An illustration of the planned Jerusalem cable car.
(photo credit: JERUSALEM DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY)
Early last month, the National Infrastructure Committee approved an advancement to move forward interim-government approval for controversial plans to construct a tourist cable car to Jerusalem’s Old City.
The NIS 200 million project, advanced by the Tourism Ministry and the Jerusalem Development Authority, will see a 1.5 km.-long cable car route stretching from Jerusalem’s First Station complex to a station near the Old City’s Dung Gate, close to the entrance to the Western Wall plaza, via Mount Zion.
Emek Shaveh, an Israeli NGO that works to "defend cultural heritage rights and to protect ancient sites as public assets that belong to members of all communities, faiths and peoples," has condemned the action, having reached out to the attorney-general and the tourism minister, and now petitioning the High Court of Justice to prevent the interim government from approving the plan.
“This reality, in which the government reigns as an interim government based on legal directives, but without enjoying public trust, has legal ramifications," Emek Shaveh said in a statement. "During this period, the government is obligated to exhibit self-restraint in exercising its powers regarding those matters that are not absolutely necessary and do not require especially urgent action during the interim period.”
According to the NGO, the cable car plan does not "constitute an essential public necessity" and that its approval can be delayed a couple of months - with special consideration being given to the recent ministerial budget cuts, due to the government superseding their original debt allowance.
“Whether the cable car plan arose entirely from political aims, or is a combination of political aims with legitimate aims for the public good, its approval by an interim government is counter-indicated by the tremendous sensitivity required when implementing government powers when there is concern – even if only for the sake of appearances – that there is a link between said implementation of powers and the elections," Emek Shaveh's petition to the High Court of Justice wrote.
While the plan’s proponents, including Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, have cited the initiative as an important solution to improving access to the Old City and reducing dependence on public transportation amid increasing tourism, the project has met significant opposition from local residents, environmentalists, heritage groups and Palestinians.
Emek Shaveh has been one of the most vocal opponents to the plan.
"The public objection submitted by Emek Shaveh, signed by public intellectuals and experts, and hundreds of citizens, focused on the deleterious impact to the landscape of the Old City, the cable car’s anticipated negative effect on the residents of Silwan, and the claim that the cable car will not solve the problem of transportation to the Old City," said the NGO.
"In addition to the highly deleterious impact on the landscape of the Ben Hinnom Valley and the view of the Old City walls, the highly pertinent fact of the project’s political objectives – strengthening the Elad Foundation in Silwan and the plans of the Israeli government and the settler organizations in east Jerusalem – cannot be ignored."Eytan Halon contributed to this report.
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