Photo Credit: GPO
Prime Minister Yair Lapid. July 2, 2022

The prime minister’s office (PMO) has ordered the removal of two plans from the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee agenda, Israeli diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid wrote in a bombshell report Tuesday for the Hebrew-language Walla! News outlet.

The two plans would create a total of 2,000 new housing units in Jewish neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem.

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The committee is scheduled to convene next Monday, three days after President Joe Biden concludes his 48-hour visit to the State of Israel. Its agenda was published this past Monday night, just 36 hours before the anticipated arrival of the US president.

Lapid’s office was surprised to discover the plans appeared on the committee agenda, according to Ravid, who reported that PMO sources contacted officials in the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee and ordered both plans to be removed from the agenda.

It is believed that the intention to promote new construction plans in the eastern part of the Israeli capital next week would have provoked protests from the Palestinian Authority, thus clouding the impact of Biden’s visit to the region.

The plans for construction included:

One plan for deposit – the initial stage in the planning and construction process – is called the “lower water aqueduct” that includes some 1,500 new housing units, half in pre-1967 Jerusalem and half on the post-1967 side, restored to the capital from Jordanian occupation more than 50 years ago.

This plan connects the Har Homa neighborhood to the Givat Hamatos neighborhood but would allegedly cut off the neighborhood of Beit Safafa from the rest of the capital.

The second plan to be approved for deposit is called “Givat Ha’Shaked’ and includes some 500 housing units near Beit Safafa and the Shurfat neighborhood.

In addition to the removal of plans for construction in the Israeli capital, Defense Minister Benny Gantz approved a series of “confidence building measures” – Israeli concessions to the Palestinian Authority – in advance of Biden’s visit.

The decision followed Gantz’s latest meeting with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, which took place a few days ago.

In accordance with that decision, Israel will:

1. Approve the registration of 5,500 Arabs without status in the Palestinian Authority population registry. This comes in addition to the 12,000 who were already approved in recent months.

2. Approve six outline plans for Palestinian Authority Arab citizens in Area C – the areas of Judea and Samaria allegedly under the complete civil and military control of the State of Israel.

3. Increase the quota of Arab workers from Gaza to be allowed to enter Israel for labor and trade by another 1,500, bringing the number of work entry permits issued to Gazans to a total of 15,500.

4. Open a new crossing between Israel and the northern Samaria section of the Palestinian Authority, to allow Israeli Arabs vehicular entry to the terrorist hotbed city of Jenin.

And that may not be all: a senior Israeli official told Ravid that additional measures are also being considered.

Moreover, the demolition of illegal Arab homes is being postponed until after Biden leaves, in accordance with a request by the US that Israel refrain from taking steps in Judea, Samaria and the post-1967 sections of Jerusalem that “could increase tensions” with the Palestinian Authority. Construction in Jewish areas and Jewish towns, within their own municipal borders, was included.

A discussion scheduled for the Supreme Planning Board of the Civil Administration on construction in the E1 area between Ma’ale Adumim and Jerusalem that was set for next week has now been put off until September as well.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.