Ministers back bill against Safdie plan

Law could prevent westward expansion of Jerusalem, protect Jerusalem Hills.

By ETGAR LEFKOVITS
October 30, 2006 01:53
1 minute read.
har heret hills jeruslem, safdie plan, 298 aj

har heret hills jeruslem. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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The ministerial committee on legislation approved a bill on Sunday that could block the Safdie plan for the westward expansion of Jerusalem. The draft legislation sponsored by MK Yuri Shtern (Israel Beiteinu) calls for the protection of the Jerusalem Hills, and would designate an expanse of open space west of the capital as a protected area, including the land marked for development under the Safdie plan, which is currently undergoing the approval process. The bill was approved by a 5-2 vote, and will now be sent to the Knesset for a first reading, a spokesman for the Israel Union for Environmental Defense said. Acting Justice Minister Meir Sheetrit, who voted against the bill Sunday, is considering appealing the committee's decision to the full cabinet out of concern that such a law would set a precedent making it more difficult to build new housing. Fifty MK's from across the political spectrum have already signed a petition against the Safdie building plan. The ministers approval of the bill comes less than two weeks after an Interior Ministry planning committee postponed a decision on the massive building plan by two months following a fierce public struggle by environmentalists who say it would irrevocably damage the Jerusalem landscape. The Safdie plan would see the construction of 20,000 housing units on more than 26 square km. of woodlands west of Jerusalem in one of Israel's largest ever construction projects. The plan has been on the drawing boards for several years and has the backing of the Jerusalem municipality. Its current version has been awaiting final approval for more than a year.

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