Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu early Wednesday morning announced a major increase in Jewish building projects in Jerusalem.
The announcement came just hours after Netanyahu had freed 26 blood-soaked Palestinian terrorists as a "peace gesture." The new building projects were themselves seen as a gesture to the Israeli public that had so opposed the release of jailed murderers.
The new building plans are to include an additional 1,500 housing units in the neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo in north-eastern Jerusalem, a large new visitors' center at the City of David archaeological park outside the Old City, and a new national park on the slopes of Mt. Scopus.
Ramat Shlomo was at the center of a rift in Israel-US relations in 2010 when the municipality announced new building tenders there during a visit by US Vice President Joe Biden. Washington supports the Palestinian claim to the eastern half of Jerusalem.
The City of David archaeological park is situated in the volatile Arab neighborhood of Silwan, another local flash point, and the new park on Mt. Scopus will reportedly prevent the expansion of nearby Arab neighborhoods.
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