The Southern Flank: Detaching Jerusalem from Bethlehem

Recent months have been witnessing a number of developments that disclose fundamental changes in the trajectory and nature of the conflict gripping Jerusalem. Some pose threats to the potential of any future political agreement, but also to the unique character of the city. Many of these developments have been years in the making but are only coming to fruition or reaching a tipping point now.

This item focuses in on the southern flank.

While it is E-1 that has obtained all of the notoriety of the doomsday settlement that alone will destroy the very possibility of a two-state outcome, there is a similar development unfolding on Jerusalem’s Southern flank.

On the border between East Jerusalem and its sister city of Bethlehem, a critical mass of settlement construction is underway in such a manner as to create an effective buffer between the two. No settlement alone is as devastating as E-1. However, the cumulative impact of all settlements in this area equates to that of E-1. Primarily, no contiguous Palestinian State and no Palestinian East Jerusalem to which it can be integrated into.

Settlements in this category (as shown in the table below), include Gilo Expansion, Har Gilo West, Givat Hamatos C Expansion, Givat Hamatos D, Lower Aqueduct, Har Homa West, Givat Shaked.

In addition to the devastating impact this may have on future political agreements, the seal between Jerusalem and its sister city of Bethlehem is yet another blow to the already vulnerable Christian presence in the Holy Land and likely to exacerbate already existing tensions between Israel and the Churches. It is unlikely that the Churches will passively acquiesce to the physical separation of Jerusalem from Bethlehem.  

Plans in the below table highlighted in red were significantly expedited or deliberated upon after the Aqaba Communique on February 26, 2023.

Settlement PlanPlan NumberUnitsStatus
Gilo ExpansionPlan 164433641 unitsWhile the land is privately-owned by Israeli developers, the GOI filed for the project the on April 17, 2023 by means of the Israel Land Authority.
Givat Hamatos C  ExpansionPlan 11905371,200 unitsScheduled for Municipal hearing on deposit for public review, June 28, 2023.
Givat Hamatos D (dubbed “New Talpiot”)Plan 66575933,500 units 1,500 Hotel RoomsScheduled for Municipal hearing on deposit for public review, June 28, 2023.
Lower AqueductPlan 08088401,465 unitsInternal GOI documents disclose that statutory approval is anticipated in November 2023.
Har Homa WestPlan 0285411540 unitsPlan approved.
Givat ShakedPlan 0969162700+ unitsAmendments made after hearings in run-up to final approval.
Givat Hamatos C Plan 58341,157 unitsApproved and infrastructure construction has commenced.
Har Gilo WestPlan (West Bank) 401/4/1560 UnitsAfter deposit for public review