The Israeli municipality in Jerusalem approved plans for the construction of 108 settlement units in occupied East Jerusalem that would cut off two Palestinian-majority neighborhoods. The move is seen as an effort to rush through settlement plans while Trump is still in office and to set the tone for the incoming Biden administration.
The units are going to be built in Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem that stirred controversy with the Obama administration in 2010. Israel announced the construction of 1,600 settler apartments in Ramat Shlomo while then-Vice President Biden was visiting the country. The move embarrassed Biden since the US was officially opposed to settler construction in East Jerusalem at the time.
There was an effective freeze on settlement construction in East Jerusalem since Biden’s visit, but the Ramat Shlomo project was eventually completed. Settlements are illegal under international law and were considered illegal by the US until the Trump administration reversed the decades-old policy in 2019.
Sources in Israel’s municipality that approve construction in East Jerusalem told several Israeli media outlets that they are hoping to push through more settlement plans before Biden’s inauguration on January 20th.
In another show of support for Israel’s occupation from the Trump administration, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is going to visit the Golan Heights and a settlement in the West Bank during his trip to Israel next week. It would be the first time a US secretary of state visited those territories, which are considered illegally occupied under international law.
In 2019, President Trump formally recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, territory seized by Israel from Syria in 1967. Biden is not expected to reverse Trump’s recognition, and the former vice president has said that he will keep the US embassy in Jerusalem.