November 2012 Ir Amim Newsletter
Not even a day had passed since the United Nations’ General Assembly voted in favor of accepting Palestine as an observer state when the Israeli government announced punitive measures including the construction of some 3,000 housing units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This declaration is particularly significant given the unprecedented scope of construction and the declared intention to build in the E-1 area—a development that has the strong potential to terminate the possibility of a two-state solution.
The planned construction in the E-1 area (“Mevaseret Adumim”), which lies north of the built-up area of Ma'ale Adumim, aims to create a continuity of Jewish land between Ma'aleh Adumim and Jerusalem. If implemented, the plan would create an Israeli barrier deep within the West Bank, disconnecting the Ramallah area in the North from Greater Bethlehem in the South while severing East Jerusalem from the West Bank. These results would destroy the basic land conditions for the existence of a Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital, all but killing prospects for a two-state solution. The message here is undeniable: The Israeli government is saying no to a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel.
Two weeks ago, the cannons roared on the southern border between Israel and Gaza. Another round of fighting ended with the loss of human life and heavy ground damage on both sides. This round, like those before it, ended in negotiations with those the Israeli government has declared to be non-partners. At the same time, Mahmoud Abbas, the leader who has extended his hand to negotiations, is repeatedly declared as a “non-partner". Again, it is evident that military actions cannot replace political negotiations in resolving the conflict.
The Palestinian initiative is based on the principle of two states, a convention agreed upon by Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams and to which all Israeli governments are obligated. The initiative could serve as driving force for the renewal of political negotiations based on those agreements but the Israeli government has chosen otherwise. Construction in the E-1 area and additional construction declared by the Israeli government as a punitive measure punishes all of us—Israelis and Palestinians. The Israeli public should demand that its government stop speculating with its future, especially when such actions are motivated by election politics.
Ir Amim policy paper: The E1 Settlement is not Ma'aleh Adummim
E1 Police Station
DEVELOPMENTS IN JERUSALEM
Following Developments on the Ground after Ir Amim Wins Court Appeal on City of David
In September 2012 , the Jerusalem District Court accepted Ir Amim’s petition and ruled that the Israel Nature and Park Authority (INPA)’s awarding of operations of the City of David National Park to the Elad settler organization, in the absence of an open and transparent tender process, was executed illegally. Following the ruling, Ir Amim approached the INPA to advocate that it seize an historic opportunity to restore its authority over the City of David National Park. This position was also expressed in a letter sent by Knesset Member Dov Hanin to the INPA plenum, urging it to reclaim management and operation of the national park.
Exploiting history and archeology for political interests, while gradually overtaking the village of Silwan and forcing residents from their homes and public spaces, exacts an incalculable human and political toll. Therefore, the reduction in Elad’s authority following Ir Amim’s earlier 2010 original petition contesting Elad’s de facto management of the City of David— and the current opportunity to restore authority to the INPA— raises the hope for a more fair and legitimate management of the site.
Ir Amim is monitoring implementation of the new contract between the INPA and Elad, according to which the INPA will resume management of the site and Elad will continue as site operator (following the Court's ruling on Ir Amim’s 2010 petition). Our examinations reveal a substantial gap between the contract’s requirements and the current reality on the ground. In light of those findings, Ir Amim has conveyed a letter to the INPA detailing contract breaches on site and will continue to monitor developments.
“The Peacock of Silwan”
Last October, “The Peacock of Silwan”, which portrays events in a contested home in Silwan, was performed at the Acco Theater Festival. The play revolves around multiply versions of events as seen through the lenses of Jewish, Palestinian and Arab Israelis. The “Peacock of Silwan” was written by Alma Genihar and directed by Sinai Peter and Chen Alon. It will be returning to Acco on Saturday, December 29 at 11:00 AM and 14:00 PM and Saturday, January 12 at 11:00 AM and 14:00 PM. To read more about the play.
WHERE DOES JERUSALEM’S BUILDING WASTE GO?
Land reserves in East Jerusalem are gradually being swallowed by Israeli confiscation of land in Palestinian neighborhoods for construction and creation of national parks. Now, if executed, a plan to build a waste site near the north of Issawiya, near the E-1 parcel, will further consume Palestinian land. The area designated for the waste site sits in the riverbed of the Og River, on a sizeable tract of 534 dunams privately owned by residents of Anata and Issawiya. There are currently 30 to 40 Palestinian and Bedouin families living in the area whose homes would be demolished to enable construction of the site. So far, the program has been approved by the Local Planning and Building Committee and initially approved by the District Planning and Building Committee prior to being deposited for public review.
In addition, the Mount Scopus Slopes National Park is planned to be built south of Issawiya at the expense of a town plan (also approved at the Local Planning Committee) supporting local community development projects. Creating a waste disposal site north of Issawiya would kill development of an educational campus proposed under the residents’ plan. The national park and waste dump projects—of contestable value to residents— would consume all land reserves for future growth of the village, eliminating room for expansion of the population.
Ir Amim’s special study tour on 21.12 will include observation of this site (see details below).
Now Coming to Wallajeh: A National Park
The village of Wallajeh is situated on the border of the municipal line in south Jerusalem. The separation barrier is now being constructed around the neighborhood. Land belonging to the village’s residents will be left outside the separation wall’s route, which will all but entirely encircle the village. Further, a new national park is being planned around the village’s circumference, north of the village, inside Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries.
The proposed park exemplifies the current trend of “greening the city” by establishing new national parks in the service of political interests. National parks are established at the expense of land reserves in East Jerusalem as part of an effort to surround its historic basin and create a contiguity of Israeli land east of the city. In this case, the planned national park is far from the Old City’s historic basin; instead, together with the separation barrier, it will create a link between Jerusalem and the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, thereby disrupting the continuity of land between East Jerusalem and the West Bank required for a future Palestinian state. The park is planned on land owned by villagers, who will effectively lose the ability to exercise ownership of their land. Because establishment of a national park does not constitute, by Israeli law, expropriation of land, villagers will not be compensated for their losses.
To Destroy Rather Than Build?
Ir Amim continues to monitor and advance proposals for more equitable resource allocation in the city, with an emphasis on planning rights. Toward this end, we are carefully monitoring the King’s Garden plan, which would expand the City of David National Park and require the demolition of up to 56 homes in the Al-Bustan neighborhood of Silwan.
The State Comptroller’s Committee of the Knesset convened this September to discuss the King's Garden plan. At the meeting, the city’s legal advisor indicated that the Jerusalem Municipality and the Ministry of Justice are currently working to determine criteria for home demolitions in Jerusalem. This activity is occurring in tandem with the authorities' ongoing efforts to legalize home demolitions in Al Bustan. To read Ir Amim’s updated report, "The Giant’s Garden"
In response to the city’s overall planning policy, Ir Amim, together with colleague NGO Bimkom—Planners for Planning Rights, presented the land unit of the State Attorney’s office with a position paper contesting its discriminatory and questionable practices and offering fundamental changes. In the paper, Ir Amim argues that planning policy in East Jerusalem is manifestly intended to preserve a forced ‘demographic balance'. Consequently, the State of Israel does not enable the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem reasonable real estate, planning and construction rights.
To illustrate: Since 1967, successive Israeli governments have built roughly 50,000 housing units in East Jerusalem on lands that were expropriated from Palestinians; during the same period, up until 2009, approximately 3,900 building permits for 1,500 units were granted in Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. Palestinian residents now constitute over a third of the population of Jerusalem. The high number of building violations in all of East Jerusalem (it is estimated that approximately 20,000 units have been built without permits) suggests a structural failure of the planning system to address the real needs of the community. Determining criteria for home demolitions while ignoring the lack of options for construction in Palestinian neighborhoods exacerbates the already grim conditions in East Jerusalem. The city’s land remains united while the city’s people are divided by prejudicial policies that threaten the very existence of Palestinian neighborhoods.
Upcoming Study Tours
Ir Amim offers political tours of Jerusalem to the general public on a regular basis. The tour provides a thorough introduction to Israeli policy in Jerusalem since 1967 and an overview of its socio-economic and political implications. Discussion includes design of the municipal boundaries, Israeli development in East Jerusalem, the separation barrier and its effects on the city, political trends, the relationship between the Israeli authorities and the Palestinian population and recent developments on the ground. The schedule for the next month:
Friday, November 30: Between Jerusalem and Ramallah (Hebrew), 9:30 AM to 13:30 PM
Friday, December 7: Tour of East Jerusalem (English), 9:30 AM to 13:30 PM
Friday, December 14: Tour of East Jerusalem (Hebrew), 9:30 AM to 13:30 PM
Friday, December 21: Special tour following current and pressing issues such as the status of Al Wallajeh village and the planned landfill north of Issawiya (Hebrew), 9:30 AM to 13:30 PM
Friday, January 4: Tour of East Jerusalem (Hebrew), 9:30 AM to 13:30 PM
Talking About Jerusalem
Suggest a time and place, invite fellow participants and an Ir Amim representative will come to you for a lecture and open discussion about Jerusalem. Topics include Israeli policy since 1967 and its consequences, political issues, current developments and their significance for our shared future. If requested, Ir Amim will include a screening of films from its “Jerusalem Moments” series.
Support Ir Amim
Ir Amim’s ongoing efforts are made possible only by your ongoing support. Your tax deductible contribution forms the foundation of our work to monitor developments like those discussed herein, educate the Israeli public and international community and effect policy strategies to confront these threats to a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
As we approach the end of 2012, please consider making a year-end contribution to Ir Amim—a gift toward peace.
Click here to make you tax-deductible gift online or send your donor advised check, payable to P.E.F.:
P.E.F. Israel Endowment Funds, Inc.
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New York, NY 10017
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