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December 6, 2021 4:05 pm

Israel Delays Eastern Jerusalem Atarot Housing Plan

avatar by Reuters and Algemeiner Staff

A general view of the former Atarot airport near Qalandia in the West Bank where Israel plans to build a settlement that it would designate as a new neighborhood of Jerusalem. Photo: REUTERS/ Ronen Zvulun

An Israeli state planning committee on Monday delayed granting further approval of a major housing project in eastern Jerusalem that has drawn concern from the Biden administration.

The proposal that envisages building up to 9,000 homes received preliminary approval last month.

A Jerusalem district planning and building committee has now decided against moving forward, citing the need for an environmental study, according to a statement from Israel’s Planning Administration. No timeline for further discussion was given.

Critics contend that the proposed construction between eastern Jerusalem and the Palestinian city of Ramallah in the West Bank would further dim Palestinian hopes for a future state.

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The site once housed an airport and is known to Israelis as Atarot.

The Jerusalem municipal committee approved the project on Nov. 24, drawing Israeli media speculation that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett could move slowly towards final approval to avoid friction with Washington over settlement issues.

On Sunday, the Atarot project was discussed in a call between Bennett and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, an Israeli statement said, without giving details.

A State Department spokesperson said Blinken urged Israel and the Palestinians to refrain from any unilateral steps and noted that “advancing settlement activity” could undercut any efforts to negotiate a two-state solution to their conflict.

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