Israel granted final approval on Thursday to a plan to build 800 homes near Gilo in annexed east Jerusalem, with construction tenders likely to be published within a few months, a Peace Now official said.
The move will mean the westward expansion of Gilo, a settlement neighborhood located on the southern flanks of east Jerusalem, very close to the West Bank town of Bethlehem.
Speaking to AFP, Peace Now’s Hagit Ofran said a plan to build 800 housing units had on Thursday been published for validation in an Israeli newspaper in what was the last phase of the planning process.
“It means that now, a tender can be issued to begin to build 800 housing units west of Gilo,” she said.
She said that the final approval had been granted by a district planning committee of the interior ministry.
“Two weeks from the publication of the ad in the newspapers, the plan is valid and contractors may apply for a construction permit from the Municipality,” Ofran wrote on her blog.
“In the case of Gilo’s western slopes plan, which was initiated by the Israel Lands Administration, the contractors should win the bid in order to buy the rights to build, through a tender. Such a tender may be published in a few months.”
Gilo is located in mostly-Arab east Jerusalem, which Israel captured along with the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed in a move not recognized by the international community.
An announcement last year of plans to expand the neighborhood drew protests from the United States, the United Nations and Britain.
Israel considers both Jerusalem to be its “eternal, indivisible” capital, and does not view construction in the eastern sector to be settlement activity.
The Palestinians, however, believe east Jerusalem should be the capital of their future state and are fiercely opposed to the extension of Israeli control over the sector.
The international community does not accept the legitimacy of Israeli settlements on land that it captured in the 1967 war.