Although the diplomatic tempest over construction plans in Jerusalem neighborhoods located over the Green Line appeared to be waning on Thursday, the exact numbers and details of those plans remained unclear – and differed according to who was explaining them.
On Thursday morning, the Jerusalem Municipality released a statement slamming reports that some 50,000 housing units were in various stages of planning for neighborhoods over the Green Line, and accused the Jerusalem-based NGO Ir Amim of “vast inconsistencies” in its documentation of the matter.
A report that appeared in Haaretz on Thursday, based partially on data provided by Ir Amim, stated that the 50,000 new housing units were being planned beyond the Green Line, and that while most of them were to be built in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods, a smaller number were to be built inside Arab neighborhoods as well.
The municipality, however, rejected those claims in part, saying that while the city was advancing plans for 50,000 housing units, a large portion of that construction was being planned for west Jerusalem neighborhoods like Kiryat Hayovel, Givat Massua, Romema and others – and not in the areas over the Green Line listed by Ir Amim.
In addition, “a large portion of the building planned for the eastern part of the city has been designated for the Arab sector, coming after years of complaints from groups like Ir Amim about neglect and a lack of planned construction for Arabs in Jerusalem,” the municipality statement said.
It also stressed that a number of plans mentioned by Ir Amim had been canceled and were no longer being pursued.
A map published alongside the Haaretz article – on which a municipality spokesman said its response had been based – showed more than 13,000 planned housing units in neighborhoods over the Green Line such as Gilo, Har Homa, Pisgat Ze’ev, Givat Hamatos, and others, which were in advanced stages of processing in the Jerusalem Regional Planing and Building Commission. This number included the 1,600 housing units for the northern Ramat Shlomo neighborhood that were approved on Tuesday and that created a diplomatic dust-up during US Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to the country.
Additionally, the map showed that more than 30,000 housing units for Atarot, Givat Yael, Mazmoriah and Kerem Hamufti were in the initial planning stages, although it was the plans for those units the municipality rebuffed specifically.
“With regard to Atarot, the area has been designated as a industrial zone, and there are no plans to build 11,000 housing units there, as was reported,” the municipality statement read. “With regard to Givat Yael, there are no plans to build 13,000 housing units there, and instead, the area has been designated as a green zone, open to the public.”
The municipality statement added that Mazmoriah had also been designated a “green zone” and there were no plans to build there or in Kerem Hamufti.
“As such, the more than 30,000 housing units that were mentioned in the Ir Amim report are not being advanced for construction,” the statement read.
However, Ir Amim’s coordinator for public policy development, Haim Erlich, said the Haaretz article had been based only partially on Ir Amim’s data, and questioned why the municipality hadn’t responded to any of the plans that were reported to be in advanced stages.
“Instead, their response focused only on plans the article said were in the initial planning stages,” Erlich said on Thursday.
“Even then,” he added, “regarding their response to the plans for Givat Yael, I have a letter addressed to the interior minister which states quite clearly that the plans for that are being advanced. Those plans are very much alive.”
Erlich added that plans to build a haredi enclave in Atarot and an additional neighborhood in Givat Yael dated back to the tenure of former Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek and that it was unlikely they had been hastily scrapped.
Meanwhile, a detailed report sent out on Wednesday night by Peace Now corroborated the reports that plans to build thousands of new housing units in Neveh Ya’acov, Har Homa, Pisgat Ze’ev, Gilo and Givat Hamatos were currently in the works, as were plans to build in new areas, some of which are in predominantly Arab neighborhoods of the city.
The report also stated that of 18 construction plans currently in various stages of advancement, five of them had already been approved by the regional planing commission and were simply pending announcement.
Nine of the plans, including the construction of Jewish housing in predominantly Palestinian neighborhoods like Jebl Mukaber and Silwan, are in the early stages of processing, according to the report, and are still awaiting initial deliberation by the commission.
One of the plans, which calls for the construction of more than 500
housing units in Givat Hamatos – which sits opposite Beit Safafa – is
pending an additional hearing after objections were filed by the public.
Another three plans, for more than 3,000 housing units in Givat
Hamatos, are awaiting final validation by the committee and will be
announced after that validation is given, according to the report.