Netanyahu visits Gilo to defend Jerusalem construction

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo following an international outcry over the approval of nearly 800 apartments there.

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“United Jerusalem is Israel’s eternal capital. We have full rights to build in it. We have built in Jerusalem, we are building in Jerusalem and we will continue to build in Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said Tuesday during his visit with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. “This is our policy, and I will continue to support building in Jerusalem.”

Israel’s Interior Ministry last week announced its final approval for plans to build 797 new apartments in Gilo, located in southeastern Jerusalem. The initial approval for the project came in June.

European Union policy chief Catherine Ashton over the weekend issued a statement condemning the new construction approval.

“Settlements are illegal under international law and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible. The EU has repeatedly urged the government of Israel to immediately end all settlement activities in the West Bank, including in east Jerusalem, in line with its obligations under the ‘road map.’ ”

The Jerusalem Municipality must still issue building permits for the project.

Barkat called Netanyahu and his government “true friends of Jerusalem.”

“Thank you for the support and the resources that you have allocated to the city’s growth, and for the assistance that you have given to our right and our obligation to build and develop the city,” the mayor said. “We will continue to build tens of thousands of apartments throughout the city.”

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