On Sunday, the Israeli Cabinet approved a plan to spend 3.2 billion shekels ($843 million) over five years to develop illegal Jewish settlements in the eastern part of Jerusalem, a decision that could worsen the conflict with the Palestinians.
The plan, which was proposed by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, seeks to improve the “economic and social disparities” in the eastern part of the city, which is under Israeli occupation and where around 350,000 Palestinians reside.
The plan was denounced by Palestinian officials and activists, who said it was a breach of international law and human rights. They said it was part of the Israeli ongoing colonization and annexation of Jerusalem, which Israel occupied along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967.
Netanyahu claimed that the plan would result in a “massive development” of infrastructure, health, welfare, security, education and employment for the people of eastern Jerusalem. He also asserted that the plan would reinforce the Israeli sovereignty and security in the occupied city.
The plan also allocates about 1 billion shekels ($263.5 million) for transportation projects that would link Jewish settlements in Jerusalem with those in the West Bank, effectively isolating Palestinian neighborhoods from each other and from the rest of the Palestinian occupied land.
One of the projects is the Eastern Ring Road, which would connect Jewish settlements south of Jerusalem in the Bethlehem area with those in the Ma’ale Adumim area, east of Jerusalem. The road would also pass through the E1 area, where the Israeli occupation intends to build thousands of housing units that would cut off Jerusalem from the West Bank.
The plan faced opposition from some members of Netanyahu’s far-right coalition, who argued that “it would not stop Palestinian violence and incitement.”
The Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said he was “very upset” that money would go to “the wrong districts and places that will misuse it.” He also accused the previous government of investing in Palestinians for political reasons.
Jerusalem is historically the capital of Palestine, while the city is split by the Israeli occupation that fosters inequality and oppression against Palestinians. The status of Jerusalem is one of the most contentious issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The international community does not recognize the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem and considers all Israeli settlements in the occupied territories as illegal under international law. The United Nations Security Council has repeatedly called on Israel to stop its settlement activities and respect its obligations as an occupying power.