Nof Zion: not your typical settlement enclave
- With its 96 existing residential units, the Nof Zion settlement, located in the middle of the Palestinian neighborhood of Jabal Mukkaber, differs from the biblically motivated settlement enclaves that are located in the Old City and its visual basin. Hence, along with Ma’aleh Zeitim in Ras el Amud, the construction of this settlement is in large part commercially motivated.
- Nof Zion is also the only settlement neighborhood located within an existing Palestinian neighborhood whose residents are not affiliated with East Jerusalem’s settler organizations such as Elad or Ateret Cohanim.
A large-scale expansion of the neighborhood has now commenced.
- Scope of the expansion – The current construction works will almost triple the size of Nof Zion, adding 176 units, consisting of 13 buildings, which were approved two years ago by the Building Permit Sub-Committee .
The new 176 units will turn Nof Zion into the largest settlement enclave within an existing Arab neighborhood of East Jerusalem.
- Background – The plan itself (plan number 4558) was approved in 1994. It totals 395 units (for a more comprehensive background, see Peace Now’s report here). Based on that plan, the Building Permit Sub-Committee will be able to approve the construction of 272 additional units, as settler activist and Jerusalem municipal council members Aryeh King hinted. In 2011, Arye King played a central role to help Australian Billionaire Kevin Bermeister and Israeli supermarket magnate Rami Levy to secure Jewish ownership rights over this site and block the sell of the property to Palestinian investor Bashar Masri, after the initial developer bankrupted.
- Larger implications – It is widely assumed that if there ever will be a permanent status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, it will require a Palestinian national capital in East Jerusalem. Put bluntly, Jabal Mukkaber will fall under Palestinian sovereignty or there will be no agreement. The Nof Zion settlement will pose a major impediment to such an agreement – which is in no small part the motivation of the right wing developers for constructing the neighborhood in this location.