+972 Magazine's Stories of the Week

Directly In Your Inbox

Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

Dispelling the myths about building in Jerusalem

In Jerusalem, construction of Jewish neighborhoods continues unabated, while Palestinians are still struggling for basic infrastructure.

By Aviv Tatarsky

The father of the Sabach family stands in the ruins of his son's family home a few hours after it was demolished by Israeli authorities, East Jerusalem, May 20, 2013. He is holding a portrait from 1983 in which he and his own father are seen standing near their demolished home in the Anata neighborhood. Seven family members, including 5 children were displaced due to the demolition. (photo: Activestills.org)

The father of the Sabach family stands in the ruins of his son’s family home a few hours after it was demolished by Israeli authorities, East Jerusalem, May 20, 2013. He holds a portrait from 1983 in which he and his own father are seen standing near their demolished home in the Anata neighborhood. Seven family members, including five children were displaced due to the demolition. (photo: Activestills.org)

There is no construction freeze. As opposed to declarations by right-wing politicians such as Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat or Education Minister Naftali Bennett, construction in Jerusalem was never frozen, while the cranes and bulldozers keep working tirelessly in the city’s Jewish neighborhoods located beyond the Green Line. Thousands of housing units in Gilo, Har Homa, Ramot, Pisgat Ze’ev, and Ramat Shlomo. These not only provide housing for Israelis — they establish facts on the ground in order to make partitioning the city, and as well as reaching a two-state solution, all the more difficult. This, of course, does not stop Israel’s ministers from complaining about a “construction freeze.”

There is a freeze on construction plans and tenders in Jerusalem. In 2012 the government approved a plan for over 6,000 housing units beyond the Green Line in Jerusalem. In 2013 and in the first three months of 2014 Israel published tenders for nearly 2,500 units in Ramat Shlomo, Gilo, etc. But since the breakdown in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, lead by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in April 2014, Israel has hardly published tenders or promoted construction plans. This fact should be taken to heart by all those — on both the Right and the Left — who have eulogized the two-state solution. The solution has yet to reach its expiration date, and if anything is keeping it alive it is sheer political will — not the reality on the ground.

There is a construction freeze for Palestinians. Despite the severe construction shortage the municipality and government repeatedly thwart development plans for Jerusalem’s Palestinian neighborhoods. If you ask city council members, the shortage of classrooms and family health centers is a result of a “lack of suitable land.” Ask the residents of the Old City. Ask the residents of Sur Baher. Ask the residents of Issawiya or their neighbors in A-Tur — neighborhoods where after years of hard work and investing hundreds of thousands of shekels from their own pockets, the municipality decided to go back on its promises: although the master plan was coordinated with the municipality, the city decided to spend the money on a national park in the exact same spot. Meanwhile all the hard work for the betterment of the Palestinians went down the drain.

Palestinian residents of Beit Safafa protest outside the Jerusalem Municipality against the construction of a highway that would intersect their village, January 16, 2013. Politicians did not consider the residents’ demands and police suppressed their non-violent protests. (Activestills.org)

Palestinian residents of Beit Safafa protest outside the Jerusalem Municipality against the construction of a highway that would intersect their village, January 16, 2013. Politicians did not consider the residents’ demands and police suppressed their non-violent protests. (Activestills.org)

And what about the 600 housing units in Beit Safafa, announced by Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Liberman last week, and which according to Bennett would create “territorial contiguity between Bethlehem and Malha?” The truth is that most of this territory has already been built up. The permit Bennett spoke about only increases the building rate such that landowners can add a story or two. And even that didn’t gain approval until the residents lodged an appeal in court. Whatever open land was left near Beit Safafa has already been expropriated by the state for the sake of building an Israeli neighborhood. In fact 38 percent of land in East Jerusalem have been expropriated from their Palestinian owners in order to build apartments for Israelis. When it comes to our education minister, the combination of lying and scaremongering does not add up to incitement.

In the past few years the state has not approved a single, detailed master plan for the city’s Palestinian neighborhoods, while it approves plans for 10,000 housing units in Israeli neighborhoods. Alongside the infringement on the right to housing, and with a complete lack of planning, there is a shortage of investment in schools, infrastructure, and social services. The cumulative effect brings about enormous economic and social damage.

There is no freeze on home demolitions. Since the beginning of the year, the pressure by the authorities and the state to demolish “illegal structures” has increased dramatically. In April the city demolished Palestinian homes in al-Walaja, a village the was cut off from the separation wall, for first time. In Ayn al-Luza, located in the neighborhood of Silwan, an apartment complex of 100 units is under immediate threat of demolition. And more and more.

There is no freeze on evictions. In the Old City, in Sheikh Jarrah, in Batan al-Hawa (in Silwan) — state-backed settler organizations are working to expel 150 families from their homes. More families will be thrown into the streets, more children will lose their homes.

There is no way to pulverize the Palestinian part of Jerusalem without Israeli suffering. Israeli construction will not prevent the need for a political solution — it will only make reaching one more complicated. On the other hand, the systematic discrimination against Palestinians in Jerusalem creates poverty and hostility, destroying the community fabric in East Jerusalem. This is the soil from which the violence that kills Israelis grows. If we do not sow other seeds, this is what we will reap.

Aviv Tatarsky is a researcher with Ir Amim. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

Newsletter banner

Before you go...

A lot of work goes into creating articles like the one you just read. And while we don’t do this for the money, even our model of non-profit, independent journalism has bills to pay.

+972 Magazine is owned by our bloggers and journalists, who are driven by passion and dedication to the causes we cover. But we still need to pay for editing, photography, translation, web design and servers, legal services, and more.

As an independent journalism outlet we aren’t beholden to any outside interests. In order to safeguard that independence voice, we are proud to count you, our readers, as our most important supporters. If each of our readers becomes a supporter of our work, +972 Magazine will remain a strong, independent, and sustainable force helping drive the discourse on Israel/Palestine in the right direction.

Support independent journalism in Israel/Palestine Donate to +972 Magazine today
View article: AAA
Share article
Print article
  • LEAVE A COMMENT

    * Required

    COMMENTS

    1. Ben

      This is all basically a form of apartheid. And its cruelty is appalling. Not to mention its stupidity. (“There is no way to pulverize the Palestinian part of Jerusalem without Israeli suffering.”) Frank Jewish supremacism, disguised by layers of bureaucratic deceit and layers of self-righteousness, and a whole society pretending not to see. This is what Israel has sunk to. The entire occupation is based on layers and layers of dishonesty. A whole cultivated system of it.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Sarah Kaminker, a city planner in Jerusalem for more than thirty years, describes a decades-long regime of the rankest discrimination in land use, planning, development, draconian bureaucratic measures, and what amounts to a whole bag of dirty tricks:
        “…There are literally a hundred other discriminatory practices that ruthlessly prevent Palestinians from building homes in Jerusalem. There are unjustiably huge charges for building licenses that are imposed only on Arabs…
        …The Israeli government claims that it has no choice but to punish the “scofflaws” in East Jerusalem who build illegally. If only they would ask for a license, the municipality would issue one. The government says it gets about 150 requests from Arabs each year and dutifully supplies them with building licenses. What the municipality does not tell us is that over one thousand Arabs each year ask a special team of Arab civil servants in the city engineer’s office for information about the planning regulations that apply to their land. About 150 of them have land where housing construction is permitted. These lucky few apply for and gain building licenses. The others, having been told informally that their land is not zoned for housing, never get into the data bank, allowing the municipality to continue to claim that it issues licenses to all applicants….”

        http://faculty.history.umd.edu/BCooperman/NewCity/Arabsonly.html

        Reply to Comment