JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli plans to build nine hotels in a settlement neighborhood in East Jerusalem aim to undermine tourism in Bethlehem, a Palestinian researcher warned Tuesday.
Israel on Tuesday pushed forward with plans to build 1,100 hotel rooms in Givat Hamatos, a neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem close to Israel's checkpoint to Bethlehem.
Khalil Tufakji, a Palestinian expert in settlement affairs, told Ma'an that an Israeli committee had approved the plan, which includes nine hotels.
The Israeli government is hoping tourists will stay in the hotels and make day trips to Bethlehem rather than stay in the West Bank city, Tufakji said.
He said Israel was also creating employment opportunities to encourage Jewish settlers to move to East Jerusalem as part of a wider push to alter the city's demographic reality and drive Palestinians from the occupied city.
Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as the capital of their promised state but Israel insists the whole city is its "eternal, indivisible" capital.
Tufakji also linked the hotels to upcoming Israeli elections.
"(Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu is trying to gain support as Israeli elections are nearing. He has repeated several times that construction in Jerusalem is similar to construction in Tel Aviv."
Israel unilaterally annexed East Jerusalem in 1967, a move never recognized by the international community.
Over 500,000 Israeli settlers live in Jewish-only communities on Palestinian land. Last week the Israeli government sanctioned three Jewish outposts, a move rights groups said created the first new settlements since 1990.
Palestinian leaders say settlements and their related infrastructure and roads networks prevent the viability of a Palestinian state.
Givat Hamatos - A New Israeli Neighborhood in East Jerusalem
October 13, 2011
For the first time since the establishment of Har Homa -
New Israeli Neighborhood in East Jerusalem is threatening the Two State solution
On October 11, Plan no. 14295 was deposited for public review, for the construction of 2,610 housing units in a new neighborhood in East Jerusalem called “Givat Hamatos” East of Beit Safafa. This plan is the reparcellation scheme that enables the implementation of plan no. 5834A which was deposited three years ago and caused controversy.
- The first new Israeli neighborhood in East Jerusalem since Har Homa – Unlike recent plans that caused controversy in Gilo and Pisgat Ze’ev which expanded the footprint of existing neighborhoods, the new plan creates an entirely new footprint of a new Israeli neighborhood in East Jerusalem, for the first time since the establishment of Har Homa in 1997 by the first Netanyahu Government.
- “A mini-E-1” - a game changer that significantly changes the possible border between Israel and Palestine – The new neighborhood will complete the isolation between Bethlehem and East Jerusalem, and will destroy any possibility of a territorial solution in Beit Safafa and Shurafat. The Geneva Initiative proposed border will not be possible without dismantling the new Israeli neighborhood.
- The plan is for immediate implementation – the plan for the establishment of Givat Hamatos neighborhood was firstly exposed when plan no. 5834A was deposited for public review under Olmert Govenement on January 2008. This plan was for the construction of 2,337 housing units and it completed the approval process in recent months. However, this plan was a general plan that couldn’t be implemented without further detailed planning called “reparcellation”. Today the reparcellation plan is ready, and it is deposited for public review. The detailed plan increases the capacity from 2,337 units to 2,610 units and once it is approved the construction can begin.
- These are the Final planning phases – the detailed plan (no. 14295) was deposited for public review on October 11th, 2011. The 60-day objection period for the plan has now begun. At the end of that period, and after hearing the objections, the plan can be approved. Following the approval there might be appeals to court that could take another few months but eventually, if the plan is not withdrawn by the government, the plan will receive the final approval in a few months to a year. Once Plan 14295 is approved, construction can commence.
It is important to mention that the plan is under the authority of the Local Planning Committee at the Jerusalem Municipality. Unlike the Regional Planning Committee which is made up of civil servants, the Local Committee is made up of elected city council members, which are politically motivated and might want to approve the plan as quickly as possible.
- The plan is initiated by the Israeli Land Authority (ILA) and is under the full control of the Israeli Government - the initiator of the plan is the Israel Lands Authority (ILA), a quasi-governmental agency that owns much of the land in the area (there are also areas of private ownership, both Israeli and Palestinian). This means that the plan can still be frozen at any time by the ILA (i.e., by a decision of the Israeli government), even if the Municipality is eager to move forward.
- Parts of the plan for Palestinian construction? -there will probably be those in the Israeli government who will argue that the new neighborhood will not necessarily be only for Jews. Similar protestations were voiced in defense of the construction of the settlement of Har Homa, and eventually there wasn’t even one unit built for Palestinians in Har Homa. It does appear that the Givat Hamatos plan may allow some expansion of the existing Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa on the lands that are privately owned by Palestinians. However, at least 1,700 units will be constructed for a new Israeli neighborhood.
- Givat Hamatos Today –in the 1990’s the Israeli government used parts of the land of the new plan for a temporary residential site for new immigrants. Today there are some 25 trailer homes still not evicted from the site.
Further Developements in Givat Hamatos - See here