On October 25, the Israel Land Authority (ILA) announced its intention to commence construction of the first 108 of 180 new residential settlement units in East Talpiot. The plan in question is Town Plan 7977A, which is on the southern border of East Talpiot, adjacent to the Palestinian neighborhoods of Um Lissun/Arab a Sawahra, and Sur Baher. An earlier plan, TP 7977, was approved in 2005, but required certain amendments. The new plan, 7977A, was approved in principle (pending some minor technical amendments) by the Jerusalem District Planning Committee on April 17, 2012. A map of the planned construction is available here.
This is a Government of Israel initiative (as opposed to a private development. The plan provides for the construction of 180 units on “State” land – land expropriated in 1970 by government of Israel from Palestinian landowners from Sur Baher and Um Lissun. The plan is located within that expropriation line. However, the construction will take place beyond the contours of the existing built up area, expanding the footprint of the existing settlement neighborhood
The ILA press release indicates that the new units will be marketed to those serving in the IDF and the Israeli Police, consistent with an earlier Government decision to give special priority in Jerusalem to construction for these groups. Given that Palestinians of East Jerusalem do not serve in the IDF or the Israeli Police, this new construction is de facto intended for exclusively Israeli-Jewish residents – i.e. it is new settlement construction in East Jerusalem.
Since this project has been allocated for the construction of homes designated for security forces, no tender process is required. Initial steps have already been taken to obtain the required building permit; construction could commence in a matter of weeks.
The location of the planned construction in East (rather than West) Jerusalem, and immediately adjacent to Palestinian construction, is not an accident. According to the press release, the ILA District Director stated: “The neighborhood being established is in the area of the seam line opposite the Arab neighborhood of Sur Baher, and is a neighborhood of national importance since it is on the seam line.”
Implementation of this plan will make a two-state solution in Jerusalem more difficult. If something along the lines of the Clinton parameters or the Geneva accords are to be the basis of an eventual agreement, this plan is detrimental: it enlarges the size of any future land swap, and welds East Talpiyot (which under these proposals would become part of Israel) to its adjacent Palestinian neighborhoods (which would become part of sovereign Palestine) making the creation of a reasonable border between the two more difficult.