J'lem to incorporate kibbutz fields to build 1,600 units

City to build new apartments on Kibbutz Ramat Rahel; area not over Green Line, though 23% was "no man’s land" between Israel, Jordan.

By MELANIE LIDMAN
May 26, 2011 02:31
2 minute read.
Map showing Green Line and Ramat Rahel.

kibbutz ramat rahel area_311. (photo credit: Courtesy Peace Now )

 
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Jerusalem’s municipal territory will expand by 250 dunams (25 hectares), incorporating part of the fields of Kibbutz Ramat Rahel to build 1,600 apartments, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Interior Minister Eli Yishai announced on Wednesday.

The new neighborhood, which will be called Moradot Arnona, lies between the Arnona and Armon Hanatziv neighborhoods.

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The plan still needs to be approved by the Jerusalem District Building and Planning Committee, which is part of the Interior Ministry; it is expected to pass.

The area falls within the pre-1967 Green Line, but 23 percent lies in what was formerly no-man’s land between Israel and Jordan from 1948 to 1967.

Because of the 56 dunams located in the former no-man’s land, “the plan is a little controversial,” said Hagit Ofran, director of the Settlement Watch project of Peace Now.

While the land is technically “in dispute” because it did not belong to either Jordan or Israel, Israel has built on similarly classified lands before. Parts of the East Talpiot and Arnona neighborhoods were built on the same category of land in the capital.

“I don’t know if this specific move within the context of the current delicate time will cause criticism, but I don’t think it was smart to do it right now,” Ofran said.

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At the press conference, Yishai said the plan had been in the works for over two years.

“This is a gift to Jerusalem in honor of Jerusalem Day,” he said, regarding the holiday next Wednesday that celebrates the reunification of the capital in the Six Day War.

Barkat said the expansion was part of the city’s 25-year master plan to make room for an additional 50,000 apartments the city will need to keep pace with population growth.

“Young people are leaving the city because of high prices, haredim are leaving because there aren’t enough houses, and if we don’t have enough houses for Arabs they will continue building illegally,” Barkat said. “We believe this is good for every sector of the population, and it will strengthen the city of Jerusalem and at the end of the day also Ramat Rahel.”

The city reportedly paid Ramat Rahel for the land. The area lies in its agricultural fields and cherry groves, but will not encroach into the kibbutz itself.

Ramat Rahel is part of the Mateh Yehuda Regional Council, which was in the news during Pessah after Yishai took 200 dunams with an industrial zone from the surrounding suburbs and gave it to Beit Shemesh to provide it with an additional source revenue. Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbul is from Yishai’s Shas Party.

The move enraged the suburbs, who said it was carried out without their knowledge, and prompted protests outside Yishai’s house.

Moshe Dadon, the head of the Mateh Yehuda council, said he was unaware of the plan to appropriate 250 dunams from Ramat Rahel into Jerusalem until Wednesday morning, and he was furious when he heard about it, he told Radio Jerusalem.

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