Why is Givat Hamatos So Significant?

On 24 September, 2014 the Jerusalem local Planning and Construction Committee published an ad in a local Jerusalem weekly announcing the validation of plan No. 14295 for the construction of 2,610 housing units in Givat Hamatos (link to the ad in Hebrew). Following the harsh reactions of the Americans, Netanyahu tried to argue that there was nothing to criticize him about. Here are a few facts following Netanyahu’s claims:

1. Netanyahu says: “This is a just statutory and technical procedure.” The fact is that the process of approval of plans requires two steps. First of all, the approval of the Planning Committee (which approved the Givat Hamatos plan already in December 2012), and secondly, there should be an official publication announcing the validation of the plan (which took place last week). Without the publication of such an ad in the newspapers the plan is not valid and no tenders or construction may start.

2. Netanyahu says: “The plan is meaningless.” The plan is for a new neighborhood comprising of 2,610 housing units which cuts the territorial continuity between the Palestinian neighborhoods in South Jerusalem (Beit Safafa and Shurafat) and the future Palestinian state. Without such territorial continuity, it is impossible to reach a two state solution (see map below, and further details here).

 3. Netanyahu says: “Peace Now tried to sabotage my meeting with President Obama.” Peace Now brings information to the public regarding construction plans in the West Bank and East Jerusalem on a regular basis in order to safeguard the two state solution. The timing of its most recent announcement corresponds to the timing of official publication of the plan. Netayahu should not have allowed for the publication of the plan if he did not want trouble with President Obama.

4. Nir Barkat says: “There will be construction for Palestinians in Givat Hamatos.” The truth is that there is no private Palestinian land in this plan (Givat Hamatos A). The lands included in the plan are state lands and tenders to these plans will be published by the state, similarly to the case in Har Homa, Gilo, Ramot and other neighborhoods. Previous experience shows that the tenders in East Jerusalem are for Israelis. Out of approx. 55,000 units built by the Government in East Jerusalem neighborhoods since 1967, virtually none were sold to Palestinians. There is no reason to believe that in Givat Hamatos it will be different.

The bottom line is: If Netanyahu wants to fix the situation, which is a direct result of his own policy, he should announce immediately that he will not implement the plan and that he will never issue any tender to allow construction in Givat Hamatos, rather then blaming the messenger.