Expropriation of Givat HaMatos neighborhood approved as Lapid visits US

The controversial expropriation of the Givat HaMatos neighborhood in east Jerusalem was approved on Wednesday.

A MAN with an Israeli flag walks in the Givat Hamatos neighborhood of Jerusalem on Monday. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
A MAN with an Israeli flag walks in the Givat Hamatos neighborhood of Jerusalem on Monday.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)

The local planning and construction committee approved on Wednesday the expropriation of land required for public buildings and roads to allow construction in Givat HaMatos, which is across the Green Line. This is a controversial area, as construction on the site will interrupt a territorial continuum of the Arab neighborhoods in east Jerusalem. This opposition joins the opinion of the international community which is reluctant to promote development plans in this area.

The announcement of the expropriation comes just one day after Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and US Vice President Kamala Harris met in Washington. At the meeting, Lapid said in the opening statements that his visit was intended to strengthen bipartisan support for Israel. "Even when we have disagreements, we know that our goal is the same. We also agree that the Palestinians should have a good life and hope."

Jerusalem Local Planning and Building Committee member Yehuda Freudiger said that “I was happy today to be a partner in advancing the construction plan of Givat Hamatos. Jerusalem craves land for construction, Givat Hamatos is an ideal place that does not harm nature and is close to existing neighborhoods. All lovers of Jerusalem and lovers of the environment and protecting nature should do everything possible to promote the plan and not let political pressures delay it."

In 2014, the district committee approved the plan to build about 2,600 housing units, but the plan was put on hold for years due to international pressures and the tender for the approved plan was not published. The plan will include ten complexes and 38 public housing units and commercial construction.

Last year, the Israel Land Authority published the tender booklet for the construction of 1,257 housing units in the Givat Hamatos neighborhood in southeast Jerusalem after the tender was postponed for a long time. According to the tender booklet, the bids could have been submitted up to a few days after Joe Biden was sworn in as President of the United States.

European Union Foreign Minister Joseph Burrell condemned the publication of the tender, saying he was "very concerned about the move, which is likely to hurt the chances of establishing a Palestinian state with territorial continuity." A representative of the European Union will visit the neighborhood tomorrow morning.

At the beginning of Lapid's meeting with Harris, he addressed her as "one of Israel's best friends." He added that his visit to Washington was intended to strengthen support for Israel "among the younger generation in America." He thanked Harris "for supporting Israel throughout the years."

Harris, for her part, emphasized in her statement before the meeting "the strength of relations with Israel. Relations are based on common values. We will discuss Israel's security needs, and peace and prosperity for Israel and the Palestinians. We will also talk about the Iranian issue and the Abraham Accords."