(A map showing all of the East Jerusalem settlement schemes discussed below can be viewed/downloaded here.)
August 14: Second round of peace talks (in the region).
August 12: At 8pm on August 12th, 36 hours before the start of the second round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Israeli Channel 10 News broke the story that the Government of Israel has granted statutory approval Plan 13261, for 942 units new in the East Jerusalem settlement of Mordot Gilo South (reported in English here). Details are as follows:
Mordot Gilo South (Plan 13261). This plan would expand the settlement of Gilo, but this new construction goes beyond the existing footprint of the settlement. Plan 13261 was approved in last year's surge (December 2012 – for details, see our report, here) but never signed into law. With this final approval, the plan becomes law and building permits can be now be issued. The site involved includes a small amount of State Land, but is largely private which Israeli developers purchased from Palestinians. There is also a small amount of residual Palestinian land involved. Because this is private development (as opposed to Government of Israel development) there will be no tenders (the requirement for public bidding applies only to government projects). This means that the next time this plan will likely be in the news is when permits are issued – a process that will likely take a few months. (Construction of some of the units will require the approval of an additional reparcellization scheme, but permits for the construction of infrastructure and public buildings, and some of the residential units, can be expected in the weeks and months to come) Once permits are issued, ground can be broken and construction can begin immediately.
August 11: The Ministry of Construction announced the marketing of approximately 1200 new settler units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Of these 1200 new units, 790 are in East Jerusalem. The announcement involves five East Jerusalem tenders, located in three settlements. Of the five tenders, only one is actually new. The rest are tenders that were published in the recent past, but for some reason, they were not awarded and did not end in a contract. Usually this is because there were no bids, or the bids were below the assessed value of the land. So in effect, these are re-issuances of those earlier tenders. The details of the tenders announced on August 11th are as follows:
i. Mordot Gilo West (Plan 13157), 397 units. This is an entirely new tender. It should be emphasized that there remain another 400 units planned for Mordot Gilo West that can, in principle, be tendered forthwith (though it is likely these will be held and announced in the run-up to the next prisoner release (assuming talks continue long enough). Plan 13157 was granted final approval on October 18, 2012, as part of last year’s settlement surge (see our report, here, and our earlier report on the plan, here).This is the same Gilo plan that we reported previously (here) was one of the plans that Netanyahu had decided to “fast-tracked” for approval. This is also the same Gilo expansion plan that was in the headlines in November 2009, when, at almost exactly the same time that then-Special Envoy Mitchell was in London to meet with Netanyahu’s top advisor Yitzhak Molcho, the Regional Planning Committee decided to move forward with approval of the plan (despite a U.S. request to desist). The planned units are, in their entirety, to be located beyond the built-up area of the settlement of Gilo, expanding the footprint of this already massive settlement to the northwest, toward the beleaguered Palestinian village of Wallajeh (where residents are fighting Israeli demolitions orders against many of their homes, as well as facing near-total isolation due to the route of the barrier through their lands). It should also be emphasized that Plan 13157 dovetails with plans for a new settlement, to be called “Givat Yael”, which would straddle the West Bank-Jerusalem border and significantly extend Israeli Jerusalem to the south, further sealing the city off from the Bethlehem area and the West Bank (and connecting it to the Etzion settlement bloc). There is no indication at this time that the Givat Yael plan is being acted upon.
ii. Har Homa B (Plan 7509), 130 units. These are tenders under a plan for an “assisted living facility” of 130 units. They were published twice in the past, without success, the first time in December 29, 2011, and the second time on June 29, 2012 (see our reporting, here).
iii. Har Homa C (Plan 10310), 80 units. This plan was granted final approval back on August 4, 2011. The plan, in its entirety, provides for the construction of 983 new units, comprising an entirely new section of the giant Har Homa settlement located beyond the existing built-up area of the settlement. This construction would significantly expand the footprint of the settlement into a new area in the direction of Bethlehem/Beit Sahour (onto a hill that is currently covered in trees). The planned construction would change the potential border between Israel and Palestine in Jerusalem more than any other East Jerusalem plan that has been approved in recent years, and would make a permanent status agreement on Jerusalem incrementally more difficult. The 80 units tendered on August 11, 2013 were originally part of a tender for 130 units at the site published, without success, on August 16, 2012 (the original tender, in Hebrew, is here; for reports from that time, see here, here, here, and here).
iv. Pisgat Ze’ev (Plan 11647), 160 units. These units were previously tendered on November 4, 2012, without success (see our report, here). The tendered construction is located beyond the existing footprint of the settlement. As we noted in previous reporting, Plan 11647 seeks to “weld” the settlement to the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Hanina, making the creation of a reasonable border regime in the area more difficult.
v. Pisgat Ze’ev (Plan 4430A), for 23 units. These units were previously tendered on June 28, 2012, without success (see our report, here).
August 6: News broke of the approval of a "new" settlement in East Jerusalem, near the Palestinian neighborhood of Jebel Mukabber. This project is not, in fact, new, but was announced/started in April 2009. Based on press reports, it appears that “news” of the “new” project came from Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and/or Housing Minister Uri Ariel, as opposed to Netanyahu. Details of the plan can be viewed on the website of Bemuna, the developers of the project, including marketing information about the project, photos of the ongoing works at the site, and graphics showing how the settlement will look upon completion [English- and Hebrew-marketing pages are slightly different]. Bemuna does not hide its ideological motivations, indentifying the target population of the project as religious Jews who believe in “…the right of Jews to live anywhere in Jerusalem.” Bemuna is the developer behind other provocative projects, including in Arab areas inside the Green Line (like Jaffa). Further reading: AFP 4/27/09, BBC 4/27/09
July 29-30 - First Israel-Palestinian talks in almost 3 years (in Washington, DC), concluding with an agreement to remain in talks for nine months, and to reconvene for the first round of talks in the region within two weeks.
July 26-29: It was learned that the government of Israel is promoting plans for a new settlement in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City (Plan 101-0122069). Details are as follows:
-- In the lead-up to Israeli-Palestinian talks re-starting in Washington, it was discovered that the Israeli Ministry of Construction has filed a Town Plan with the Jerusalem Municipality – Plan 101-0122069 – for the construction of a new Jewish settlement neighborhood inside the Muslim Quarter of the Old City (map).
-- The plan entails the construction of 21 setter units and additional community buildings (like a synagogue) adjacent to the inner ramparts of the Old City, near Herod's Gate.
-- This is not the first appearance of this plan. In 2005, the same plan, under a different plan number (Plan 9870) was approved by the Jerusalem Municipality. The plan was at the time deemed to be so incendiary that the Bush administration engaged Ariel Sharon, who subsequently made the plan disappear. For comprehensive background on the plan, written in 2005 but relevant again today, see here.
-- The Plan was re-filed by the Ministry of Construction on January 16, 2013 (with a new number) and since then has been working its way through the professional echelons of the Municipal planning department. Implementation of this plan – or even news that it is being seriously pursued – could be highly incendiary. In today’s context, it could have both have security implications on the ground and implications for the Kerry-backed peace effort.
-- For a variety of reasons – possibly a combination of luck, media inattention, and a desire on the Palestinian side to not been seen as deliberately exploiting any piece specific development to derail talks – news of this plan didn’t make it into the headlines in the days prior to the Washington talks, or since.
-- However, it should be emphasized that this plan is not dormant; it is being acted upon. Barring intervention from Netanyahu, this plan will inevitably continue to make its way through the approval process, and at some point along the way, it will become the stuff of headlines and outrage.