‘We’re in the same boat as Ramot now’

For Ateret Cohanim, diplomatic pressure brings a kind of normalcy.

The current spotlight on Jerusalem construction projects over the Green Line has changed the paradigm for groups like Ateret Cohanim, which actively seek housing for Jewish families in east Jerusalem neighborhoods, as distinctions regarding different parts of the capital’s east have begun to crumble, a spokesman from the group told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
“We’re in the same boat as Ramot now,” said Daniel Luria, drawing a parallel between his group’s efforts inside predominately Arab neighborhoods and the established northeast Jerusalem Jewish neighborhood – part of which is built over the Green Line – that is viewed by most Israelis as an integral section of the capital.
“What this current round of pressure has done is make it so there’s very little difference between say, Gilo [a Jewish neighborhood] and Silwan [almost entirely Arab],” he added. “It no longer makes a difference – it’s all east Jerusalem in the eyes of the world.”
Therefore, Luria said he hoped that his group’s efforts would cease to be considered “volatile” or “far right-wing,” as they were now being lumped together with building projects in sections of the capital that have largely avoided censure until now. Yet regardless of the current round of diplomatic pressure surrounding Jerusalem, Luria said, little had changed on the ground from his group’s perspective.
“There’s scrutiny, yes,” he acknowledged, “and there’s all the activity in the political realm, but then there’s the reality on the ground.”
That reality, Luria explained, meant that projects in east Jerusalem that the group oversees – many of which have already been given preliminary approvals by the relevant government bodies – were moving ahead at full speed.
“Nothing has filtered down yet,” Luria added when asked if the international pressure had begun to hamper Ateret Cohanim’s efforts.
“From what I understand, the government hasn’t capitulated on Jerusalem yet,” he said.
Luria said that plans to build Jewish homes in Kidmat Zion, a sensitive area next to Abu Dis where plans have been shelved at various times in the past due to diplomatic pressure, were moving ahead despite the current row with the US.
“The plans need the regional committee’s approval, but they are still being drawn up for that area, as they are for projects on the Mount of Olives and in Shimon Hatzadik [Sheikh Jarrah],” he said.
Luria also said that even a full freeze on Jewish construction over the Green Line would have little effect on the purchase of Arab-owned homes there – a means often pursued by Ateret Cohanim to provide Jewish families with housing in east Jerusalem.
“It’s not going to affect Arabs who want to sell their homes,” he said. “It might even prompt them to sell.”
And while Luria acknowledged that the pressure to halt construction ineast Jerusalem may have an effect on the group’s plans down the line,nothing had yet changed from their perspective.
“Is the government going to be as quick to authorize projects, knowinghow it might play out in the international media? Maybe not,” Luriasaid. “But in the meantime, it doesn’t mean anything to us.”