Israel suspends settlement plan in Jerusalem

Israel suspends settlement plan in Jerusalem

Jerusalem (AFP) – Israeli authorities appear to have suspended plans to build a large Jewish settlement at an abandoned airport in East Jerusalem, a rights group said Thursday, at least for the time being.

Plans for the Atarot settlement called for the construction of 9,000 housing units to be marketed to religious Jews in an open area next to three densely populated Palestinian communities, one of which is behind Israel’s controversial separation wall.

Hagit Ofran of the Israeli anti-settlement movement Peace Now said the district planning committee meeting at which approval of the project was expected has been canceled, meaning that “the plan is not on the table at the moment.” On Wednesday, a local committee voted in his favour.

Deputy Mayor Flor Hassan Nahum said she was not aware of any move to delay the project.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem in the 1967 war and annexed it in a move not recognized internationally. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state, including the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which Israel also captured in that war.

Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its united capital and says it needs to build housing to meet the needs of a growing population.

Palestinians view the continued expansion of Israeli settlements as a violation of international law and an obstacle to peace, a position that enjoys broad international support.

The Biden administration has repeatedly criticized settlement construction, saying it hinders the eventual resumption of the peace process, but Israel has continued to advance settlement plans.

More than 200,000 Israeli settlers live in East Jerusalem, and nearly 500,000 settlers live in settlements scattered throughout the occupied West Bank. The current Israeli prime minister, Naftali Bennett, is a strong supporter of settlements and opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state.

There have been no substantive peace talks in over a decade.

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