OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — Israel granted final approval on Thursday to a plan to build 800 homes near Gilo in occupied East Jerusalem, with construction tenders likely to be published within a few months, a Peace Now official said.
The move will mean the westward expansion of Gilo, a settlement neighbourhood located on the southern flanks of East Jerusalem, which lies very close to the West Bank town of Bethlehem.
The approval prompted an angry reaction from the Palestinians who said such actions hammered yet another nail in the coffin of a two-state solution.
Speaking to AFP, Peace Now’s Hagit Ofran said a plan to build 800 housing units had on Thursday been published for validation in an Israeli newspaper in what was the last phase of the planning process.
“It means that now, a tender can be issued to begin to build 800 housing units west of Gilo,” she said.
She said that the final approval had been granted by the interior ministry’s district planning committee.
“Two weeks from the publication of the ad in the newspapers, the plan is valid and contractors may apply for a construction permit from the municipality,” Ofran wrote on her blog.
“In the case of Gilo’s western slopes plan, which was initiated by the Israel Lands Administration, the contractors should win the bid in order to buy the rights to build, through a tender. Such a tender may be published in a few months.”
The Palestinians say settlement building is killing the chances of a two-state solution, with negotiator Saeb Erekat saying the only answer was for the international community to back Palestinian plans to seek upgraded UN status.