by Gwen Ackerman
Jerusalem officials approved the construction of hundreds of apartments in the city’s contested eastern sector, feeling freer to act following the inauguration of Donald Trump.
“The past eight years have been difficult with pressure from the Obama administration to freeze construction,” Mayor Nir Barkat said in an e-mailed statement. “I believe that we are entering a new era, in which we will be able to continue to build and develop the city for the benefit of all residents, Jews and Arabs alike.” Of the 671 homes approved, 105 were slated for Arab neighborhoods.
Nabil Abu Rudeina, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, denounced the plans for what he said was “occupied Palestinian land.” He said the decision violated a recent UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s building on land captured in the 1967 Middle East War and demanding that it stop.
The status of East Jerusalem, home to sites holy to Christians, Muslims and Jews, is one of the most contentious issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel captured the area in 1967 and later annexed it in a move that isn’t internationally recognized. Palestinians seek the city’s eastern sector for the capital of an independent state.
Trump has said he supports moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. Some Israeli officials, including Barkat, see such a move as recognition of Israel’s hold over all of the city.
The Palestinian Authority said it will protest the construction plans at the UN and ask the international body to “put an end to the policy of the extremist Israeli government, which is destroying the two-state solution.”
The municipality said the approval was the last one required before home construction could start.