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Haaretz probe: IDF base to be built in East Jerusalem

Both the municipality as well as the Ministry of Defense claim that the base will be built within the green line, however, Haaretz has revealed otherwise based on initial plans for the IDF base.

By Nir Hasson

15 February 2011

The Jerusalem municipality plans to construct an Israel Defense Forces army base that will house military colleges on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem, reportedly beyond the pre-1967 war green line.

Both the municipality as well as the Ministry of Defense dispute this claim, stating that the base will be built within the green line, however, Haaretz has revealed otherwise and according to the plans created by the architectural firm hired by the municipality, the base will encroach upon disputed territory.

Mount Scopus - Tomer Appelbaum

Location of future IDF base

Photo by: Tomer Appelbaum

The IDF colleges to be built on the potentially controversial base will include the command and staff school, the school for national security and the military academy that are currently located on the IDF base in Glilot. Although the majority of the units at the Glilot base are meant to be moved south as part of a plan to increase IDF presence in the Negev, the IDF, Jerusalem municipality and the Ministry of Defense agreed to move the colleges to the capital. Plans have already been set into motion, and the municipality has hired architect Eli Ilan to prepare the initial blueprints for the project.

According to a document obtained by Haaretz, which includes the first draft of plans detailing the grounds of the base, it will be located on Mount Scopus, between the Mormon University and the Augusta Victoria Hospital, not far from Hebrew University. Based on the document, the base will encompass 32 dunams (a unit for measuring land area, about 1/4 acre) and will house learning institutes, a swimming pool, a gym and more. This is, however, only a first draft that is yet to be shown to the planning committee.

Although the Ministry of Defense as well as the Jerusalem municipality have claimed that the base will be within the green line, the document proves otherwise. Mount Scopus was part of Israel during the time period between the 1948 War of Independence and the 1967 Six Day War, and the majority of Hebrew University's campus is within this territory. Most of the area in which the base is to be built, however, appears to be on land that belonged to Jordan during the interwar period. According to armistice agreements, it was a demilitarized zone and a small part of it was no man's land between the two countries' borders.

The construction of an IDF base in East Jerusalem is expected to spark criticism from the United States as well as Europe, who see all building in East Jerusalem as detrimental to the peace process and against the status quo, particularly in light of the fact that it is for military purposes.


Army colleges to move to east Jerusalem

Left-wing groups protests location straddling Green Line.

  The IDF’s academic campus, located in Herzliya, is expected to move to an area next to Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus campus – though the location of the campus has brought strong condemnation from left-wing groups.

According to the initial plans – which have not undergone the official approval process – the future campus will be about 32,000 square meters (eight acres) and feature one large building with classrooms, offices, a swimming pool and synagogue.

About 1,400 soldiers are expected to be stationed at the campus.

The current campus, Glilot, houses the military academy, school for national security and the command school.

The decision to move the campus to east Jerusalem was a joint effort between the IDF, the Defense Ministry and the Jerusalem Municipality.

Land claims are notoriously complicated in the area around Mount Scopus, because the area remained an Israeli enclave between 1948 and 1967.

The area has a “second Green Line,” which basically encircles the Hebrew University campus.

The planned army campus – located south of the Hebrew University – also includes parts of Wadi Joz, an Arab neighborhood.

“I’m happy that the colleges are coming to Jerusalem, but I’m very sorry they’re building it on occupied lands in east Jerusalem,” said City Councilor Meir Margalit, a member of the opposition in the Meretz party.

Margalit accused the municipality of “deceiving” the Defense Ministry, and called on the Ministry to look for land within the Green Line.

Ir Amim also appealed to the Defense Ministry to alter the plan before they submit it for review.

“It’s sending a message: ‘We don’t just own it, but we are a presence here with our government and our army and our institutions,’” said Ir Amim spokeswoman Orly Noy. “There is something very declarative about it being there.”

A Defense Ministry spokeswoman said the Mount Scopus option had not yet been approved, pending reviews by both the Jerusalem Municipality and the defense establishments.

“One of the goals of the review is to determine that the area is fully owned by the State of Israel,” she said. “If it is determined that the area is not owned by the State of Israel, the defense establishment will move the colleges to another area.”

The plan for the new campus was designed by architect Eli Ilan, who was the chairman of the board of the left-wing organization Bimkom: Planners for Planning Rights from 2003-2004.

Ilan did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment.

A spokeswoman for the Jerusalem Municipality said the city does not differentiate between lands on different sides of the Green Line because, “as is widely known, Jerusalem was united in 1967.”

She added that the municipality hadn’t yet begun the official planning process with the Defense Ministry.