A Major East Jerusalem Settlement Plan Comes Back to Life
On February 23rd a story broke in Maariv (Hebrew only, and subsequently in the Jerusalem Post) that the Jerusalem Municipality has begun the process to develop a huge area of land in East Jerusalem, located at the northern tip of the city and currently the site of the Atarot Airport, into a new settlement industrial zone (. Plans for such a project have existed for years, but until now they appeared to be forgotten or at least dormant. Apparently that is no longer the case. For reporting on the plan, including maps, see this piece by Hagit Ofran.
If this plan is actually carried out, the implications for the two-state solution will be extremely serious. Not only will the project destroy the chances for the Palestinians to have their own airport anywhere near Jerusalem, but the project will – in a manner much like the E1 plan – block contiguity between the West Bank and any future Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. It will effectively form a buffer between Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem and this area of the West Bank (Shu’afat and Beit Hanina from the south; Bir Nabala, Al Judeira, Al Jib, Rafat and Qalandia from the west; Ar-Ram, Dahiyat al Bareed and Jaba’ from the east; and Qalandia Refugee Camp, Kafr ‘Aqab and Ramallah from the north) and Ramallah. It will turn many of these neighborhoods into ghettos sandwiched between Israeli settlements to the north (Atarot), east (Pisgat Zeev, Neve Yaacov) and the West (Givat Zeev, Ramot).
Finally, the Atarot plan comes at time when work on lateral Route No 20 is being implemented, linking Rte. 443 (which links Jerusalem to the coastal plain via the West Bank) to the settlements of Pisgat Zeev and Neve Yaacov – effectively forming an east-west channel bisecting Palestinian neighborhoods in that area (Shufat, Beit Hanina, Dahyat al Bareed).