Trump win spurs plans for Jerusalem building spree over Green Line

The Jerusalem municipality is set to authorize the construction of thousands of new housing units over the Green Line in the wake of Donald Trump’s election, city officials said Sunday.

Some 1,400 new apartments in the capital’s Ramat Shlomo neighborhood would be approved by the Jerusalem Municipality Planning and Construction Committee later in the day, city officials told Channel 2, hailing Trump’s victory as an opportunity to expand Jewish building in the eastern part of Jerusalem unhindered.

“In Jerusalem, it’s as if Trump is already in office,” a committee member told the TV station. “The problem is that nobody knows what his policies will actually be.”

“There’s an understanding between us that whatever we’ll be able to accomplish in the coming months may not always be an option later,” the official said. “Even if the [current] State Department of White House issues a condemnation, it won’t be worth much at this point.”

“We must send a message to Trump that in Jerusalem, we build,” he added.

While Israel has continually maintained its right to build in areas of East Jerusalem, construction there has always been met with international condemnation, especially from the US, which does not recognize Israel’s de facto annexation of the eastern half of the city.

Last week, committee chairman Meir Turgeman told Channel 2 that Israeli fears of antagonizing Washington delayed the municipality’s approval of wider construction plans for Jerusalem that would see some 7,000 housing units built over the Green Line.

In addition to the 1,440 apartments in Ramat Shlomo, the plans include an additional 3,000 units in Gilo and 2,600 in the planned Givat Hamatos neighborhood.

“Now that Trump [won], I hope we will put Jerusalem as a priority, I hope we are heading for a fresh start,” Turgeman said last week. “All these plans in Givat Hamatos, Gilo, Ramat Shlomo, all these have been waiting for two years at least.”

While much of the international community considers these neighborhoods as settlements, Israel considers them neighborhoods of annexed East Jerusalem and argues that it will be part of Israel in any negotiated peace agreement.

Trump’s vocal support of Israel’s settlement enterprise is at odds with traditional US opposition to construction beyond the Green Line.

The Obama administration routinely and bitterly criticizes the Netanyahu government for building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, since it considers such construction to undermine efforts for a negotiated Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

In 2010, a major diplomatic rift was sparked when the Interior Ministry approved new housing in Ramat Shlomo while US Vice President Joe Biden was visiting.

Senior officials said the move was made without Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s knowledge. According to a diplomatic cable leaked earlier this year, Netanyahu turned to European leaders to help patch up ties with Obama in the wake of the affair.

Trump, however, has called Jerusalem Israel’s undivided capital and vowed to move the US Embassy there, essentially offering support for Israeli moves there.

He has also indicated he will more receptive to building in Israeli settlements in the West Bank, with Israel’s defense minister calling last week for Jerusalem to reach an agreement with the US allowing for construction in mainline settlement blocs in exchange for a freeze elsewhere, reviving a George W. Bush-era understanding.

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