Four discussions are taking place this week in the Jerusalem District Planning Committee regarding different construction plans in East Jerusalem. Some of the discussions will be for granting final validation, while others will be at the objection stage. Yesterday a discussion on objections to the construction of the Lower Aqueduct neighborhood took place, and today, a discussion on objections to the plan for the business park in the Palestinian neighborhood of Wadi Joz. In addition, later this week, a discussion is planned regarding the objections of residents of Hizma to the expansion of Highway 437, which is located at the entrance to the town of Hizma and is under the jurisdiction of the Jerusalem municipality. Finally, early next week, a discussion is expected to be held to approve the deposit plan for the expansion of the Nof Zion settlement in the Jabal Mukaber neighborhood, which includes the addition of 100 housing units and hotels.
1.5.23 – Lower Aqueduct neighborhood (Plan 101-0808840). Discussion of objections to establish a neighborhood at the foot of Kibbutz Ramat Rachel, adjacent to the Har Homa neighborhood. The plan includes 1,492 housing units, with half of the plan’s area located beyond the Green Line and half within it. The strategic location of the plan – between Givat HaMatos and Har Homa – makes it particularly problematic since it will disrupt the Palestinian territorial continuity between East Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
If the plan is approved after the objections hearing, the Israel Land Authority (the initiators of the plan) can begin the process of obtaining permits and start the construction. Thus far, the planning committees have advanced the construction of the neighborhood at a relatively rapid pace. The plan was deposited with the district committee in July 2021, and within less than two years, it appears that the construction of the neighborhood will be approved. (Read more on the political implications of the neighborhood’s construction and land ownership, here).
2.5.23 – Promotion of a business park in the Palestinian neighborhood of Wadi Joz (Plan 101-0977694). Discussion of objections to the master plan for the regulation and development of the Wadi Joz neighborhood. The commercial complex is on a plot of 79 dunams and is part of a larger plan to regulate construction in Wadi Joz. According to the Jerusalem municipality, the initiator of the plan, the planning goal is to enable massive construction of employment complexes, and offices for the residents of East Jerusalem as well as to regulate construction in the neighborhood. Currently, some of the businesses in the neighborhood, including shops, industrial buildings, garages, and offices, are built without permits from the municipality and authorities.
Among Palestinians there is concern that the plan aims to seize part of the land and push small business owners aside, who constitute the majority of business owners in the neighborhood. Additionally, promoting a master plan for a commercial complex in Wadi Joz is perceived as a policy that promotes business development over residential neighborhoods. That is, instead of addressing the shortage of residential areas and promoting plans for housing – the most urgent and critical problem for Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem – the municipality is promoting business parks.
Since there are many landowners in the planned area, it seems that even after the plan is approved, the municipality will need to map out the landowners (a process that has already begun) and start the process of seizing land for the purpose of implementing the plan. These procedures can last a long time and cause a lot of turmoil among the affected Palestinian residents. Read Ir Amim´s position paper on the implications of the plan, here.
4.5.23 – Road 437, which connects Highway 60 to the villages of Hizma and Anata, is being upgraded as part of the “Hizma-Adam” Highway project. The expansion of the road is intended to create a two-lane highway and a public transportation way spanning approximately 6 km from the Hizma checkpoint to the industrial area of the Binyamin Regional Council. The debate regarding objections deals with the area that belongs to the Jerusalem municipality (Plan 101-0587618) and includes the Hizma checkpoint and the road that borders the village from the south and northeast. The approval of the highway was made during the days of the Bennett government when Merav Michaeli (from the Labor Party) was the Minister of Transportation. Work in the area has already begun, and the objections are from residents of Hizma, through whose village the road passes.
Another part of the road upgrade and expansion will be done in the West Bank, outside of East Jerusalem, and will be submitted separately to the Higher Planning Council of the Civil Administration. Despite its name, the “Adam-Hizma Highway” will pass beyond the Israeli settlement of Adam (Geva Binyamin) and will reach the Binyamin industrial area, allowing for the development of the industrial area and easier access to it for residents of Jerusalem and other business owners.
8.5.23 – Nof Zahav – Hotels and Housing units. (Plan 101-0976597). Discussion in the regional committee regarding the construction of two hotels (550 rooms in total) and 100 housing units. The site is located on the northeastern slopes of Armon Hanatziv’s promenade, in the area of Jabal Mukaber neighborhood. The designated construction area is adjacent to the Nof Tzion settlement of the Jabal Mukaber neighborhood and serves as its continuation. The plan will create a sequence of built-up areas from Harmon Hanatsiv’s promenade to the Nof Tzion settlement. The designated construction area is located beyond the green line, within the demilitarised area, and partially beyond it.
In recent years, settlement organizations have invested considerable efforts to judaize the area between Armon Hanatsiv’s promenade and Jabal Mukaber neighborhood on one side, and the Abu Tur neighborhood on the northern side. The proposed plan integrates with the tourist attractions, mainly those of the Elad association, and increases the settlement area from 176 units to 276 units and 550 hotel rooms.
The advanced construction plans discussed by the Jerusalem planning committee are a continuation of the government´s policy and the municipality’s efforts to make a political solution for the city more difficult in various ways. These plans include the construction of a new neighborhood beyond the Green Line – the Lower Aqueduct neighborhood; amplifying the road system between settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem – the Hizma-Adam Highway that does not serve the immediate needs of East Jerusalem Palestinian residents and even reduces potential housing areas – a business center in the Wadi Joz area; and continuing construction adjacent to Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem while preventing their expansion, like the Nof Zahav plan. Although these plans receive little public attention, they create a worrying and distressing sense of damage to a peaceful future in the city.