Israel advances plan for 9,000 east Jerusalem homes in Atarot

The international community and the Palestinian Authority have condemned plans to build in an area located over the pre-1967 lines.

Illustration of new neighborhood planned for Atarot area in Jerusalem (photo credit: ARCHITECT YUVAL KADMON)
Illustration of new neighborhood planned for Atarot area in Jerusalem
(photo credit: ARCHITECT YUVAL KADMON)

The Jerusalem Municipality advanced plans for a 9,000-home project in Atarot, an area of the city located beyond the pre-1967 lines.

The international community and the Palestinian Authority have condemned the plan, which it warns would help cement Israel’s presence in an area of the city they designated as the future capital of a Palestinian state.

They have also argued that the plan would drive a wedge of Jewish housing in between already existing Palestinian neighborhoods.

The city’s local planning committee threw its support behind the project on Wednesday, prior to the Interior Ministry’s District Planning Committee hearing on December 6.

The project would transform the 124-hectare (301-acre) site of the former Kalandiya Airport into a new neighborhood, with parks, hotels, public buildings, commercial areas and senior housing. It would also preserve the historic airport, which operated from 1924 to 2000.

General view is seen of the area where Israel's Housing Ministry is discussing building new homes near Atarot, 2007 (credit: GILI COHEN MAGEN/REUTERS)General view is seen of the area where Israel's Housing Ministry is discussing building new homes near Atarot, 2007 (credit: GILI COHEN MAGEN/REUTERS)

On Monday, a delegation of European Union officials visited the site. The EU Representative to the PA, Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff, said the plan jeopardized a potential two-state resolution to the conflict and helped sever Jerusalem from the West Bank.

Israel maintains that Jerusalem is the united capital of the Jewish state, and that such projects provide much-needed housing and improve the overall quality of life in the capital.

Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum said she was pleased by the Municipality’s decision.

“Jerusalem is a fast-growing city with almost a million residents, and we need more neighborhoods for young people to be able to buy and stay in the capital. The city has already developed a flourishing industrial and commercial zone in Atarot, and a residential area in an old abandoned airport not only makes planning sense but will enhance that entire area of the city for Jews and Arabs alike.”

The PA Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that “this settlement plan aims to complete the separation of Jerusalem from its Palestinian surroundings from the north as part of a process to Judaize the city and change its historical, legal and demographic reality, and remove it from any future negotiations.”

The ministry said that it considers it “extremely dangerous to complete the process of separating Jerusalem from its Palestinian surroundings, especially because of the repercussions of this move on the chances of implementing the principle of the two-state solution.”

The PA ministry called on the international community, the US administration and the countries that claim to adhere to the two-state solution to intervene immediately and urgently to stop the implementation of Israel’s “colonial projects and schemes that perpetuate the occupation, settlement and apartheid regime.”