Previously we wrote that Plan 5834A, for 2337 units in Givat Hamatos, had received final approval. At that time we noted that no building permits could be issued until additional planning, called “reparcellation,” was completed. On October 11, Plan 14295, the reparcellation scheme for the area covered by plan 5834 A was deposited for public review. Some important details to note:
- The plan, as deposited for public review, increases the capacity of the new settlement from 2337 units to 2610 units.
- The 60-day objection period for the plan has now begun. At the end of that period, and after hearing the objections, the plan can be approved. Once Plan 14295 is approved, construction under Plan 5834 can commence.
- The construction foreseen under Plan 5834A (and which can begin when Plan 14295 is approved) does not merely go beyond the footprint of an existing settlement; it creates an entirely new footprint.
- This will be the first new Israeli settlement neighborhood established in East Jerusalem since Har Homa.
- No doubt there will be those in the Israeli government who will protest, disingenuously, that the new neighborhood to be built under Plan 5834A/14295 will not necessarily be only for Jews. It is worth recalling that similar protestations were voiced in defense of the construction of the settlement of Har Homa in 1996. It does appear that the approved plans will allow some expansion of the existing Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa, the neighborhood adjacent to the site targeted by Plans 5834A/14295. However, the plan also paves the way for the construction of an entirely new Israeli settlement neighborhood of more than 1700 residential units. It is worth noting that this same project already provoked controversy two years ago when Plan 5834A was first approved. At that time the residents of Beit Safafa, asserted that since not one new Palestinian neighborhood has been established in East Jerusalem since 1967 (all of the new neighborhoods being settlements for Israelis), the entire area should be designated for the expansion of Beit Safafa.
Who did what, and who has the authority
Unlike other East Jerusalem settlement plans that have arisen in recent years, this plan is under the authority of the Municipality, not the Regional Planning committee. The fact that Plan 14295 is moving so quickly is a reflection of this. Normally a reparcellation scheme takes years to be completed and approved, but in this case it will likely take much less time, given the highly politicized nature of the Local Planning Committee. While the Regional Committee is made up of civil servants (and can receive marching orders from the Prime Minister), the Local Committee is made up elected city council members, most of whom are right-wing, openly hostile to Palestinian residents of the city, and would happily create a crisis ver the "right of Jews to live anywhere in “undivided Jerusalem”.
That said, the initiator of Plan 5834A was the Israel Lands Authority (ILA), a quasi-governmental agency that owns much of the land in the area (there are also areas of private ownership, both Israeli and Palestinian). The ILA was also the initiator of the reparcellation scheme. This means that while the Municipality has a central role in determining the fate of this plan, the plan can still be frozen at any time by the ILA (i.e., by a decision of the Israeli government), even if the Municipality is eager to move forward.
Implications for Jerusalem and the two-State Solution
This is a mini-E-1: that is, a game changer that significantly changes the possible border between Israel and Palestine, and significantly makes an agreement on the border in Jerusalem more difficult.
The fact that this is a game-changer is clear to anyone looking at a map of the plan (map can be viewed/downloaded here). Currently, under a solution like that proposed by the Geneva Initiative, Har Homa would become part of Palestine, but in principle that could change since Har Homa could be linked to Israeli Jerusalem without necessarily destroying Palestinian contiguity. However, if Plans 5834A /14952 are carried out, the Geneva Initiative border will not be possible without dismantling an Israeli neighborhood, since it will create an impermeable built-up settlement buffer between Beit Safafa and the West Bank. In effect, Givat Hamatos destroys any possibility of a territorial solution in Beit Safafa.
Finally, it is important to recognize that this Givat Hamatos plan is not proceeding in a vacuum. As is made clear in a presentation we released last week (which can be viewed/downloaded here), it comes in the context of a number of plans, including coming on the heels of the recent deposit for public review of two plans for Mordot Gilo, and the final approval of the plan for Har Homa C. Taken together, an “E-1-like” buffer between East Jerusalem and the West Bank on Jerusalem’s southern flank is taking shape before our eyes