US, EU slam plan for Jewish housing in eastern Jerusalem

The Jerusalem District Planning Committee approved the next planning stage for 400 new homes in Abu Dis on Monday.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The United States and EU condemned Monday the advancement of approval to build Jewish housing in eastern Jerusalem because it “undermined” the viability of a Palestinian state.

“Our views have been clear and consistent: The expansion of settlements undermines the geographic viability of a two-state solution, exacerbates tensions, and further harms trust between the two parties,” State Department spokesperson Matt Miller told reporters when asked about the Jerusalem District Planning Committee’s decision regarding Abu Dis, an Arab village that was subsumed into the capital after it expanded its boundaries following the Six Day War.

“We strongly oppose the advancement of settlements and urge Israel to refrain from this activity…. We raise it at the highest levels on a consistent basis,” he added.

The planning committee on Monday had some technical concerns regarding the plan to construct 400 homes in the Arab neighborhood, which lies on the seam line between the eastern side of the capital and Judea, but said that once they were taken care of, the project could go through to the next planning stage.

The European Union used stronger language in its rejection of the approval, repeating its oft-stated position that such construction is “illegal according to international law and a major obstacle to achieving a two-state solution.”

“The EU has consistently made it clear that it will not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 lines, including in Jerusalem, other than those agreed upon by the parties,” its statement added

With the backing of renowned, expert jurists, Israel maintains that international law specifically supports Jewish settlement of the entire territory covered by the erstwhile British Mandate, including Jerusalem, as noted in Article 80 of the UN charter.

The proposed enclave, called Kidmat Zion (the Zionist advance), would enlarge the current small pocket of Jewish life in Abu Dis. About a dozen Jewish families live in two apartment buildings to maintain a strategic Jewish presence in the area, with the first families moving there in 2004.

At the time, Daniel Luria, the international spokesman for Ateret Cohanim, said that in 1924 a Jewish cooperative had bought a tract that included the buildings’ location in order to construct a Jewish neighborhood, and that this would be the first move towards finally realizing that goal.

The Jerusalem Municipality had initially approved the construction of 200 homes on the Jewish-owned land in Abu Dis in May 2000.

The Ateret Cohanim yeshiva is one of a number of groups that purchases housing in the Old City and eastern Jerusalem to expand the Jewish hold on the capital. It often buys properties that were bought by Jews early in the last century, but Arabs have squatted there for decades and have to be paid to leave.

Early on in the Oslo Accords period, Abu Dis was touted as a possible site for the capital of “Palestine,” with most of it lying in what was made into Area B of Judea and Samaria, where the Palestinian Authority has civilian but not military control. A largely-completed building slated to be its Parliament is still standing there, unused.