(photo credit: AP)
In a move that may cloud recently-resumed proximity talks with the Palestinians, Peace Now announced this week that initial construction had begun on 14 housing units inside Ma’aleh David – a planned housing complex inside the Ras el-Amud neighborhood, which is slated to become the largest Jewish residential development in east Jerusalem if all goes according to plan.
The complex – which is set to include some 104 units by the time it is completed, and will be connected to the existing Ma’aleh Zeitim complex in the neighborhood – was filed for approval last summer with the Jerusalem Municipality’s Local Building and Planning Committee, although city officials have said that the plans were not being approved for advancement because they “do not correspond with the city planning policy for that area.”
According to Peace Now, however, the current renovation work inside the compound did not require municipal building permits and neither the city nor the state has much room to intervene.
The building site was previously home to the Judea and Samaria police headquarters, which has since moved to a new building in area E-1, near Ma’aleh Adumim. After the police moved, control of the area was transferred to the Bukharan Community Committee, which has held ownership over the property since before 1948. According to the plan, the former police structure will be razed completely and replaced by seven structures ranging between four and five stories in height.
While the government and Jerusalem Municipality officials have been careful with regard to such projects since the approval in March of 1,600 housing units in Ramat Shlomo – after which the Palestinians called off indirect peace negotiations and a diplomatic spat with the US over east Jerusalem construction went into high gear – a statement from Peace Now on Sunday added that additional housing units in east Jerusalem worked to undermine not only the current, still-fragile round of proximity talks with the Palestinians but all such negotiations in the future.
“The intensification of settlement activities in east Jerusalem threatens the chances of implementing the two-state solution and might create an irreversible situation that would prevent a compromise in Jerusalem,” the statement read.
“Ever since Nir Barkat was elected Jerusalem mayor in November 2008, he
has emerged as one of the most faithful allies the east Jerusalem
settlers could have and, together with the Netanyahu government, he led
the city into crises and rising tensions,” the statement continued.
Chief Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Israeli
plans for the Ras el-Amud housing project undermined trust-building as
the US tries to get the proximity talks, moving.
“The whole concept of proximity talks is to give Senator George
Mitchell and US President Barack Obama the chance they deserve,” Erekat
said. “If they begin doing this [building], I think they will take down
the proximity talks.”
AP contributed to this report.