Jerusalem: Israel`s interior ministry has
given final approval for the construction of 900 new homes in
the east Jerusalem settlement neighbourhood of Har Homa, a
ministry spokeswoman said on Thursday.
"This is a programme which was approved by the regional
(planning and construction) committee two years ago,"
spokeswoman Efrat Orbach said.
"According to the planning process in Israel, (it) needed
the completion of amendments, therefore it was finally
The approval marks the final planning stage for a project
that has garnered fierce criticism from the Palestinians and
the international community.
It will significantly expand the hilltop neighbourhood,
which lies in Jerusalem`s southwest and is defined as being
within the municipal boundaries despite lying directly next to
the Palestinian West Bank town of Bethlehem.
Hagit Ofran, who monitors settlement activity for the
Israeli group Peace Now, described the final approval of the
project as "a very dramatic development" because of where the
new housing will be located.
"It adds a new ridge to Har Homa which blocks the
territorial contiguity between east Jerusalem and Bethlehem
and adds a further barrier to the possibility of east
Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital in a two-state solution,"
Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai, quoted on the
Israeli news site Ynet, linked the new project to ongoing
protests in Israel over the cost of housing.