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Photo by: Darren Whiteside / Reuters
Approval of military college to pass another hurdle
By MELANIE LIDMAN
16/01/2013
Controversial plan to move the National Defense College to the Mount of Olives expected to be approved by Jerusalem municipality.
 
The controversial plan to move the National Defense College to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem is expected to pass another approval hurdle on Wednesday after a hearing.

The Jerusalem municipality approved the location after hearing public opposition.

The college, whose final location was first announced in February 2011, is awaiting approval from the Interior Ministry’s District Building and Construction Committee, as well as defense establishments.

The 42,000-square-meter structure of the college is planned for an open area between the Arab village of E-Tur and Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus. It is to be located within a few hundred meters of the Old City with a commanding view of the Temple Mount.

Deputy Mayor Pepe Alalu (Meretz) said that the location is a “clear political goal.”



“Building an army college, especially over the 1967 Green Line, is very problematic,” Alalu said, adding that the site had been scrapped as a location for the Supreme Court due to the area’s sensitivity. He added that the massive underground parking lot, expected to reach five floors below ground, will bring hundreds of cars to the area and strain the limited road infrastructure, as well as blocking access to the Augusta Victoria hospital.

Peace Now’s Hagit Ofran, head of the Settlement Watch Division, said the military college’s location will have international implications.

“It means that all the international military leaders, when they come to visit, will not come to the central military college because it’s on an area that’s controversial,” she said.

“This was done to spite everyone and it seems to me to be a really stupid idea.”

But City Councilor Yair Gabbay (National Religious Party), who sits on both the Local and District Planning and Building Committees, said the project is excellent and is expected to pass without problems on Wednesday.

“This project strengthens us and our sovereignty in east Jerusalem,” Gabbay said.

The college is expected to bring approximately 1,400 soldiers and officers to Jerusalem.

The National Defense College is currently located at the Glilot junction in Herzliya, next to the central military intelligence base, though there has been talk of moving to Jerusalem for the past several years. The move is part of an initiative to free up land for housing in the Gush Dan region while bringing military infrastructure to economically depressed areas in the periphery and Jerusalem.
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