Israel has advanced the process of building 942 more settler homes in East Jerusalem under a new fast-track plan to tighten its grip on the territory, which the Palestinians claim as the capital of their future state.
An Israeli government planning committee on Monday moved the project to the advanced stage of asking contractors to submit bids to build them, the Israeli Ministry of the Interior Ministry said on Tuesday. Once a bid is awarded, construction can begin on the project in the Gilo area.
An additional 300 units can be built after further planning, said attorney Daniel Seidemann, an expert on Jerusalem construction who sees the building as an obstacle to peacemaking. About 40,000 Israelis live in Gilo.
“With God’s help, we will continue to live and build in Jerusalem, which will remain united under Israeli sovereignty,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the campaign launch event of his Likud Party.
Elections are set for Jan. 22.
Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said the new Israeli announcement was a “red line” that would block the chance for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The newly approved homes are among more than 5,000 new settler homes in East Jerusalem that Israel pressed ahead over the past week. Palestinians do not recognize Israel’s 1967 annexation of the territory and say any Israeli construction there undermines their claims to it. The international community has also not recognized Israel’s 1967 annexation of East Jerusalem.
Netanyahu launched a settlement construction push to punish Palestine after the UN recognized a de facto Palestinian state in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip last month.