JERUSALEM – France on Monday condemned a decision by the Israeli government to lift limitations on local and municipal planning and building committees dealing with construction in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank.
The French statement, according to Hebrew-language newspaper Haaretz, condemned the issuing of building permits for 566 new housing units in the neighborhoods of Ramat Shlomo, Ramot and Pisgat Ze’ev, all of them Jerusalem neighborhoods on the eastern side of the so-called 1967 Green Line. The Western Wall and Temple Mount – the holiest sites in Judaism – are also located in eastern Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the lifting of construction limitations on Sunday and a statement from the Jerusalem Housing and Construction Committee on the new housing units was swiftly issued.
According to Haaretz, the committee postponed a discussion of the new housing units two weeks ago out of concern the outgoing Obama administration might condemn the move.
The committee also approved on Sunday the construction of 105 new homes for Palestinians in eastern Jerusalem.
“Settlements constitute a grave threat to the two-state solution, to which the international community reiterated its commitment at the international conference in Paris on January 15,” a French Foreign Ministry spokesperson said in a statement on Monday.
“UN Security Council Resolution 2334 underscored the illegality of the settlements under international law and demanded an immediate and complete halt to such activity,” the spokesperson continued.
The French Mideast conference on January 15 was boycotted by Israel, with Netanyahu saying that Israel would not honor any declaration made during the conference and defining it as “a last attempt at grasping the past before the future takes hold,” apparently in reference to the different tone coming from the new White House.
The conference, Netanyahu said two weeks ago, was a “Palestinian fraud with French sponsorship.”
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who is a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, said last week that Jerusalem “went through eight difficult years with [former US President Barack] Obama pressing to freeze construction.”
“Even though at the Jerusalem Municipality we did not freeze construction many times, the government’s approval was not given and sometimes marketing apartments was delayed because of American pressures. I hope this era is now over and that from now on we will continue to build and to develop Jerusalem for the benefit of its residents, Jews and Arabs alike, in order to strengthen [Israel’s] sovereignty over a united Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to give solutions to young couples. This is the right thing to do,” Barkat added.