Israel has given initial approval to a plan that would expand Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries by building thousands of new illegal settlement homes in occupied East Jerusalem, drawing a Palestinian demand that Washington intervene.
On Wednesday, the Jerusalem municipality green-lit what it described as a new eastern “neighbourhood” on lands located over Israel’s separation wall.
The area is sandwiched between the Palestinian neighbourhood of Beit Hanina, and the Qalandiya military checkpoint, which divides Jerusalem from the Palestinian hub city of Ramallah.
Known to Israelis as Atarot, the site once house the Qalandiya airport. It was closed after the eruption of the second Intifada in 2000, was designated in former US President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan as a Palestinian tourism zone.
The plan, which requires further stages of approval, is for 3,000 homes to be built, with a view to adding another 6,000 eventually, Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Arieh King told the Reuters news agency.
Israeli settlements are considered illegal under international law.
The two-state solution laid out by the Oslo Accords of 1993 envisioned East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state made up of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel claims the entire city of Jerusalem as its indivisible capital.
US-sponsored peace talks between the two parties stalled in 2014. Washington has since recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, without explicitly backing its claim on all the city.
“This settlement plan aims to conclude the separation of Jerusalem from our outlying Palestinian area … in a bid to Israelise it, Judaise it and annex it,” the Palestinian foreign ministry said in a statement.
It urged the US and other powers “to immediately intervene to stop these colonial projects and plans”.
The US Embassy in Jerusalem had no immediate comment.
About 700,000 Israeli Jews live in settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem has continued under every Israeli government since 1967.
However, construction accelerated in the last few years under former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with a significant boom during Trump’s US administration, which Palestinians accused of egregious pro-Israel bias.