Netanyahu approves selling east Jerusalem settlement units: govt

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on November 15, 2015 (AFP Photo/Ronen Zvulun) (Pool/AFP/File)
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Jerusalem (AFP) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has given approval for the sale of hundreds of homes still to be built in an east Jerusalem settlement, an official said Tuesday.

“The prime minister approved the units," he told AFP, confirming media reports that Netanyahu had authorised Monday putting 436 units in Ramat Shlomo and another 18 in Ramot on the market.

In 2010, Israel announced plans to build 1,600 settler homes in Ramat Shlomo, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighbourhood in mainly Arab east Jerusalem. The announcement came as US Vice President Joe Biden was visiting Israel, provoking fierce American opposition and souring relations with Washington for months.

The plans were frozen to lower tensions, but in May this year 900 units were re-approved after a new intersection providing access to the neighbourhood was opened.

Israeli NGO Ir Amim, which opposes settlement construction, noted that following Monday's decision "no new tender has been published" but warned that while Netanyahu's "announcement has only declaratory significance, procedural steps to advance the plan could be taken at any time."

The official did not say why Netanyahu had made this announcement while no tenders for construction have even been published.

Israel seized east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed the mainly Arab area, in a move never recognised by the international community.

Today, some 200,000 Israelis live in 15 settlement neighbourhoods in east Jerusalem alongside a Palestinian population of 310,000.

The Palestinians want the eastern sector of the city as the capital of their promised state, and vigorously oppose any attempt to extend Israeli control.

The Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, stressed that "in any conceivable peace agreement, these areas remain part of Israel and in no way hinder moving forward in peace.”

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