Senior officials from Israel's Housing Ministry revealed in testimony before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday that they are no longer issuing tenders for construction of new homes in Jewish neighborhoods on the eastern side of Jerusalem.
The officials told the committee that in accordance with new government policies, such tenders now require the personal approval of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Olmert had previously insisted that he would not subject the half of Jerusalem claimed by the Palestinians to the same building restrictions imposed on Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria as a result of international pressure.
Speaking to reporters following the session, committee member Reuven Rivlin of the opposition Likud Party said the quote "damned truth" of Olmert's intentions for Jerusalem and Israel's biblical heartland in line with US President George W. Bush's vision for the birth of a Palestinian Arab state could no longer be denied.
Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski warned that Israel was in danger of becoming the first nation on earth to turn its capital city into an illegal outpost.
Lupolianski noted that Olmert's decision flew it the face of Israel's sovereign decision to declare Jerusalem its eternal, undivided capital and of laws determining that Israel's sovereign right to build in all of Jerusalem could only be altered by a special majority of the Knesset.
Olmert's office responded with a statement insisting that no decision had been made to suspend construction in Jewish neighborhoods in any part of Jerusalem, but failed to address the Housing Ministry's revelation that any new construction now requires the prime minister's direct authorization.