International outcry against new Jewish neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem

UN, EU, and Israeli Left denounce the plan for 1,200 new homes in the Givat Hamatos neighborhood.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The UN joined the European Union (EU) and Israel’s far left on Monday in denouncing a government tender published Sunday to build 1,257 homes in a new Jewish neighborhood called Givat Hamatos in eastern Jerusalem.

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN envoy to the Middle East peace process, called on Israel to “reverse this step,” reiterating the international body’s opinion that “settlement construction is illegal under international law.”

“If built,” he said in a statement, “it would further consolidate a ring of settlements between Jerusalem and Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. It would significantly damage prospects for a future contiguous Palestinian State and for achieving a negotiated two-state solution based on the 1967 lines, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states.”

Mladenov’s words closely echoed EU High Representative Josep Borrell’s statement regarding the “serious damage” that building Givat Hamatos would cause to prospects for “a two-state solution.”

“The Government of Israel should instead show vision and responsibility and reverse these negative decisions at this critical and sensitive time,” Borrell said.

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By giving the green light now, Netanyahu is fulfilling a promise made to his right-wing constituents during the last election campaign in February to establish Givat Hamatos.

According to the Construction and Housing Ministry, the delay in beginning the bidding process for construction was caused solely by technical details such as budgetary matter, which have now been ironed out.

However, coalition chairman Miki Zohar admitted Sunday that “until now, the tender had been frozen in light of international diplomatic sensitivity to [Jewish] building over the pre-1967 lines.”

The thinking changed due to the results of the American presidential elections. The last two months of the Trump administration, which contrary to world opinion does not see settlements as per se illegal, “provides opportunity that will not repeat itself to strengthen our hold on the Land of Israel,” he explained.

The left-wing Peace Now organization also recognized the significance of the timing in a statement demanding that the bidding process on construction be cancelled.

“This Netanyahu-Gantz government was established to fight the coronavirus, but instead it is taking advantage of the final weeks of the Trump administration in order to set facts on the ground that will be exceedingly hard to undo in order to achieve peace. This tender can still be stopped,” Peace Now said.

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If the government holds to its decision, Givat Matos will be the first neighborhood built in eastern Jerusalem in some 20 years.