This coming Sunday, August 10, the Local Committee for Planning and Construction of the Jerusalem Municipality is expected to discuss requests by settlers for construction permits for 176 housing units in Jabel Mukaber, adjacent to the settlement of “Nof Zion.” If approved and constructed, this will be the largest Israeli settlement built within a Palestinian neighborhood. This story was published this evening in KAN, following Peace Now’s exposure.
Peace Now: “It appears that the government has opened all the floodgates when it comes to settlement developments within Palestinian neighborhoods. Building a large settlement in the heart of a Palestinian neighborhood would constitute a severe blow to Jerusalem and to the chance to arrive at a two state solution. This is not a matter of real estate but a matter of politics and sovereignty, as the Israelis moving to homes inside Palestinian neighborhoods are motivated solely by ideology, and are trying to prevent a future compromise in Jerusalem.”
During the 1990s, Jewish Israelis purchased a plot of land in Jabel Mukaber from Palestinians and prepared a construction plan for the area. In 1994, plan number 4558, for the construction of 395 housing units in the area, was approved and in the early 2000s the first phase of the project had begun with the construction of 91 housing units in the neighborhood of Nof Zion. The project proved unsuccessful, as purchasing a luxury apartment in the heart of a Palestinian neighborhood was not attractive to Israelis, unless they were ideological settlers, but these did not necessarily have the means to afford such apartments. Shortly thereafter, the developer went bankrupt and sold the project to other developers.
About a year ago, a company called “Shemini Properties LTD,” which owns a significant portion of the plot, requested construction permits for 13 buildings containing a total of 176 housing units (requests number 1141-1146/2016). These are the units to be discussed on Sunday.
It should be noted that the procedure of granting a construction permit is mainly bureaucratic, as the District Planning and Construction Committee had already approved the plan in 1994. The issuing of a permit is under the authority of the Local Planning and Construction Committee of the Jerusalem Municipality. Although it is not in the hands of the government to control the local committee’s agenda, we know from past experience that the Prime Minister can intervene and unofficially take plans and permits off the agenda of municipal bodies.
The objections to be discussed on Sunday were submitted by other Israeli landowners in the area – who hold the rights to construct approximately 100 additional housing units – based on disagreements around who owns which area of the plot.
The company behind this project is Shemini Properties LTD, which was registered three years ago and is owned by several foreign companies registered in Australia, the Cayman Islands and the United States. The man behind the company is Australian Billionaire Kevin Bermeister, who funds a variety of different settlement activities in Jerusalem, and who is considered to have radical and messianic views. Rami Levy Hashikma Marketing is the owner of 15% of the company.