Ronen Medzini
May 3, 2011 - 12:00am,7340,L-4064026,00.html

The Prime Minister's Office on Tuesday decided to postpone plans to build housing units in Jewish neighborhoods beyond Jerusalem's Green Line for the second time in less than a month, Ynet has learned.

Discussion on the two projects for the construction of more than 900 housing units in east Jerusalem was taken off the District Planning and Construction Committee's agenda for Thursday.

One project is a plan to build 930 homes at the neighborhood of Har Homa, and the other is slated to see the construction of dozens of units in Pisgat Ze'ev.

Thursday's hearing was meant to address objections that were raised against the projects – one of the final stages before construction permits are issued. The postponement of the hearing delays the projects indefinitely.

The Interior Ministry confirmed that the order to bump the discussion came from the Prime Minister's Office, which only three weeks ago rejected four major construction plans for the neighborhoods of Gilo, Har Homa, Pisgat Ze'ev and Ramot.

Political measure?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to visit the United States at the end of the month, prompting the assumption that the latest measure aims to avoid nembarrassment during the visit.

The neighborhood of Har Homa was officially renamed Homat Shmuel in 1997 during Netanyahu's first term as prime minister, despite US objection. Since the Jewish neighborhood is located beyond the Green Line, every action that aims to expand it provokes an international outcry, as it upsets the status quo in the capital.

"The plan (to build 930 units in Har Homa) gives preference to construction on east Jerusalem territories which have been taken over by Israel in 1967, and which stand at the heart of the political process," wrote the Ir Amim organization, which promotes Palestinian-Israeli coexistence in Jerusalem. "This kind of preferential treatment can cause severe harm to the political process."

The organization responded to the dismissal of the issue from Thursday's agenda, saying that "the consideration of the political sensitivities of construction beyond the Green Line should thwart such plans from the start, instead of playing cat-and-mouse games with the international arena."

Yair Gabay, a member of the District Planning and Construction Committee, told Ynet that the board did not yet receive the announcement that the hearing was cancelled, but noted that he saw it coming.

"I don't see all of the systems mobilizing to promote new massive construction in Jerusalem, in order to respond to the plight of so many young couples that want to buy a home at a reasonable price in the city," he said.

"If the state and municipal elements don't reconsider the cause, we will lose Jerusalem, and that's a shame," he added.

The Prime Minister's Office did not immediately respond.


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