State Dept. slams approval of housing in eastern Jerusalem


JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Jerusalem planning committee approved the construction of nearly 200 housing units in an eastern Jerusalem neighborhood, spurring criticism from the U.S. State Department.

Asked about Wednesday’s approval of the 181 homes in Gilo, a Jerusalem suburb with a population of 40,000, a State Department spokesman condemned it as “corrosive to the cause of peace” and said it was a “steady and systemic acceleration of Israeli settlement activity.”

The housing units, which are located beyond Israel’s 1967 borders, or the Green Line, were approved initially in 2012 — among hundreds of housing units permitted in Gilo in recent years. Wednesday’s approval was to iron out the “technical details” of building permits, according to reports.

The State Department spokesman, John Kirby, said the U.S. was “deeply concerned” by the reports of the new housing and five community center infrastructure projects in Gilo.

“Our policy on settlements, as I said before, is very clear. We strongly oppose settlement activity, which we believe is corrosive to the cause of peace,” Kirby told reporters at a briefing.

“These decisions by Israeli authorities are just the latest examples of what appear to be a steady and systemic acceleration of Israeli settlement activity. These actions risk entrenching a one-state reality and raise serious questions about Israel’s ultimate commitment to a peaceful negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.”

Asked if there was any practical impact to U.S. objection to the plans, Kirby retreated, saying the administration is having “internal discussions” on the issue that he could not disclose.

“What I would just say is right now we are focused on encouraging all sides to demonstrate with policies and actions a genuine commitment to a two-state solution,” he said. “I think I’ll leave it at that.”

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