Israeli authorities approved three construction plans to build 1600 new settlement units in Jerusalem, Israeli media reported on Monday.
The new units are planned in the French Hill settlement in eastern Jerusalem, to expand the premises of the Hebrew University. The project was approved by the Israeli Jerusalem municipality's planning authority and is expected to be approved by the Israeli ministry of interior.
The plan includes student dorms, rent apartments and three residential towers, enlarging the existing settlement built in 1968 on the lands of Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus.
In addition, Israeli authorities approved the construction of 400 new residential units on Mount Abu Ghneim, north of Bethlehem, enlarging the Israeli settlement of Har Gilo built as an extension to the Israeli boundaries of Jerusalem in 1996.
The approved units are "part of older plans made in the early 1990s of Israel's 'Jerusalem 2020' plan," Khalil Tafakji, the top Palestinian expert on Israeli settlements in Jerusalem and director of the maps unit at Jerusalem's Orient House, told The New Arab.
"The French Hill was the first settlement to be built in Jerusalem right after the Israeli occupation of eastern Jerusalem, and the idea has always been to enlarge it to saturate the northern part of Jerusalem and connect it to settlements around the city, east and south," he added.
"The Har Gilo settlement on Mount Abu Ghneim serves the same purpose in the south, expanding the Israeli Jerusalem boundaries deep into the Bethlehem area," Tafakji pointed out.
"The 'Jerusalem 2020' plan served the long-standing settlement strategy, which is why it has been carried out under left-wing and right-wing governments alike," he stressed, in reference to the fact that the plan was created during the government of Yitzhak Rabin.
The approvals arrive two days after Israeli prime minister Neftali Benett declared that Israel "will not accept foreign interference in decisions regarding the Temple Mount", in reference to the Al-Aqsa compound and the Jordanian custody over Jerusalem’s holy sites.
Jordan's custody and its role in the administration and maintenance of holy sites is part of Jerusalem's "status-quo", which has remained unchanged since 1967. The international community widely opposes any changes to Jerusalem's status quo until a political agreement over the city is reached.