and Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
"Settlements are illegal under international law and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible," said a statement issued over the weekend by Ashton’s office. "The EU has repeatedly urged the government of Israel to immediately end all settlement activities in the West Bank, including in east Jerusalem, in line with its obligations under the ‘road map.’ ”
Lieberman responded with a statement saying that Israel would not negotiate the status of Jerusalem.
"Jerusalem is not a settlement. Gilo is a Jewish neighborhood," he said. "Today there are 32,000 to 33,000 Jews living there. It’s an integral part of Jerusalem."
Israel’s Interior Ministry on Oct. 18 announced its final approval for plans to build 797 new apartments in Gilo, located in the southern part of eastern Jerusalem. The initial approval for the project came in June.
The Jerusalem Municipality must still issue building permits for the project.