Givat Hamatos 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy Peace Now)
A plan for more than 2,500 apartments in the new neighborhood at Givat Hamatos
passed an important step in the approval process last week, in what activists
are calling the most dramatic change in Jewish construction over the Green Line
since the construction of Har Homa in late 1990s.
The news of the major
housing project, which will create a neighborhood between Beit Safafa and Har
Homa, was largely ignored amid the news of the Gilad Schalit prisoner swap
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Left-wing activists and politicians slammed the plan for a new
neighborhood in southeast Jerusalem.
“I think that this is a decisive
massacre of the option of returning to negotiations with Palestinians,” said
City Councilor Meir Margalit (Meretz), who holds the east Jerusalem portfolio in
“Givat Hamatos is different from other
neighborhoods. Construction in neighborhoods already built doesn’t scare
me, but this is only on paper and this is a totally new
Givat Hamatos currently has a caravan village that was built
in 1991 to temporarily house Ethiopian Jews who were airlifted to
The plan for the new neighborhood has been in the works for
years. The general construction plan for Givat Hamatos with 2,610 housing units
was approved in September. At least some of the housing units will be reserved
for an extension of the Arab Beit Safafa neighborhood.
approval in September did not raise any red flags since the land for the project
has many different owners, including the Spanish government and the Latin
Patriarchate, said Margalit.
Determining and reorganizing the ownership
for building purposes is a complicated legal process called “reparcelization”
that can take years, leading activists and politicians to focus their energies
The reparcelization plan was deposited for public review on
Tuesday, which began a 60-day period for review during which members of the
public can file objections to the project. With the deposit, the project is
close to the end of the complicated approval process, and construction could
begin as early as a year and a half from now.
Two weeks ago, the Middle East
Quartet strongly denounced
expansion plans for 1,100 new units in the Gilo
neighborhood, which is also located across the Green Line. Peace Now’s Hagit
Ofran, who heads its Settlement Watch Team, called the Givat Hamatos plan “much
“It’s three times the size, and it’s a whole new
neighborhood and a new footprint,” she said.
The main argument that
leftwing activists have against the project is its location, which continues a
line of Jewish neighborhoods that separate Arab neighborhoods in southern
Jerusalem from Bethlehem.
“This is land that could be a potential
connection from Beit Safafa to the Palestinian state, but now we’re going to
close off [Beit Safafa] like an enclave,” Ofran said.
City Council member
David “Didi” Hershkovitz (Yerushayalim Beiteinu), who sits on the municipality’s
Local Planning and Building Committee, welcomed the new project. “Givat Hamatos
is a prerequisite for massive building in Jerusalem,” he said on
“There is not and cannot be a division between west Jerusalem,
Gilo and Har Homa. Anything otherwise is claims by leftists whose goal is
trying to continue to delegitimize Israel.”
Hershkovitz said he is ready
for international condemnation, though he challenged any of the world leaders to
find Givat Hamatos or Gilo on a map. “Givat Hamatos is clearly part of
Jerusalem, it’s right next to [the west Jerusalem neighborhood of] Talpiyot,” he
“They can’t say ‘it’s not the time to build,’ because then there’s
really no time to build. This is exactly the time to build and to
Margalit called the initiators of the Givat
Hamatos project “terrorists” and vowed to make sure people around the world
understood the “severity” of the project.
UN Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon criticized Israel on Friday over the plan.
is deeply concerned at continued efforts to advance planning for new Israeli
settlements in occupied east Jerusalem,” Ban’s press office said in a
“Recent developments in this regard have been unacceptable,
particularly as efforts are ongoing to resume [Israeli- Palestinian]
negotiations, and run contrary to the Quartet’s call on the parties to refrain
from provocations,” it said.
“The secretary-general reiterates that
settlement activity in east Jerusalem and the remainder of the West Bank is
contrary to international law,” the UN statement said, adding such activity
Reuters contributed to this report.