The Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Hamatos. Photo courtesy of Avishai ka via Hebrew Wikipedia.

(JNS) – Israel has moved ahead on with plans laid out in February to build 1,257 housing units in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Hamatos.

The Israel Lands Authority opened construction tenders for contractors, Reuters reported, in a move that has elicited criticism from the Palestinian Authority, the European Union and the United Nations.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas, said in a statement that settlements were illegal under international law and was part of Israel’s efforts “to kill the internationally-backed two-state solution,” according to the report.

“This is a key location between Jerusalem and Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. Any settlement construction will cause serious damage to the prospects for a viable and contiguous Palestinian State,” E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement, according to the report.

Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N. envoy to the Middle East peace process, echoed those sentiments. “If built, [these housing units] would further consolidate a ring of settlements between Jerusalem and Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank,” he said, according to AP.

E.U. representatives touring Givat Hamatos were confronted by Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Aryeh King and members of the Im Tirtzu movement, who called them “anti-Semites” and told them to “go home.”

International human-rights lawyer Arsen Ostrovsky defended the Israeli government’s decision to build the housing units. In an interview with WION (India) he said, “Just as it is not controversial for India to build homes in its capital, New Delhi, it should not be controversial for Israel to build homes in its capital, Jerusalem.”

Last November, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo U.S. announced a reversal of the 1978 State Department legal opinion that Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria are “inconsistent with international law.”

“Calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law has not advanced the cause of peace,” he said. “The hard truth is that there will never be a judicial resolution to the conflict, and arguments about who is right and who is wrong as a matter of international law will not bring peace.”

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