Tower of David in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Jerusalem District Planning and Construction committee began quietly resuming work this week, meeting for the first time since approving 1,600 housing units in the capital’s Ramat Shlomo neighborhood while US Vice President Joe Biden was visiting the country.
In the aftermath of that approval, which set off a diplomatic row with the US and further pushed construction in the capital’s eastern neighborhoods into the limelight, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reportedly ordered the committee, which is under the auspices of the Interior Ministry, to halt discussions on all potentially volatile construction projects in areas over the Green Line. Government officials have acknowledged that from then on, the committee refrained from meeting at all. Nonetheless, it met formally on Tuesday to review plans for a number of construction projects in west Jerusalem neighborhoods, including Rehavia and various haredi enclaves in and around Mea She’arim, among others.
While an Interior Ministry spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday’s meeting and added that “nothing interesting – no east Jerusalem neighborhoods” had been included in those discussions, an additional district planning and construction sub-committee is scheduled to convene on Thursday, which, according to its daily schedule, includes minor projects in a number of east Jerusalem neighborhoods – both Jewish and Arab.
Although the bulk of Thursday’s meeting is set to include deliberations over new housing units and building additions in western neighborhoods like Givat Shaul, Katamon and and Bayit Vegan, there are also a number of plans on the schedule for the predominately Arab eastern neighborhoods of Silwan, Ras al-Amud and Sheikh Jarrah.
According to Peace Now’s Hagit Ofran, however, those projects, and specifically the construction in Sheikh Jarrah, are being undertaken by Arab residents of the capital.
“From what I understand, there isn’t anything too controversial being discussed during [Thursday’s sub-committee] meeting,” she said. “The project in Sheikh Jarrah is being undertaken by a Palestinian [Jerusalem resident] developer.”
But other plans on the agenda include add-ons to existing properties in the the neighborhoods of Neveh Ya’acov and Gilo – northern and southern Jewish neighborhoods, respectively, that were built over the Green Line but are included in Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries.
Even during the district committee’s nearly two-month hiatus, however,
the Jerusalem Municipality’s Local Planning and Construction Committee
has convened and authorized minor construction projects in such
neighborhoods – which escaped condemnation despite the diplomatic cloud
hanging over them.
Still, the Interior Ministry was quick to downplay the sub-committee
meeting on Wednesday, stressing that it would be attended by only “four
or five” committee members, and that the plans to be discussed were of
“These meetings are only in the public eye because of [what happened
when] Biden [was here],” the Interior Ministry spokeswoman said.
“Otherwise, no one would pay any attention. In general these meetings
are dry and boring.
“But it’s a classic example of ‘man bites dog,’” she continued. “Only
when it’s Jews building in certain areas does it become big news.
Otherwise, nobody cares.”