Israel backs off housing undertaking at Jerusalem’s Atarot airport website amid US strain

Israel knowledgeable Biden administration officers on Thursday that it has shelved a controversial plan to advance a large housing undertaking within the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Atarot following pushback from Washington, a senior Israeli official confirmed to The Times of Israel.

The undertaking, which acquired preliminary approval from Jerusalem’s native municipal planning committee earlier this week, would see 9,000 housing items for ultra-Orthodox Jews constructed on the deserted website of the previous Atarot Airport. The space was annexed by Israel as a part of the post-1967 expanded Jerusalem, however lies past the Green Line.

The plan was faraway from the agenda of a December 6 assembly of the District Committee for Planning and Building, below the auspices of the Finance Ministry, the official mentioned.

Following the Atarot plan’s approval by the native Jerusalem committee on Wednesday, US State Department officers reached out to Jerusalem to specific their disapproval. Israeli officers sought to elucidate that the development was a preliminary step and that last approval would take months, if not years, however Washington was not satisfied, the Israeli official mentioned.

The deserted Atarot Airport lies instantly south of the East Jerusalem Palestinian neighborhood of Kafr Aqab. Although Kafr Aqab is past the safety barrier, it too is a part of Israeli-annexed Jerusalem.

The undertaking at Atarot had been frozen for over a decade, and even the Trump administration had pushed again in opposition to Israel’s efforts to advance it. A plan by the earlier Netanyahu authorities to construct 4,000 houses within the space was opposed by the Trump administration, the Walla information website reported Thursday.

Related: The dizzy rise, swift fall, and deliberate radical repurposing of Jerusalem Airport

Kafr Aqab was specified within the Trump “Peace to Prosperity” plan as one of many East Jerusalem areas to be included within the “sovereign capital of the State of Palestine.” The European Union not too long ago voiced objections to the plan, within the context of its wider opposition to the coalition’s newest settlement growth bulletins.

The deserted Atarot Airport, north of Jerusalem, on November 25, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Opponents of the undertaking argue that it might hamper dwindling efforts to advance a two-state resolution, by bisecting a big a part of East Jerusalem, which Palestinians view because the capital of their future state.

The doable revival of the Atarot undertaking got here as Israel is advancing controversial development initiatives in and round Jerusalem with out making main bulletins that might anger the Biden administration.

Last month, a neighborhood planning committee in Jerusalem authorized the expropriation of public land for the controversial Givat HaMatos neighborhood, which critics say would largely lower Palestinian elements of East Jerusalem off from the southern West Bank.

The similar committee superior plans for the development of 470 houses within the current East Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Zeev.

A navy physique, in the meantime, scheduled conferences to debate a deliberate settlement of three,400 houses on a barren hillside exterior Jerusalem referred to as E1. Critics say constructing within the space would successfully separate the northern and southern elements of the West Bank, making it unattainable to ascertain a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Israel regards all of East Jerusalem as a part of its undivided capital and says it ought to be capable of construct there at its personal discretion. But many of the worldwide neighborhood has by no means acknowledged Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem and regards Jewish neighborhoods there as settlements.

Every Israeli authorities since 1967 has expanded Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and settlements within the West Bank, territories that Israel captured within the Six Day War War that 12 months and that the Palestinians need for his or her future state. The Palestinians view the settlements and the Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem — now housing some 700,000 individuals — as a main impediment to peace, and many of the worldwide neighborhood considers them unlawful.

US President Joe Biden’s administration has criticized settlement development as an impediment to ultimately reviving the long-moribund peace course of, however has not demanded a freeze. In 2010, an announcement of approval for some 1,600 houses for ultra-Orthodox Jews in one other a part of East Jerusalem throughout a go to by Biden, then the vp, aggravated a diplomatic rift that festered all through Barack Obama’s presidency.

Israel’s political system is dominated by pro-settlement events and the brand new prime minister, Naftali Bennett, is against a Palestinian state. But he heads an unwieldy coalition of events from throughout the political spectrum — some against settlements — and seems to be in search of a center floor that will sideline the difficulty at dwelling and overseas.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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