Israel’s Interior Ministry gave final approval on Monday to a plan to build 890 new apartments in Gilo, a settlement neighborhood beyond the Green Line in southern Jerusalem, just one day before Palestinian leadership is slated to make a final decision on whether to attend Wednesday’s scheduled negotiating session with Israel.
It will be a long time before ground is broken on the project, as the next step is for the Housing Ministry and the Israel Lands Administration to issue tenders for the work.
The plan, however, is especially problematic for the Palestinians because it will expand the boundaries of the neighborhood, located in the southern part of the city, in the direction of the Palestinian town of Beit Jala rather than placing the new buildings inside the neighborhood’s current boundaries.
On Monday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas consulted with senior Palestinian Authority officials on how to respond to the announcement Israel made on Sunday, issuing new tenders for construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Palestinian sources said Abbas also discussed the issue with Martin Indyk, America’s special envoy for the talks, as well as other Western diplomats, including German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, with whom he met in Ramallah.
A senior Palestinian official said the dominant view among the Palestinian leadership is that there’s no place for resuming negotiations with Israel in light of the continued construction in the settlements. But Abbas is still leaning toward continuing the talks, on the basis of various promises he has received from the United States.
Read more at Haaretz.com.