311_Pisgat Zeev view of homes.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The Jerusalem Municipality’s Local Planning and Construction Committee on Monday authorized the construction of 40 new apartments in the city’s Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood, raising the specter of renewed tensions over building rights in the eastern half of the capital, as the neighborhood is located over the Green Line.
It remained unclear on Monday evening if the move, which is part of a larger plan to construct some 220 apartments in the bustling Jerusalem neighborhood, would complicate the already-fragile potential for direct peace negotiations with the Palestinians.
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Both the Palestinian Authority and the US government have in the past criticized building plans in Pisgat Ze’ev, even though it is widely believed that the area, which was built on land captured from Jordan by Israel during the Six-Day War, would remain under Israeli control in any future peace deal.
After breaking ground for the neighborhood in 1982, the area quickly became a popular residential destination and is now home to more than 50,000 residents, making it one of Jerusalem’s largest neighborhoods.
The 40 apartments approved on Monday are to be built within four large residential buildings – each one containing 10 apartments – in the eastern section of the neighborhood, near the Hizma checkpoint.
In July, 32 apartments were approved by the local planning council as part of the same plan, drawing criticism from both Palestinian and Israeli politicians, who warned of the implications the construction approvals might have regarding peace talks.
On Monday evening, similar criticisms were voiced by Meretz-Jerusalem faction head Pepe Alalou, who told reporters that it was the timing, not the substance of the plan, that had him concerned.
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“I’ve always said that I don’t have a problem with building in Pisgat Ze’ev in general,” Alalou said.
“But we’re currently at a highly critical point regarding [peace] negotiations and this approval could harm that. The [local planning and construction committee] thought that no one would notice, which is ridiculous. I think it’s important to consider the reality here.”
Nonetheless, Jerusalem- Likud faction member Elisha Peleg praised the approval and instead criticized Alalou, telling The Jerusalem Post that the former deputy-mayor had “unnecessarily wasted time on the issue and caused untold damage to the city.”
“We could have approved [the apartments] two months ago, in June, but Alalou delayed the matter for no reason,” Peleg said.
“He just wasted time, and today he didn’t even vote against the approval, he just abstained. He is causing damage to Jerusalem, to the contractors who make a living from building here and to those who want to invest here. It’s simply terrible.”
“Nonetheless,” Peleg continued, “I want to emphasize that we must continue to build in the new neighborhoods of Jerusalem. The city is in dire need of construction, and in large numbers if we’re going to be able to support young couples, recently- discharged soldiers and anyone else who will be looking for housing in the capital in the near future.”
Peleg also said that he was confounded by the rush of media attention that now accompanied similar housing approvals – a phenomenon that has only increased since the approval in March of some 1,600 housing units in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood during a visit by US Vice President Joe Biden, which led to a pronounced diplomatic row with the Obama administration.
“I don’t understand why today it’s such a big deal to build over the Green Line, when in the past it was never even mentioned,” Peleg said.
“Once upon a time we would approve hundreds of apartments in similar areas, and there was no issue.
Today, however, I believe that the Americans and the European Union are
being led astray by leftist organizations here in Israel, who simply
manipulate the facts in order to work against us.”
“It’s nonsense,” he added. “Jerusalem shouldn’t even be part of the
discussion, and anyone who thinks this area is occupied territory should
go and join the PA.”
“Israel has every right to build in these areas, and to keep Jerusalem united, as our capital.”
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