Israel is making progress with the construction of hundreds of new homes in a sensitive East Jerusalem settlement, a watchdog group said Sunday.
The move would defy international consensus against Israeli building in areas that the Palestinians would cut off from the city’s eastern sector, which they claim as their future capital.
The Israel Land Authority announced on its website on Sunday that it had opened tenders for more than 1,200 new homes in the strategic settlement of Givat Hamatos in Jerusalem.
The move may test ties with President-elect Joe Biden’s new administration, who is expected to take firmer action against Israeli settlement expansion after four years of more lenient policies under President Donald Trump.
The settlement watchdog group Peace Now and other critics say construction in the settlement would close the Palestinian city of Bethlehem and the southern West Bank from East Jerusalem, further closing off Palestinians’ access to the eastern part of the city.
It also comes as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to the region this week, where he is expected to visit an Israeli settlement in the West Bank that previous US secretaries of state have avoided.
Palestinian officials, who have been rejected by the Trump administration, have denounced the planned visit. Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh tweeted Friday that this was a “dangerous precedent” legalizing settlements.
Brian Reeves, a Peace Now spokesman, said the move Sunday will allow contractors to begin bidding on the tenders, a process that will be finalized just days before Biden’s inauguration. Construction can then commence within a few months.
“This is a deadly blow to the prospects for peace and the possibility of a two-state solution,” between Israel and the Palestinians, Peace Now said in a statement, adding that Israel “took advantage of the Trump administration’s final weeks. that are extremely difficult to undo to achieve peace. “
The Palestinians are seeking the West Bank, along with the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem – areas conquered by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War – for their future state.
Much of Jerusalem is already cut off from the West Bank by a series of checkpoints and the separation wall.
Israel has previously made plans to build in E1, another sensitive area east of Jerusalem that, along with Givat Hamatos, critics say would block East Jerusalem completely from the West Bank.