Israeli authorities have revived plans to build hundreds of new homes for Jewish settlers in Israel-annexed East Jerusalem, a move which a leading charity says has been encouraged by the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency.
“The political significance of this action is that it is the first plan to be promoted since the US elections,” Betty Herschman of Ir Amim, an NGO that seeks to uphold the rights of both Jewish and Arab Jerusalemites, said on Wednesday.
The plan for 500 housing units in Ramat Shlomo, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighbourhood in East Jerusalem of about 20,000 people, had been on hold since 2014.
Meir Turjeman, chairman of the Jerusalem municipality planning committee, said earlier in November that the municipality intends to authorise thousands of housing units that had been frozen.
When contacted by reporters the Jerusalem municipality downplayed the significance of the new units, saying the plans were “not new and were approved years ago” - but the decision has nonetheless been interpreted as a sign of things to come by pro-Palestinian activists.
The UN’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov also told the Security Council that he found the development part of an “increasingly worrying” trend, urging construction to be halted.
The Israeli–Palestinian conflict intensifies
The Israeli–Palestinian conflict intensifies
Medics evacuate a wounded man from the scene of an attack in Jerusalem. A Palestinian rammed a vehicle into a bus stop then got out and started stabbing people before he was shot dead
Israeli ZAKA emergency response members carry the body of an Israeli at the scene of a shooting attack in Jerusalem. A pair of Palestinian men boarded a bus in Jerusalem and began shooting and stabbing passengers, while another assailant rammed a car into a bus station before stabbing bystanders, in near-simultaneous attacks that escalated a month long wave of violence
Palestinians throw molotov cocktail during clashes with Israeli troops near Ramallah, West Bank. Recent days have seen a series of stabbing attacks in Israel and the West Bank that have wounded several Israelis
Women cry during the funeral of Palestinian teenager Ahmad Sharaka, 13, who was shot dead by Israeli forces during clashes at a checkpoint near Ramallah, at the family house in the Palestinian West Bank refugee camp of Jalazoun, Ramallah
A wounded Palestinian boy and his father hold hands at a hospital after their house was brought down by an Israeli air strike in Gaza
Palestinians look on after a protester is shot by Israelis soldiers during clashes at the Howara checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus
A lawyer wearing his official robes kicks a tear gas canister back toward Israeli soldiers during a demonstration by scores of Palestinian lawyers called for by the Palestinian Bar Association in solidarity with protesters at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City, near Ramallah, West Bank
Undercover Israeli soldiers detain a Palestinian in Ramallah
Palestinian youth burn tyres during clashes with Israeli soldiers close to the Jewish settlement of Bet El, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, after Israel barred Palestinians from Jerusalem's Old City as tensions mounted following attacks that killed two Israelis and wounded a child
“The situation on the ground is changing steadily, dangerously, as proponents of Israeli settlement expansion feel emboldened, internal divisions among Palestinians flare up, and the prospect of a future Palestinian state comes under threat like never before,” Mr Mladenov said.
On the campaign trail, the President-elect suggested he would recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and David Friedman, his advisor on Israeli affairs, suggested in October that Mr Trump does not have much faith in a two-state solution and is not critical of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
Apart from an initial congratulatory message, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has mostly stayed quiet about the upcoming change of administration in the US.
After several comments from ministers on the idea of a Palestinian state and praise for Mr Trump’s chief strategist, who is accused of anti-semitic comments, Mr Netanyahu told members of the government earlier this week that all contact with Mr Trump’s team must first go through his office.
Israel settlement building over the Green Line of 1967 is viewed as illegal by the international community, and remains one of the biggest stumbling blocks in any peace talks in the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
AFP contributed to this reportReuse content