Israel’s Interior Ministry has approved a 1,600-unit housing complex in East Jerusalem. It’s the same complex that was announced last year, embarrassing a visiting Vice President Joe Biden, and it comes with the promise to build an additional 2,700 units of housing in the occupied Palestinian area of the city.

Israelis have been protesting high rents, erecting a tent city in Tel Aviv to drive home the point, but building on Palestinian land remains controversial. Thursday’s housing announcement, as The New York Times points out, could drive Palestinian leaders even harder to declare statehood at the United Nations in a month. — PZS

The New York Times:

The announcement also provoked an angry reaction from Israeli groups opposed to housing construction in land conquered by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. They denounced it as an opportunistic way for the Israeli government to exploit a housing shortage that has led to unaffordable rents and mass protests in Israel. Peace Now, the leading anti-settlement group in Israel, condemned what it called the Interior Ministry’s “cynical use” of the housing crisis.

The Israel Interior Ministry announcement came a month before the United Nations annual General Assembly in New York, where Palestinian Authority officials have said they may unilaterally declare statehood, a move that is opposed by both Israel and the United States, its strongest ally. They favor a resumption of peace talks, which remain stalled partly because of Palestinian objections to Israeli construction on disputed lands. The housing announcement could strengthen Palestinian resolve to proceed with the statehood declaration.

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