The Jerusalem Planning Committee has approved 2,612 housing units in the Givat Hamatos settlement on Jerusalem’s southern rim, an Israeli municipal official said Wednesday. City Councilor Pepe Alalu, who voted against the project, said construction could begin in a year. The area, inhabited by a few dozen Jewish and Palestinian families, would be the first new settlement to be built in east Jerusalem since 1997. Critics claim that Givat Hamatos, along with other settlements planned for an area known as E-1, could hinder access to east Jerusalem from the West Bank. Slaughterer Israel’s new building plans have drawn worldwide rebuke.