Wed, 23 Jun 2021

JERUSALEM, Israel - Emboldened by U.S. President Trump's pro-Israel stance, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is said to be pushing forward with plans to build housing units in East Jerusalem.

Israel is expected to approve the series of plans to build thousands of new settler units in the occupied East Jerusalem this month.

According to a report in Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the plans are to be discussed at the Jerusalem District Planning Commission in a couple of weeks.

The report said that during the administration of the former U.S. president, Barack Obama, such diplomatically-sensitive plans were repeatedly delayed by orders from above or removed from the planning committees' agenda with no explanation. 

However, since Trump's inauguration this January and his May visit to the occupied territories - right-wing politicians began to declare that the freeze on construction in East Jerusalem al-Quds was over as the new U.S. administration has been far more muted in its criticism of settlements than its predecessor.

So far, the U.S. president has only issued a weakly worded request to the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to limit settlement activity, when Netanyahu met Trump in Washington earlier this year.

Over the next two weeks, the commission will be presented with four plans for construction in the Palestinian Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, which will reportedly lead to the eviction of Palestinian families living there.

The plans that are up for consideration comprise nearly 2,000 units in large settlements, including proposals for Jewish buildings, such as an eight-storey yeshiva, in Sheikh Jarrah, which Palestinians regard as being at the very heart of East Jerusalem.

However, an Israeli anti-settlement group, Peace Now, that monitors settlement activity in the West Bank has slammed the plans.

Lior Amihai, head of the settlement oversight team at Peace Now said in a statement, "The construction of two settlements in the heart of a Palestinian neighborhood in Jerusalem, alongside the advancing of plans for nearly 2,000 homes across the Green Line, are more proof of the blatant efforts by the government to destroy any chance of a diplomatic solution. Especially grave is the fact that establishing the settlements in the heart of Sheikh Jarrah will cause the removal of five Palestinian families that lived in their homes for decades as protected tenants. There's no limit to the cynicism and shame."

The reports came amid diplomatic efforts to revive the stalled talks between Israelis and Palestinians after the last round of the peace negotiations between the two sides collapsed in April 2014. 

Tel Aviv's settlement activities were considered to be among major reasons behind the failure of the talks.

Israeli settlements are considered illegal under international law as they are built on occupied territory.

According to Israeli statistics, the period between April 2016 and March 2017 saw a 70.4 percent increase in settlement housing construction in the occupied West Bank.

If the plans are approved, they would mark an end to the relative slowdown in Israeli construction in the eastern parts of the city.

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