On October 6, the international and Palestinian press reported that the Jerusalem Municipality had granted building permits for 11 new units in Pisgat Ze'ev. We have confirmed that this indeed took place, pursuant to a committee meeting that took place on May 3.
Under normal circumstances, the approval of such a small number of units, and by the Municipality (not the Government of Israel) would not have attracted much attention. But the circumstances are not routine, and this is receiving some attention. Consequently, we looked at the details, and came up with some interesting findings.
First, with respect to the background/history of these permits: these units were part of an Israel Lands Authority/Ministry of Construction tender published during the post-Annapolis settlement surge in July 2008 - under Town Plan 8150 in Pisgat Ze'ev (map). But the tender failed, since the bids fell well below the assessment of the Government Appraiser - something that clearly belies the claim that this is all about "natural growth". In the current political climate, this should have been the end of things, but it wasn't. The tender was published once again in November 2010 - that is, immediately after the de facto East Jerusalem settlement freeze expired in September 2010, and after Netanyahu told the Israeli bureaucracy that there were no longer limitations on East Jerusalem construction. The tenders were subsequently awarded, the contracts signed and now the building permits issued – all during 2011.
Second, beyond the immediate impact of such a plan, this course of events indicates the following:
• this is new construction that could not have taken place except at the initiative of Government of Israel.
• this plan could not have taken place were it not for actions taken by Government of Israel within the last year.
• once the actions were taken by Government of Israel, the issuance of the permits by the Municipality was a foregone conclusion.
Third, like Mordot Gilo, the construction here, however small, will take place beyond the existing footprint of Pisgat Ze'ev and impact on the potential border between Israel and Palestine (map can be viewed/dowloadedhere).
These events should be borne in mind when one hears the current protestations like (a) "don't worry - this is not final approval" and (b) "it's not us, its the Municipality".