The Local Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee removed two controversial
plans from its agenda on Wednesday so as not to cause friction when US President
Barack Obama visits next week.
Jerusalem learned this lesson the hard
way, when the Regional Committee gave initial approval to a project for 1,600
housing units in the northern Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, over the Green Line,
during Vice President Joseph Biden’s visit in 2010. Biden was furious with the
Netanyahu government and saw the approval as a personal insult.
“Biden fiasco,” the Prime Minister’s Office has instituted “increased
mechanisms” to ensure that no controversial projects are approved while
important dignitaries visit or ahead of major diplomatic events.
Wednesday, the Local Committee was supposed to discuss a project for 50 homes in
the southeastern Har Homa neighborhood, a controversial neighborhood because it
is over the Green Line and was created after the Oslo Accords were signed in
1993. Additionally, the committee was expected to approve a sewage and waste
infrastructure program for a neighborhood in E1, in the Ma’aleh Adumim
settlement, east of the capital.
On Thursday, the Regional Committee
abruptly dropped an item from its agenda to advance plans for an Israel Defense
Forces College on the Mount of Olives, which is also over the Green
“The entire bureaucracy from the prime minister on down is in
Obama-visit mode and they’re reliving the trauma of the Biden visit,” left-wing
Jerusalem expert Daniel Seidemann said. “Regardless of what Netanyahu’s
intentions are, the last thing he wants is a repeat of the Biden
Seidemann added that the E1 waste disposal project would
displace Beduin families.
Seidemann said the projects would be postponed
until after the Obama visit and most likely be approved in several weeks. He
called the postponements “cosmetic.”
A source in the Prime Minister’s
Office confirmed that the projects were postponed after it learned of
“There’s a panic from Obama’s visit, to my great sorrow.
think [postponing the projects] broadcasts a message that we don’t have
sovereignty there,” said Jerusalem City Councilor Yair Gabbai, who sits on both
the local and regional planning committees. “If something is right and
important, you can’t stop it just when there’s an important diplomat coming.
Then there will be this diplomat and that diplomat and then Catherine Ashton
from the EU and Catherine ‘Schmashton’ will come and then we can’t build
Jerusalem at all,” he said. “It’s not the proper behavior for a
The “increased mechanisms” that give the Prime Minister’s Office
control over the approval process for construction in east Jerusalem, also work
in the opposite direction.
After unilateral Palestinian steps at the
United Nations General Assembly in November, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
worked to advance plans for the E1 project, one often considered “off-limits”
because it could present significant challenges to a continuous Palestinian