Capital gives green light to Gilo housing project

PA condemns approval of 130 units in "illegal Jewish settlement"; project still requires final approval by District Planning Committee.

Gilo panorama 311 (photo credit: Matthias Guggisberg)
Gilo panorama 311
(photo credit: Matthias Guggisberg)
The Jerusalem Local Planning Committee on Monday approved a request to have land that had been zoned for a hotel near the Gilo neighborhood rezoned for 130 housing units.
The project still needs approval from the District Planning Committee.
Gilo starts to lose its concrete shell
Finding Gilo on the map
Two weeks ago, the municipality removed the request from the agenda, explaining that more time was needed “to examine the ramifications of changing the plot’s designation from a hotel to private living units, in light of the city’s policy on this issue.”
The municipality denied at the time that the item had been removed from the agenda to avoid diplomatic problems, as the plot is in a part of Jerusalem that is over the Green Line.
On Monday, a spokesman for the municipality explained that the rezoning had been made possible when the Tourism Ministry decided not to have a hotel built in that part of the capital.
A Tourism Ministry spokesman, however, told The Jerusalem Post that its agreement to change the designation of the land from hotel to residential had actually come in 2004, at the height of the second intifada, when nobody was building in that part of Jerusalem due to the area’s instability.
“Now, at the moment, there is a severe shortage of hotel rooms in Israel. If we want to meet the ministry’s objective of five million tourists by 2015, there’s a shortage of 19,000 hotel rooms,” the spokesman said.
“Today, the situation is completely different [than it was in 2004], and the Tourism Ministry is doing everything it can to ensure that land destined for hotel use remains as such,” he said.
The Palestinian Authority on Monday condemned the approval of 130 housing units in Gilo, which it described as an “illegal Jewish settlement in Jerusalem.”
“It seems that Israel has begun its annual tradition of ‘Christmas gifts’ to the people of Bethlehem,” chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said.
He said last year’s “gift” was the expansion of Har Homa, which he said was also built on Bethlehem’s land.
“Apparently, every December, Israel pushes on its agenda to further isolate Bethlehem from occupied east Jerusalem,” Erekat said.
He stressed that the Palestinians did not recognize Israel’s annexation of east Jerusalem and that all Jewish neighborhoods built there after 1967 were illegal.
“Under international law there is no difference between Jerusalem, Tulkarm and Gaza City; all of them are part of the occupied Palestinian territory,” he said.
“Therefore, Israeli activity in this area is part of its settlement enterprise.”
He said Gilo and other “incorrectly termed neighborhoods represent an existential threat to the two-state solution, as it is part of a ring of illegal settlements that severs east Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied West Bank, and in particular from Bethlehem.”
Gilo was built on land confiscated from Beit Jala, Sharafat and Beit Safafa, Erekat said.
“It is considered illegal by the international community, including the United Nations and the European Union,” he said. “Like all other Israeli settlements, it constitutes a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (1998).”