A day after Israel approved the construction of 1,500 new housing units in Ramat Shlomo, an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in the northern part of Yerushalayim beyond the Green Line, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) issued a message to his colleagues around the world insisting that Israel’s decision to build in Jerusalem was “not negotiable.”
“Israel refuses to accept the fact that mere weeks after rockets were fired from Gaza into Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, there are still those who see Israel’s decision to hold on to strategic territory surrounding Jerusalem, and to build within its capital, as the biggest obstacle standing in the way of peace,” Rivlin wrote in a New Year’s message he sent to the heads of parliaments across Europe and around the world on Tuesday.
Rivlin added that “there is a sense that nations in Europe are more interested in establishing a Palestinian state than in ensuring the safety and existence of the Jewish state.”
“The Europeans are wrong to assume that Israel’s existence is guaranteed and a given,” he wrote.
The Knesset speaker also wrote that “many of the nations that supported the Palestinians’ unilateral initiative at the U.N. General Assembly [which on Nov. 29 granted the Palestinians nonmember observer status] are wrong to think that recognition of a Palestinian state will isolate Hamas. We thought that diplomatic initiatives, like the Oslo Accords and the disengagement from Gaza, would do that before, but we were proved wrong and we had to pay a dear price, which we paid with human lives.”
He also came out against the international condemnations of Israel’s plans to build new homes beyond the Green Line and in contested areas of Jerusalem, saying that “for many Israelis it was unbearable to hear Hamas leaders calling for war and for wiping out the Jewish state on one side, and the world condemning Israel for taking steps to protect its security and existence on the other side.”
“Israel will not relinquish control over strategic territories necessary to maintain its security, including the area known as E1, under any future diplomatic arrangement,” Rivlin added. “Jerusalem, including every one of its neighborhoods, will remain the capital of Israel, and the construction there is not negotiable.”
“It saddens me that instead of holding an honest discussion on the complexity of the regional problem and how to solve it, many of the world’s countries chose to sound their criticism against Israel, which faces the same threats that threaten the entire free world. That is not what allies do,” he concluded.
The decision to approve the Ramat Shlomo construction, which, when completed will physically sever Jerusalem from the West Bank city of Ramallah, comes on the heels of an earlier decision to promote the E1 construction plan, meant to create a physical link between the French Hill neighborhood in Jerusalem and Maaleh Adumim. The aim of the E1 plan is to cement the contiguous Jewish belt east and north of the capital.
On Tuesday, the committee tasked with examining the construction plans was expected to discuss the approval of an additional 2,600 housing units in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Hamatos, also beyond the Green Line. Half the housing units are designated for use by the Arab sector.
The plan to expand the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood was initially approved in March 2010, in a now infamous incident during a visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. But when the approval of the plan led to a crisis with the American administration it was decided to put the plan on hold. But on Monday, the plan was approved once again. The housing units have been in the works for years and this final approval is another step before they can be marketed and built.
The Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment officially on the approval, even though it was decided in the past that any construction beyond the 1967 lines would only go forward with the prime minister’s approval.
A government official said Monday that to ward off condemnation, Israel needs to “consolidate the approval processes and simplify the bureaucracy.”
Read more at ISRAEL HAYOM