Israeli government Ministers have inaugurated a new Jewish only settlement in East Jerusalem. A ceremony including Jerusalem mayor Mayor Nir Barkat and Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan officially opened the Ma’aleh Zeitim settlement, in East Jerusalem’s Ras al-Amud neighbourhood. Speeches during the ceremony focussed on maintaining Jerusalem as an undivided whole under Israeli control. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat commented that ‘Israel without Jerusalem or Zionism without Zion are like a body without a soul. We, as the government of Israel, are committed to strengthening Jerusalem and keeping it whole and united, and continuing to build in all parts of the city.’

A counter protest was organised outside the inauguration by Israeli and Palestinian activists. One activist, Israeli Tzila Goldberg, succeeded in gaining access to the ceremony and interrupting it. Goldberg called the Ministers in attendance “war criminals”.

The timing of the event, one year after families began to move into the development ,will be seen as significant given recent statements by Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu.

The ceremony punctuated Netanyahu’s speech to US Congress, in which he expressed his view that Israel would not give up control of occupied East Jerusalem as part of any peace deal.

The settlement is funded by Jewish American millionaire Irwin Moskowitz.