Plans for a controversial national park on Mount Scopus, near two Palestinian
neighborhoods, were shelved by Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz on
Thursday due to the area being “devoid of unique archeological remains that
justify turning it into a natural park.”
Despite being planned for
several years, Peretz wrote in a statement Thursday that the decision to freeze
the plans was made after being convinced by legal experts, as well as other
colleagues, that the area was not suitable for a park, after all.
is no doubt that this is an area with important natural value,” Peretz wrote.
“It is the gateway to Jerusalem from the Judean Desert, and therefore
constitutes a link between areas with a desert climate to the east, and a
Mediterranean climate to the west.”
The statement continued:
“Nevertheless, I wish to inform you that I do not intend to support the
continuation of this process until we have held additional discussions to
examine the implications for natural values, as well as the national and
Construction of the park has been strongly
supported by the Jerusalem Municipality and the Israel Nature and Parks
However, Meretz councilman Meir Margalit, who holds the east
Jerusalem portfolio, contended on Thursday that the planned park was never an
ecological endeavor, so much as a smokescreen to thwart Palestinian construction
in Isawiya and Artul.
“This was the last reservoir of land for the two
villages, and the idea was to prevent them from continuing to build – especially
near the main road to Ma’aleh Adumin,” Margalit said by phone
The councilman added that he sent an email earlier in the day
to the municipality’s legal adviser to note ongoing illegal razing of the area
for the proposed park, prior to it being approved.
“Over the last two
years many times every couple months the municipality, along with the National
Parks Authority, entered the area and destroyed numerous structures, including
one containing animals, in order to prepare the ground for the park even though
it was not approved,” he said.
“I said this is illegal, but the
municipality responded that [the park] will be approved, so it’s not a big
deal,” Margalit added.
Indeed, Margalit said that the municipality said
it was so certain the park would be approved that it preemptively entered the
area to save time.
In response to Peretz’s assertion that it was suddenly
determined that the area did not, in fact, justify building a park, Margalit
said the government knew this all along, but wanted to use the land for
“What I knew from the beginning is that the real
motivation [to build the park] was political – to try to stop development of
Isawiya and Artul,” he said.
“The motivation was to keep the land to
perhaps build a new Jewish settlement one day.”
Margalit said this tactic
is commonly referred to as a “Green Settlement.”
“Green settlements are
places where settlers cannot build settlements, so they take the land to build a
national park to make it a settlement in the future,” he said.
for comment Thursday, Israel Nature and Parks Authority spokeswoman Tali
Tenenbaum said the authority “would rather not comment about it.”