A Jerusalem municipal committee has temporarily frozen all building construction permits in eastern Jerusalem, not only for Jews but also for Arabs, Army Radio reported Monday afternoon.
The office of the Prime Minister insists that it had nothing to do with the Jerusalem City Building and Planning Committee’s decision to freeze construction.
The halt in construction comes just before Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is to visit President Barack Obama to try to mend fences. It also comes shortly after the Obama administration denounced a near-final bureaucratic advancement in plans for building 900 new residential units in the Hareidi Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, adjacent to the Arab Shuafat area.
A source in the municipality said the decision to freeze all building construction permits was made so there will be no question of discrimination.
The freeze puts Washington in a bit of a bind.
It frequently has opposed building for Jews in eastern Jerusalem, a tacit approval of discrimination in favor of Arabs. This time, any criticism from the White House or the State Dept. would have to explicitly state that its policy discriminates in favors of Arabs.
Eastern, southern and northern Jerusalem, unlike Judea and Samaria, are not ruled by the military and instead have full legal status as any other city in Israel. The United States and virtually the rest of the world continue to define half the capital as “occupied,” even though more than 250,000 Jews live in areas that were restored to Israel in the Six-Dar in 1967, including the Kotel.
The decision was made during a discussion on the approval of the units for the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood. The same apartments were approved in an earlier bureaucratic five years ago on the same day Vice President Joe Biden step foot in Israel for a visit.
The timing infuriated Biden, and the project has caused consternation in Washington every time another step is approved.