On August 15, the Jerusalem Municipality announced a deal with the Israel Lands Authority to build 20,000 residential units in the city. According to the Times of Israel, the agreement applies not only to areas of West Jerusalem but “...will also see projects in the Jewish neighborhoods of Pisgat Zeev and French Hill which are seen by the international community as East Jerusalem, along with the Atarot industrial zone which lies just to the north of Jerusalem in the West Bank…”
Two observations are in order:
- The agreement on the construction of 20,000 units has no statutory significance. While we have not seen the agreement itself, we cannot possibly see how can be a legally binding agreement. In essence, this is a declaration of intent. Suspicious minds might surmise that this has more to do with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat's Likud primaries campaign than actual construction plans.
- The reference to planned construction in Pisgat Zeev and French Hill strengthens our skepticism. Virtually all of the land within the expropriation lines of these two settlements has already been developed, apart from a few residual sites. The only way that could generate a significant number of residential units is by approving the construction of additional stories on existing buildings.