Erekat talking with hands in air 311.
(photo credit:Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
The Palestinian Authority on Friday slammed Israeli plans to build more than 2,500 apartments in the new Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Hamatos, over the 1967 Green Line.
"Israel's plan to build 2,610 housing units ... between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, makes a mockery of ... efforts to bring about a just and lasting peace," Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said in a statement.
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The plan passed an important step in the approval process this week, in what activists are calling the most dramatic change in Jewish construction over the 1967 Green Line since the construction of Har Homa in late 1990s. The news of the major housing project, which will create a completely separate neighborhood between Beit Safafa and Har Homa, was largely ignored in the news of the Gilad Schalit prisoner swap deal
Left-wing activists and politicians slammed the plan for a new neighborhood in east Jerusalem. “I think that this is a decisive massacre of the option of returning to negotiations with Palestinians,” said City Councilor Meir Margalit (Meretz), who holds the east Jerusalem portfolio. “Givat Hamatos is different from other neighborhoods. Construction in neighborhoods already built doesn’t scare me, but this is only on paper and this is a totally new settlement,” he said.
The plan for a new neighborhood at Givat Hamatos has been in the works for years. The general construction plan for Givat Hamatos with 2,610 housing units was approved in September. At least some of the housing units will be reserved for an Arab extension of Beit Safafa.
However, the project’s approval in September did not raise any red flags
since the land for the project has many different owners, including the
Spanish government and the Latin Patriarch, said Margalit. Determining
and reorganizing the ownership for building purposes is a complicated
legal process called “reparcelization” that can take years, leading
activists and politicians to focus their energies elsewhere.
The reparcelization plan was deposited for public review on Tuesday,
which began a 60-day period for review during which the public can file
oppositions to the project. With the deposit, the project is close to
the end of the complicated approval process, and construction could
begin as early as a year and a half from now.
Two weeks ago, the Quartet strongly denounced
expansion plans for 1,100 new units in the Gilo neighborhood, which is
also located across the Green Line. Peace Now’s Hagit Ofran, who heads
the Settlement Watch Team, called the Givat Hamatos plan “much more
dramatic.” “It’s three times the size, and it’s a whole new neighborhood
and a new footprint,” she said.
The main argument that left-wing activists have against the project is
its controversial location, which continues a line of Jewish
neighborhoods that separate Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem from
Bethlehem. “This is land that could be a potential connection from Beit
Safafa to the Palestinian state, but now we’re going to close off [Beit
Safafa] like an enclave,” she said.
City Council member David “Didi” Hershkovitz (Yerushayalim Beiteinu),
who sits on the municipality’s Local Planning and Building Committee,
blessed the new project. “Givat Hamatos is a prerequisite for massive
building in Jerusalem,” he said on Friday. “There is not and cannot be a
division between west Jerusalem, Gilo and Har Homa. Anything otherwise
is claims by leftists whose goal is trying to continue to delegitimize
Israel,” he said.
Hershkovitz said he is ready for international condemnation, though he
challenged any of the world leaders to find Givat Hamatos or Gilo on a
map. “Givat Hamatos is clearly part of Jerusalem, it’s right next to
[the Jerusalem neighborhood of] Talpiyot,” he said. “They can’t say
'it’s not the time to build,' because then there’s really no time to
build. This is exactly the time to build and to strengthen Jerusalem.”
Margalit called the initiators of the Givat Hamatos project “terrorists”
and vowed to make sure people around the world understood the
“severity” of the project.
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