J'lem to develop site of closed Atarot Airport

Left-wing activists oppose move, claim it will destroy a future Palestinian state’s ability to have an independent airport.

Atarot Airport 390 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Atarot Airport 390
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Jerusalem began the bureaucratic process to develop the Atarot Airport into an industrial area last week, despite opposition by left-wing activists who claim it will destroy a future Palestinian state’s ability to have an independent airport.
The Atarot Airport, located north of Jerusalem, was shuttered in 2001 during the second intifada amidst security concerns of planes flying too close to Jerusalem. Mayor Nir Barkat has mentioned on a number of occasions his plan to create an industrial park at the site of the airport, providing much-needed jobs in Jerusalem.
However, left-wing activists argue that Atarot is the only place for a future Palestinian airport due to geography and its proximity to Ramallah.
“A state without an airport can’t function,” said Meir Margalit (Meretz), who holds the east Jerusalem portfolio. “If there’s a situation where all the tourism and commerce needs to go through Israel or Jordan, it creates a Palestinian state dependent on other nations, and that has a blow that’s both concrete and psychological. It turns Palestine into a ghetto, where the air borders are closed and cut off from the greater world,” he said.
Margalit added that some of the proposals for the area, including a trash-processing center, would be beneficial, but only if they were located next to the airport and not instead of it.
Last Wednesday, the municipality took the first concrete steps towards developing the airport, by transferring ownership of the land from the Israel Airports Authority to the city of Jerusalem. This move still needs approval by the Interior Ministry’s National Committee and the Transportation Ministry.
Once it is classified as city land, the municipality can begin to develop projects and start the approval process to build the projects.
A municipality spokeswoman called the move a “common bureaucratic process.”