Beit Hanina Settlement Effort Continues

As we reported earlier, East Jerusalem settler impresario Aryeh King is working to establish a new settlement in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina. Back in March he won a victory in this effort, when Israeli courts ruled that a property inhabited by two Palestinian families in Beit Hanina belonged to a Jewish buyer. One family voluntarily left the site, allowing King to move settlers in right away. Subsequently, on April 18th, the other family living in the building – the Natche family – was evicted by Israeli forces (the male members of the family were reported arrested) and additional settlers moved in. In total, King has now gained control of three homes in the area. The eviction of the Natche family was quickly condemned by the EU and the UN.

According to the Israeli press, King intends to apply for a building permit to build a large settler complex at the site. He plans for housing for dozens of families, to be sold very cheaply to “idealistic couples.” King has also announced his intention to gain control of other sites in Beit Hanina and Sheikh Jarrah.  King once again trumpeted his successful “reclaiming” of Jewish property in East Jerusalem on Twitter: “@AriehKing, April 23: this is the balcony of one of the 4apartments we reclaimed.GREAT VIEW! you are welcome for cup of coffee or cold drink.” and “@AriehKing, April 23: The ILF is seeking for 60,000 NIS donation for renovating the 4 apartments that were reclaimed at Beit Hanina.” Israeli MK Ben Ari (who was recently denied a visa to the U.S. based on his affiliations with the Kach party, which the U.S. considers a foreign terrorist organization) posted a photo on his Facebook page of himself and a colleague seated on the balcony of the newly “reclaimed” house.

For additional reading, see this comprehensive report from Peace Now’s Hagit Ofran Hagit. Also see this by excellent report by Moriel Rothman at +972.

As we noted previously, this settlement effort has a very real and devastating effect on the Palestinian families involved. It will also have a very real and painful impact on their neighbors, who, with the implantation of settlers in their midst, will now face a much greater Israeli security presence and the prospect of King-backed efforts to take over additional sites.

That said, our earlier analysis still holds: notwithstanding King’s “big dreams,” the prospects of a new Jewish settlement neighborhood taking root in Beit Hanina are remote. Nowhere have private Jerusalem settlement efforts succeeded in establishing a significant enclave (larger than one or two residential units) outside of the historic basin of the Old City, which resonates with messianic settlers. The setting of the current settlement effort, Beit Hanina, does not resonate with a Biblical past.  Thus, the current scheme will likely end in yet another Palestinian tragedy, and a new, volatile flashpoint – not a significant new settlement neighborhood.