Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel would not share Jerusalem with the Palestinians as part of a final peace deal.
E. Jerusalem housing again an issue
New plans OK’d on eve of meeting
JERUSALEM — Jerusalem officials gave preliminary approval yesterday for the building of 942 new apartments in a Jewish development in the city’s contested eastern sector, threatening to create new friction ahead of the Israeli president’s White House visit.
Although it would take years before construction starts, the project in the neighborhood of Gilo will probably infuriate the Palestinians at an especially delicate diplomatic moment.
President Shimon Peres is scheduled to meet today with President Obama to explore ways to jump-start stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.
Palestinians have refused to negotiate as long as Israel builds housing for Jews in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, occupied territory that the Palestinians claim for their future state.
Israel says the Palestinians should not impose conditions for talks, and stresses that construction has continued in those areas during previous rounds of negotiations.
Obama, the Palestinians, and the rest of the international community consider Israeli construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to be illegal settlements.
Israel says the status of East Jerusalem is different because it has annexed the area, has made it part of its capital, and has offered its Palestinian residents citizenship. But the annexation has never been internationally recognized.
Just over a year ago, another building project in East Jerusalem — announced during a visit to Israel by Vice President Joe Biden — caused a major diplomatic rift with Washington that took months to mend.
The Jerusalem municipality said the approval process for the Gilo project went ahead in accordance with the law, “irrespective of religion, race, or gender.’’
Jerusalem Municipality spokesman Elie Isaacson said the process would “take years to be approved completely’’ and that it could still be appealed.
The fate of East Jerusalem, home to sites sacred to Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, is the most explosive issue dividing Palestinians and Israelis.
Israel has ringed East Jerusalem with Jewish neighborhoods since capturing the territory from Jordan, along with the West Bank, in the 1967 Mideast war.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he would not share Jerusalem with the Palestinians as part of a final peace deal.
Palestinians have privately acknowledged that Israel would hold on to the Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem under a peace accord. But they want construction to halt because they see it as undermining their own claims to the city’s eastern sector.
In a separate development, police said yesterday that a well-known Arab Israeli actor, director, and political activist was gunned down in the West Bank town where he ran a drama school and community theater.
Juliano Mer Khamis was shot five times by one or more armed Palestinians in the Jenin refugee camp, investigators said. No one has claimed responsibility.