Gilo panorama 311.
(photo credit: Matthias Guggisberg)
The Jerusalem Local Planning Committee approved on Monday a request to change the designation of a plot allocated for a hotel in favor of 130 living units near Gilo. The project still needs final approval from the District Planning Committee.
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Two weeks ago, the municipality had removed the request from the agenda, explaining that the reason was the need of more time “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 had at the time denied that the reason for the committee removing the topic from the agenda was to prevent unwanted hubbub in the current politically tense environment, as the plot lies in what is considered east Jerusalem.
On Monday, a spokesman for the municipality explained that the shift in plans was possible due to the fact that the Ministry of Tourism retracted on its notion of building a hotel in that part of town.
A Tourism Ministry spokesman, however, told The Jerusalem Post
that it was in 2004, at the height of the second intifada, when the ministry agreed to a change in the definition of that plot from hotel to residential, since nobody was building in that part of town at the time. “Now, at the moment, there a severe shortage of hotel rooms in Israel. If we want to meet the ministry's objective of 5 million tourists by 2015, there's a shortage of 19,000 hotel rooms.”
“Today,” the spokesman continued, “the situation is completely different, and the Tourism Ministry is doing everything it can to ensure that land destined for hotel use remains as such.”
The Palestinian Authority on Monday condemned the approval of 130 housing units in Gilo, which it described as an "illegal Jewish settlement in Jerusalem." Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said that "it seems that Israel has begun its annual tradition of 'Christmas gifts' to the people of Bethlehem." He said that 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.
Erekat stressed that the Palestinians don't recognize the annexation of east Jerusalem to Israel and that's why all Jewish neighborhoods that were built there after 1967 are illegal.
"Under international law there is no difference between Jerusalem,
Tulkarem and Gaza City, all of them are part of the occupied Palestinian
territory," he added. "Therefore Israeli activity in this area is part
of its settlement enterprise." He said that 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." Erekat said that Gilo was built on land
confiscated from Beit Jala, Sharafat and Beit Safafa.
"It is considered illegal by the international community, including the
United Nations and the European Union," he noted. "Like all other
Israeli settlements, it constitutes a war crime under the Rome Statute
of the International Criminal Court (1998)."