The surge in settlement schemes on Jerusalem’s southern flank, which threatens to create a buffer between East Jerusalem and the southern West Bank, is proceeding rapidly.
Gilo Expansion Plans
2500 New Units for Gilo (Ahuzat Nof): Last week it was reported in the Palestinian press, and subsequently in the Israeli and international press, that Israel is planning to approve as many as 2500 new units in the East Jerusalem settlement of Gilo. The site in question is located beyond the expropriation line of Gilo, on land that is privately owned by both Palestinians and Israelis. It is located between the southern edge of Gilo and Route 60, the tunnel road that leads to the Etzion settlement bloc. A private developer prepared a conceptual plan for the construction of 2500 units on the site, drafted by a reputable town planner. On May 30, 2012, this plan was brought last week, as a conceptual plan, to the Municipality. The Jerusalem Municipal planning board decided that the Jerusalem Municipality will indeed be an official sponsor of the plan and took a decision to plan the area in question. With this decided, a planning file can be opened, a number assigned to the plan and the statutory process can commence. However, as of this writing no planning file has yet been opened, nor has any statutory approval taken place. The plan for this massive new construction in Gilo has been dubbed Ahuzat Nof.
Mordot Gilo South: On May 10, 2012, Town Plan 13261 (map), for construction in an area adjacent to the settlement of Gilo, in a development to be called “Mordot Gilo” (translation: “Gilo Slopes”), was published for public review. As we reported at the time, this plan was approved for public review on September 27, 2011 but had lain dormant since then. The plan provides for large-scale construction on the southwest slopes of the settlement of Gilo, between the current footprint of the settlement of Gilo and the Palestinian area of Beit Jala/Walajeh. The plan is built largely on lands expropriated by Israel in 1970, but also includes privately owned land (owned largely by Israelis, but also by Palestinians) beyond the expropriation line. All of the plan extends beyond the existing built-up footprint of Gilo. Due to the complex land ownership issues involved, it was decided that the expansion would take place in stages. After some initial lack of clarity regarding the numbers, the statutory documents now reveal that the initial construction will entail 942 units, with an additional 300 units to be constructed once certain property issues are resolved on the lands beyond the expropriation line.
Mordot Gilo West: This is Town Plan 13157, which some observers may recall as the infamous Gilo expansion plan that was in the headlines in November 2009. At that time the plan was deposited for public review, just as top Netanyahu advisor Yitzhik Molcho was meeting with then-Special Envoy George Mitchell. At the time, Israel tried to deflect international criticism by claiming that this was a technical move and the actual approval of the plan was years away. Those years have now passed. Back in July 2011, Plan 13157 was approved by the Municipality in anticipation of Regional Planning Committee deliberations to approve the deposit of the plan for public review. Plan 13157 provides for the construction of 850-900 units immediately to the north of the construction approved under Plan 13261 (map). On May 22, deliberations were held on the objections to the plan by the Regional Planning Board. Of the hundreds of objections filed against TP 13157, none challenged the political wisdom of the plan; rather, they were filed by irate Gilo residents on environmental grounds. Nonetheless, the outcome appears to be a foregone conclusion and the final approval of the plan is expected imminently.
All three of these Gilo expansion plans, if implemented, will significantly complicate final status arrangements in Jerusalem. These plans are not merely about expanding construction inside an existing settlement. They are about significantly expanding the settlement in the direction of the neighboring West Bank towns. In doing so, they will make any future border arrangements more difficult.
New Construction inside Gilo: On December 28, 2011, the Jerusalem Municipal Planning Committee approved Town Plan 13290, for 100-130 housing units in Gilo (here and here). TP 13290 was also on the agenda of the Jerusalem District Planning committee for May 22, 2012, and its approval is expected shortly. Unlike the Mordot Gilo Plans, this plan is within the existing built-up contours of Gilo.
Givat Hamatos A: In May 2012, three consecutive days of intense hearings were held regarding Plan 14295, Givat Hamatos A. The hearings were held to consider the objections by an external investigator. There were 15 objections all together, and they were all heard. The plan, as previously noted, is sponsored by the Israel Lands Authority but its approval falls under the exclusive authority of the Jerusalem Municipality. Final approval is expected at anytime. This means that tenders for a total of 2610 units are possible, and even likely, in the second half of 2012. For previous reporting on Givat Hamatos A, see here.
Givat Hamatos D: As we reported previously, on April 19th, Plan 5834D (Givat Hamatos D) was deposited for public review. This plan provides for the construction of 1100 hotel rooms and a public building. It took the media a few days to catch up with these developments, and the deposit of the plan subsequently received a great deal of press attention in early May and was denounced by the Palestinians, Peace Now, Turkey, Jordan, and Egypt.
As we have noted previously, Givat Hamatos is not just another settlement. It is a game-changer, representing a mini-E-1 on Jerusalem’s southern flank. If constructed, it will be devastating to the viability of the two-state solution in Jerusalem (and, thus, the two-state solution in general). See also this reporting from Reuters: Jerusalem expansion reaches point of no return
As we reported previously, on April 4, 2012, the Israel Lands Authority (ILA) and the Ministry of Construction published four tenders for 72 units in Har Homa B (one tender for 22 units and a second for 50 units, both within Town Plan 7509). The ILA also published a tender for 4 commercial buildings in Har Homa B (Town Plan 7509). (All the tenders are dated April 3rd, but were published on April 4th). On that same day, they also published tenders for 800 units in Har Homa C (one tender for 632 units and a second tender for 168 units, both as part of Town Plan 10310). (These tenders are also dated April 3rd, but were published on April 4th). All of these tenders are significant, but the Har Homa C tenders are especially so, given that this will be the first construction in Har Homa C. As we have written previously, the Har Homa C plan involves construction that is, in it entirety, beyond the existing built-up area of the Har Homa settlement, significantly expanding the footprint of the settlement into a new area in the direction of Bethlehem/Beit Sahour. In doing so, this construction will make a permanent status agreement on Jerusalem incrementally more difficult. A map showing the Har Homa C construction can be viewed/downloaded here.
Advancement if all of these plans could not be taking place without the knowledge and approval of the Netanyahu government, including the Prime Minister’s Office. Such an approval is unsurprising, given the ongoing, unprecedented surge in settlement activity taking place in East Jerusalem. This surge characterized all of 2011, was briefly put in check during the first quarter of 2012 and then came back with a vengeance at the beginning of April 2012 (as reported here).
Looking at all of the developments of the past 18 months or so on the map, it is clear that none of what we are seeing is random. There is an unmistakable (and at this point extremely predictable) pattern of activity taking place in East Jerusalem, with particular focus on settlement activity on the city’s southern flank. These settlement plans (including Gilo, Givat Hamatos, and Har Homa), if implemented, collectively will make the two-state solution in Jerusalem impossible unless Israel is prepared to take the as-yet unimagined step of removing Israelis from large government-backed settlements in East Jerusalem.