Jerusalem Municipality approves infrastructure budget for Ramat Shlomo

Margalit condemns decision as "counterproductive, poorly timed."

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August 26, 2013 20:12
2 minute read.
JERUSALEM’S RAMAT SHLOMO neighborhood.

Ramat Shlomo 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski/The Jerusalem Post))

Funding for the development of Ramat Shlomo in east Jerusalem – whose plans led to a diplomatic crisis with Washington when they were initially announced during US Vice President Joe Biden’s 2010 visit – was approved Monday by the Jerusalem Municipality’s Finance Committee.

A total of NIS 62.4 million will be allocated for the construction of approximately 1,600 housing units and the infrastructure needed to develop the planned Jewish community.

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The Finance Committee decision came less than 24 hours after the government allocated NIS 16m. to develop the City of David National Park in the primarily Arab neighborhood of Silwan, as well as NIS 150,000 to construct a mikve, or ritual bath, for the Jewish neighborhood of Nof Tzion in the Arab quarter of Jebl Mukaber.

The March 2010 announcement to develop Ramat Shlomo sparked a significant row with the US regarding building rights in sections of the capital located over the Green Line.

The plan was also condemned by governments and organizations around the world as a destabilizing factor for peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

US criticism is widely believed to have contributed to a de facto freeze that has brought nearly all construction in Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem to a standstill for much of the past three years.

To ease tensions at the time, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Washington that construction would not begin for at least two years.

When the Interior Ministry’s Jerusalem District Planning and Construction Committee ratified the plan in June 2012, City Councilman Yair Gabai, a member of the panel, praised the plan as “the first in a series of essential developments that will add to the prosperity of Jerusalem, help curb emigration from the capital, and strengthen Israeli sovereignty in all parts of the city.”

At the same time, Hassan Abu Libda, the Palestinian Authority’s minister of national economy, condemned the move, calling it a “resumption of settlement activity.”

“On the Israeli side it may satisfy I don’t know how many settlers, but on the Palestinian side it is undermining – in a strategic way – the ability of the PA to represent the interests of the Palestinian people, and the PA will not be able to continue business as usual,” he told The Jerusalem Post a little over a year ago.

In a statement issued on Monday, Jerusalem Deputy Mayor and Finance Committee head David Hadari lauded the funding announcement, deeming it “Jerusalem’s vaccination shot against those who think about dividing it somehow.”

However, Meretz councilman Meir Margalit, who holds the east Jerusalem portfolio, reacted with disappointment.

“This was an unnecessary and counterproductive decision – not because I’m against the infrastructure, but because I’m against the timing,” Margalit said Monday evening.

In a statement, the Jerusalem Municipality noted there had been no changes in its construction policy over the past four decades, adding that it would continue to “build in all of the city’s neighborhoods according to statutory plans” for both Jews and Arabs.

“In the coming years, tens of thousands of housing units will be built all over the city for all sectors,” the statement said. “New construction in Jerusalem is necessary for the development of the city and in order to give young people and students the opportunity to live and buy houses in the capital.”


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