Israel is quietly advancing controversial construction projects in and around Jerusalem without making major announcements that could anger the Biden administration. Critics say the latest moves, while incremental, pave the way for rapid growth once the political climate changes.

On Wednesday, as Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met with US officials in Washington, a local planning committee in Jerusalem approved the expropriation of public land for the controversial Givat Hamatos neighborhood, which would largely cut Palestinian parts of East Jerusalem off from the southern West Bank.

The same committee advanced plans for the construction of 470 homes in the existing East Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Zeev. Authorities have scheduled a December 6 hearing for another project in East Jerusalem to build 9,000 homes in the Atarot area on the city’s northeastern edge, according to Ir Amim, an Israeli rights group that closely follows developments in the city.

A military body has meanwhile scheduled two meetings in the coming weeks to discuss a planned settlement of 3,400 homes on a barren hillside outside Jerusalem known as E1. Critics say it would largely bisect the West Bank, making it impossible to establish a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel. A two-state solution is still seen internationally as the only realistic way to resolve the conflict.

“The fact that simultaneously all of these very controversial plans that have been longstanding international red lines have now been advancing … is very indicative that the Israeli government intends to advance and ultimately approve these plans,” said Amy Cohen of Ir Amim. READ MORE

Wary of Biden, Israel goes quiet while advancing major East Jerusalem projects

Josh Toupos

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