- Title: Israel pulls back from approving new East Jerusalem homes ahead of Kerry speech
- Date: 28th December 2016
- Summary: JERUSALEM (DECEMBER 28, 2016) (REUTERS) HOUSES IN RAMAT SHALOMO NEIGHBOURHOOD / CONSTRUCTION VARIOUS OF DIGGER AT WORK
- Embargoed: 12th January 2017 10:39
- Keywords: Israel Palestinians settlements Jerusalem Netanyahu. U.N.
- Location: JERUSALEM/ RAMALLAH, WEST BANK/ TEL AVIV, ISRAEL
- City: JERUSALEM/ RAMALLAH, WEST BANK/ TEL AVIV, ISRAEL
- Country: Israel
- Topics: Conflicts/War/Peace
- Reuters ID: LVA0015ESRT53
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:Jerusalem's city hall cancelled a vote on Wednesday (December 28) on applications to build nearly 500 new homes for Israelis in East Jerusalem, a municipal official said, plans that had drawn U.S. criticism in a raging dispute over settlements.
The proposed settlement is part of building activity that the U.N. Security Council demanded an end to on Friday (December 23), a resolution that a U.S. abstention made possible.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu requested the decision be put off, said Jerusalem Planning and Housing Committee member Hanan Rubin, hours before U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is to give a speech laying out his vision for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
A spokesman for Netanyahu had no immediate comment.
Rubin said 492 permits for construction of homes for Israelis in the urban settlements of Ramot and Ramat Shlomo, in areas that Israel captured in a 1967 war and annexed to Jerusalem, had been up for approval.
The United States on Friday broke with a longstanding approach of diplomatically shielding Israel and abstained on the Security Council resolution, which passed with 14 countries in favour and none against.
Kerry will discuss the abstention when he speaks at the State Department at 11 a.m. ET (1600 GMT), a senior State Department official told reporters on Tuesday.
The speech will also address what the official called "misleading" accusations by Israeli officials that the Obama administration drafted and forced the resolution to a vote.
Voting on the new building permits was removed from the committee's agenda for the session because "we were told by the chairman of the committee that the prime minister asked to postpone it and we have decided to do so," Rubin said.
"It's something that we do and we do it all the time (referring to construction approvals). And sometimes it's not the right time to do it. But it's done because we have no other option," he added.
The committee meets regularly, and it could consider approving the permits at a future date.
Peace Now blamed the Israeli government for "doing all what it can in order to destroy the possibility of reaching an agreement with the Palestinians based on the two-state solution."
In Ramallah, Saeb Erekat, Secretary General of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), said Netanyahu must choose between "settlements or peace".
Israel has for decades pursued a policy of building Jewish settlements on occupied territory Palestinians seek for a state.
Most countries view the settlements as an obstacle to peace. Israel disagrees, citing a biblical, historical and political connection to the land, as well as security interests. Washington considers the settlement activity illegitimate.
Some 570,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem among more than 2.6 million Palestinians.
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