New Settlement in Beit Hanina?

On March 29, 2012, Jerusalem settler impresario Aryeh King tweeted:  “History! The Israel Land Fund went in today into the first jewish home in Beit Hanina, East Jerusalem.The land zoned for 56 Apartments!”  Later that day he tweeted: “History!If you want to participate in building Yerushalaim, you can save to yourself Apartment in Nof Shmuel(B.Hanina)” – along with a picture of a Palestinian home the settlers have taken over.

On March 30, 2012, King tweeted: “@DannyAyalon I want toinvite you to our new Jewish settelment in East Jerusalem, At Beit Hanina. Mr. Ayalonyou are welcome to Nof Shmuel [sic].”  Earlier, King had publicized a call for Israeli Jews to come join him in evicting Palestinians from the building in question.

The public fanfare surrounding this new “settlement” is characteristic of this wing of the East Jerusalem settler movement. Shortly before President Bush’s 2008 visit to Jerusalem, the settlers touted the establishment of a new settlement on the border between Gilo and Bethlehem. It never materialized. It is important to bear in mind that among some of these settler elements, fanning the flames of conflict is not simply an inevitable by-product of settlement schemes – it is the goal.  The more serious East Jerusalem settlers, on the other hand, focus on settling, rather than boasting about it before the fact.

Does this mean that the current settler scheme tweeted about by Mr. King is mere fantasy? No.  As reported in the Israeli press, one or two Palestinian families are apparently in real danger of eviction, to devastating effect. But the prospects of a new Jewish settlement neighborhood taking shape in Beit Hanina are remote. Nowhere have the messianic settlers been able to establish a significant enclave (larger than one or two residential units) outside of the historic basin of the Old City, and the setting of the current settlement effort, Beit Hanina, does not resonate with a Biblical past.  The current scheme will likely end in yet another Palestinian tragedy, and a new, volatile flashpoint – not a new settlement neighborhood.