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Netanyahu Freezes East Jerusalem Construction

By: DPA, Haaretz

30.07.09

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has frozen a project for the construction of some 900 apartments in East Jerusalem, Channel 10 television reported late Wednesday.

The report of Netanyahu's order to freeze the project came a day after he held talks in Jerusalem with U.S. President Barack Obama's special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell. Netanyahu has been under tremendous pressure from the United States to freeze all construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

According to Channel 10, The houses were planned to be built in Pisgat Ze'ev, one of several Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem built beyond the Green Line separating Israel from the West Bank.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future state. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to engage in new peace negotiations until Israel completely halts construction in the city and the West Bank.

Israel conquered East Jerusalem, including the historic Old City with its Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Armenian quarters, and the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War.

Israel has since annexed East Jerusalem, and Netanyahu, of the center-right Likud party, has vowed he will not divide the city again.

The previous government of centrist premier Ehud Olmert made no secret of its continued construction in settlements in and around East Jerusalem. Unlike Netanyahu, however, Olmert had called for handing over Arab neighborhoods of the city to Palestinian sovereignty.