Israel expedites construction in occupied East Jerusalem amid rumours of 'Biden settlement freeze'

Fearing a freeze on settlement construction under a Biden presidency, authorities in Jerusalem have been ordered to usher through controversial building plans. Authorities in Israel are preparing to expedite the approval of settlement building plans in occupied East Jerusalem over the next two months, Haaretz reported, ahead of an expected freeze  on settlement expansion in the West Bank under the presidency of Joe Biden.

Officials in the city engineer's office and the Jerusalem City Hall urban planning division were instructed to speed up the approval of settlement units planned beyond the Green Line, the Israeli newspaper said, due to the recent US election win for the Democrats. 

President-elect Joe Biden is expected to walk-back parts of Trump's record - notably by opposing the expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, which the president-elect has described as an obstacle to peace.   

Construction plans for Israeli settlements in Givat Hamatos, Har Homa, Atarot and other neighbourhoods are being ushered through quickly due to fears that such plans will be more difficult to approve when the White House changes hands in January, Haaretz said.

The neighbourhood of Givat Hamatos in particular is sensitive as it could completely surround the Palestinian neighbourhood of Beit Safafa - potentially dashing all hopes for diving Jerusalem in future peace talks. 

A building freeze in Jerusalem under Barack Obama's administration was in part due to Biden, Haartez reported, and for many years construction in occupied east Jerusalem was practically frozen.

Under the leadership of Donald Trump - a stalwart ally of right-wing Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - construction was picked up again and hundreds of residential units were built.  Netanyahu has received criticism from the Israeli right for delaying construction in Givat Hamatos, with calls for the premier to take advantage of Trump's final weeks in power.

"The problem is Bibi, not Biden. He is the only guilty party in the construction freeze in Jerusalem," said city council member Arieh King according to Haaretz .

But Aviv Tatarsky of the left-wing Ir Amim non-profit criticised Netanyahu for preventing a future peace arrangement.

Palestinian President  Mahmoud Abbas  is planning to ask President-elect  Joe Biden  to return the US embassy to  Tel Aviv , Israel Hayom reported on the weekend, after the embassy was relocated by Donald Trump to Jerusalem in a controversial move rejected by the international community.

Biden has promised to restore "humanitarian aid for the Palestinian people" and would re-open a consulate in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem "to engage the Palestinians". Abbas said he wanted to work with the new administration "to achieve freedom, independence, justice and dignity for (the Palestinian) people". Meanwhile, Israel's Deputy Prime Minister and Security Minister Benny Gantz is en route to approving 1,700 settlement units  in the occupied West Bank .  

2020-11-12 | News | English |