Israel revealed its intentions to build 15,000 new settlement homes in Jerusalem on April 28. The move comes as a surprise after President Donald Trump requested Israel "hold back" on building new settlements to encourage a new push for peace.
Reuters reports that the plan's official announcement could come around Israel Day, May 24, right about the time Trump has scheduled his visit. The holiday celebrates the capture of East Jerusalem during the 1967 Six Day War.
The announcement comes amid rising tensions between Israel and its neighbors, as well as the Palestinians who live within its borders in semi-independent enclaves. As the Syrian civil war rages to the north, Israel's relationship with the PLA and Hamas, which control East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip but oppose one another, remains volatile.
According to the Times of Israel, the Israeli Housing Minister Yoav Galant announced the details of the project, outlining that 25,000 new homes in total would be added to Jerusalem, but 15,000 of those units would be built over the Green Line, the artificial boundary separating Palestinian controlled East Jerusalem from Israel's west.
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The Times of Israel reports that this would be one of the largest housing projects over the pre-1967 Green Line recently. It would reportedly cost over $1.1 billion.
The homes are overwhelmingly marked for use by Israel's powerful Ultra-Orthodox religious community. Israel considers all of Jerusalem its "eternal and indivisible capital" and often makes unilateral decisions about the area despite it actually being an area shared by two different and often opposing governments.
Reuters reports that Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, condemned the plan as "a systematic violation of international law and a 'deliberate sabotage of efforts to resume talks."
"All settlements in occupied Palestine are illegal under international law. Palestine will continue to resort to international bodies to hold Israel, the occupation power, accountable for its grave violations of international law throughout occupied Palestine," said Erekat in a statement following the announcement from the housing ministry.
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Trump is a firm supporter of Israel, and though he has publicly acknowledged his wish for a peace deal for the region, Israel has taken his presidency as a sign that America will support the Jewish nation. Shortly after Trump took office, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lifted restrictions on settlement construction.
The move is viewed by many as intentionally inflammatory and will be heavily considered when Netanyahu meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House on May 3.