Israel okays controversial expansion in Jerusalem
* From: AFP
* June 20, 2011 1:47AM
JERUSALEM'S municipal council has approved the expansion of 2,000
homes in the settlement district of Ramat Shlomo, allowing each
home to add a room, the interior ministry says.
"Jerusalem's planning and urbanisation committee on Sunday
authorised the enlargement of 2,000 homes in the neighbourhood of
Ramat Shlomo," it said in a statement.
"An additional room will be built in each of these 2,000 homes in
response to the needs of the numerous families suffering from
housing problems in this area," it added.
The Ramat Shlomo neighbourhood lies in an area of Arab east
Jerusalem, which Israel captured during the 1967 Six Day War and
later annexed in a move not recognised by the international
Israel considers Jerusalem to be its undivided capital, but the
Palestinians, with the support of much of the international
community, want to make east Jerusalem the capital of their future
Israel's construction or expansion of homes in the area has drawn
criticism from European capitals and Washington in the past, and
settlement building in Ramat Shlomo led to a crisis in relations
with the United States last year.
In March 2010, Israel announced approval for the construction of
1,600 homes in the settlement neighbourhood just as US Vice
President Joe Biden visited the Jewish state for meetings with
The announcement angered Biden, and prompted Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to offer an apology for the
That announcement came as US officials laid the groundwork for the
resumption of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians,
the first in nearly two years.
The talks were launched later that year in Washington, but ground
to a halt shortly after they started when Israel declined to renew
a moratorium that froze settlement construction in the West Bank,
though not in Jerusalem.
The Palestinians have refused to hold talks while Israel builds on
land they want for their future state, and negotiations have
remained on hold since late September 2010 because of the issue.