Since 1967, Jerusalem has been part of the disputed territory between Israel and Palestine. Israel captured the city and annexed the area to solidify its control of the holy city. Despite Israel’s annexation, Jerusalem has not been internationally recognized as Israeli territory or as the claimed future capital of Palestine. On September 27, Israel approved plans to build 1,100 housing developments in Gilo, a Jewish enclave in east Jerusalem. The approval came the week after Palestine sought a bid for membership in the United Nations. The construction plans met a waive of disapproval, not only from Palestine, but also from the Mideast “quartet” – the United States, United Nations, European Union, and Russia.
Following Palestine’s bid for UN membership last week, the quartet called for Israel and Palestine to resume peace talks for the first time in over three years. The quartet set a negotiation date between the two belligerent states for the end of 2012. The Obama Administration has continually disapproved of Palestine’s bid for UN membership, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recently released a statement contending that Israel’s approval of such housing units in East Jerusalem is “counterproductive to our efforts to resume direct negotiations between the parties.” The Obama Administration was “deeply disappointed” by Israel’s announcement of the development plans.
The United Nations and European Union have also criticized the development plans. Richard Miron, the spokesman for UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, stated that the proposed development “sends the wrong signal at this sensitive time.” EU’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, also issued a statement that Israel’s decision “should be reversed.” The Mideast quartet has called for peace settlements between the two states, however Palestine has demanded that all of Israel’s construction immediately halt in order for any peace talks to resume between the two countries. Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, calls Israel’s development project “1,100 no’s to the resumption of peace talks.”
Israel refuses another construction freeze, which it did last year after Palestine’s pleas. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu downplayed the decision and argued that “[w]e build in Jerusalem. Period, the same way Israeli governments have been doing for years, since the end of the 1967 war. We build in Jewish neighborhoods. The Arabs build in Arab neighborhoods. That is the way the life of this city goes on and develops for its Jewish and non-Jewish residents alike.” Israel has also defended the construction from a logistical point of view, asserting that Jerusalem’s “housing crunch” has made the new construction a necessity. The expansion will include government buildings, a school and an industrial park.
Israel’s current construction plans disregard to the “Roadmap” endorsed by the UN Security Council in resolution 1515 in 2003. The Roadmap “constitutes a negotiating framework for the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Many argue that Israel’s planned housing developments in east Jerusalem would undermine peace talks as outlined in the agreed upon Roadmap and therefore would violate international law via Israel’s treaty with Palestine. UN representative Richard Miron stated that “[s]ettlement activity is contrary to the Roadmap and to international law and undermines the prospect of resuming negotiations and reaching a two-state solution to the conflict.” While Israel may have valid reasons for its new housing units in east Jerusalem, its proposed construction has not met the approval of many international authorities and its plans will be faced with criticism going forward. Israel appears to be steadfast in its construction plans and will continue to build despite resistance from the international community.