The controversial building and construction of Israeli houses within in disputed territory within Jerusalem beyond the 1967 border line has increased with the number of dwelling units that were approved growing fourfold last year.
According to a report on the Chinese-based English News web site, data released last Thursday by the Ir Amim Foundation, a non-government organisation monitoring group, revealed that 6,932 such housing units were approved for construction last year – up around fourfold from the 1,772 houses in 2011 and roughly 13 times more than the 569 units approved in 2010.
Most of the approved houses are in the neighbourhoods of Gilo, Har Homa and Givat Hamatos in southeast Jerusalem as well as Pisgat Zeév and Ramat Shlomo in northeast Jerusalem.
Tellingly, a significant number of these approvals were issued after the United Nations granted observer status to the Palestinians in November, although with the lengthy approval process it is likely that a large number of these were in train prior to the November vote.
The new data comes amid renewed tensions following Israel’s announcement last month of the approval of 3,000 settler homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as well as an acceleration in the processing of 1,000 planning permissions.
That measure, intended as a punishment after the Palestinians were granted observer status, was widely condemned as a setback to peace negotiations. Negotiations broke down in 2010 over Israel’s continued settlement expansion, which Palestinians see as a sign of bad faith toward the peace process.
Ir Amim director Yehudit Oppenheimer has criticised the build-up in settlement activity, saying it represents moves which significantly alters the reality in Jerusalem without proper public debate.
“This new reality traps within it a large Palestinian population, without civil status or rights, while a Jewish majority has a monopoly on the mechanisms of power and control,” Oppenheimer says. “This is a disaster for Jerusalem as a city and its people.”