Plans put on hold for controversial national park in east Jerusalem

Decision marks major victory for Palestinian residents of Isawiya and A-Tur neighborhoods.

September 10, 2014 20:46
1 minute read.
Mount of Olives

A view of the Old City of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives.. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

A subcommittee of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority on Wednesday agreed to hold plans to build a controversial national park on Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus, due to its expected impact on two nearby Arab neighborhoods.

Although construction of the park has been strongly supported by the Jerusalem Municipality and the authority, opponents have long contended that it was little more than a ploy by the right wing to thwart Arab construction in Isawiya and E-Tur.

“This was the last reservoir of land for the two villages, and the idea was to prevent them from continuing to build – especially near the main road to Ma’aleh Adumin,” said Dr. Meir Margalit, a Meretz councilman who holds the east Jerusalem portfolio in the municipality.

While plans to build the park were approved in a vote by the Jerusalem Municipality’s planning and building committee, residents of Isawiya and E-Tur successfully appealed the decision.

Last October, Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz also shelved plans for the park, due to the area being “devoid of unique archeological remains that justify turning it into a natural park.”

Peretz wrote in a statement that although plans for the park were in the works for years, the decision to freeze the plans was made after being convinced by legal experts and colleagues that the area was not suitable for a park.

Peretz also noted concerns of international condemnation should the plans go forward.

“I wish to inform you that I do not intend to support the continuation of this process until we have held additional discussions to examine the implications for natural values, as well as the national and international ramifications,” he wrote.

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