January 3, 2012
The Jerusalem Post reports (http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=252062) British ambassador Matthew Gould took Israel to task Tuesday for announcing new building projects beyond the Green Line in Jerusalem, but then retracted the criticism after learning there had been no such new declaration.
Gould, at briefing with journalists, said the announcement of new construction beyond the Green Line was "unhelpful" on a day when Israeli and Palestinian officials were meeting in Amman.
The only problem is that there was no new announcement of a new construction project beyond the Green Line. What there was, however, was publication by the Israel Land Authority of tenders for 312 units in Pisgat Ze'ev and Har Homa. These tenders were already announced a week ago.
After his initial condemnation, Gould clarified the matter and issued a statement saying that the Israeli government "has made clear to us that there has been no new announcement of tenders for building in east Jerusalem today, and that reports of such new tenders were incorrect. This is a welcome reassurance."
One official said this incident reflects confusion over how the planning process in the country works, with the same project – which must go through numerous steps on its way from initial design to final approval – often being condemned at every new station along the way as an "announcement of a new settlement project."
A British embassy spokesperson said Gould based his initial condemnation on a statement put out by Ir Amim, a left-wing NGO that monitors building in Jerusalem.
According to that statement, "Today, January 3, as Israeli and Palestinian representatives meet in Jordan at the behest of King Abdullah in order to restart negotiations, the Israel Lands Authority published tenders for 312 units in East Jerusalem – in Har Homa B and Pisgat Zeev. The timing of this notice is a slap in the face to Jordan…"
The tenders published by the Israel Land Administration represent the last step in the complicated approval process for construction in Israel, which can take up to a decade to complete.