Planning commission to hear Issawiya’s appeal against controversial approved national park

Mt. Scopus park a ‘political ploy’ in response to prisoner release, says NGO leader.

Site of planned park on Mount Scopus (photo credit: BIMKOM WEBSITE)
Site of planned park on Mount Scopus
(photo credit: BIMKOM WEBSITE)
The National Planning Commission is scheduled to review an appeal on Monday, filed by an NGO and Arab residents of Issawiya and Artur to reverse the government’s decision to approve construction of a national park on Mount Scopus.
The park, if built, would intersect the two Arab neighborhoods. The hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m.
Although the park was unofficially shelved by Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz in October, due to the area being “devoid of unique archeological remains that justify turning it into a natural park,” it was subsequently approved by the Interior Ministry the following month.
According to Sari Kronish, an architect affiliated with Bimkom – an NGO of planners and architects committed to “democracy and human rights in the field of planning” – designs for the park were revisited and approved in November due to political pressure from the Right.
“Following a serious counter lobby by right-wing politicians, the park was approved by the Ministry of the Interior after the second batch of prisoners was released, to appease the right-wing,” Kronish said on Sunday.
She added that Peretz changed course due to political pressure during the November 14 hearing, despite his once adamant opposition to the park – due to the political fallout it would engender.
Construction of the park has been strongly supported by the Jerusalem Municipality and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.
Meretz councilman Meir Margalit, who holds the east Jerusalem portfolio, contended that the planned park was never an ecological endeavor, so much as a smokescreen to thwart Palestinian construction in Isawiya and Artul.
“This was the last reservoir of land for the two villages, and the idea was to prevent them from continuing to build – especially near the main road to Ma’aleh Adumim,” Margalit said.
“What I knew from the beginning is that the real motivation [to build the park] was political – to try to stop development of Isawiya and Artul.”
Margalit continued: “The motivation was to keep the land to perhaps build a new Jewish settlement one day.”