Jerusalem Regional Master Plan Solidifies Israeli Occupation of the City, Discriminates against Palestinian Residents
|Written by The Alternative Information Center (AIC)|
|Sunday, 30 November 2008|
Though this mural on a building near the "Mahane Yehuda" market in West Jerusalem idealistically portrays the planned Jerusalem light rail, it is meant to only serve the Jewish Israeli population, to the detriment of the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem.
On Thursday, 27 November, a press conference was held by Adalah: Legal Center for Arab Minority in Israel and the Civic Coalition for Defending the Palestinians Rights in Jerusalem (CCDPRJ) to delineate the probable effects of the Jerusalem Regional Master Plan and discuss objections to this plan. In particular, the focus was placed on attempting to determine Israel’s “hidden plans” for East Jerusalem.
Opening the press conference were the Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein, and the Palestinian governor of Jerusalem, Mr. Adnan al-Husseini. Further attending as speakers were Adalah’s General Director, Attorney Hassan Jabareen, Adalah Attorney Suhad Bisham and representative of the CCDPRJ, Mr. Khalid al-Tufukji, director of the Bureau of Maps and Geographical Information Systems for the Arab Studies Society in Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem Regional Master Plan, introduced in September 2004, was initiated by the Jerusalem Municipality and includes both West Jerusalem and all of occupied East Jerusalem. Just twenty days after Israel occupied and annexed East Jerusalem in 1967, the Israeli government altered the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem. Seventy square kilometers of Palestinian territory were annexed to Israel by the Jerusalem Municipality. Today, 200,000 Jewish settlers are living in the area.
The current Israeli plan proposes, among other elements, a transport and road system. This will lead to a splitting of the Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. Moreover, the construction of the road and railway systems would lead to massive expropriation of land from the Palestinian population. These factors would do significant harm to the Palestinian population’s possibilities for future development and reduce the potential areas available for housing and growth.
The proposed transport system is intended to connect the Gush Etzion settlement bloc with the Ma’ale Adumin bloc and E1, and also with the Givat Ze’ev settlement bloc—it would connect all these settlement with West Jerusalem and to the wider Jerusalem district. Importantly, this connection between the Jewish settlements will strengthen the Jewish settlements position in the area.
The plan for the proposed railway indicates that, in practice, it is meant to only serve the Jewish Israeli population, to the detriment of the Palestinian population. This can be determined by the rail routes and placement of rail-stops. Thus, the Palestinian population is excluded because of their national background.
On 24 November, Adalah, in Partnership with CCDPRJ, submitted an objection to the National Council of Planning and Building in Israel, against the Regional Master Plan for Jerusalem. This objection was written by Adalah’s Urban Planner, Hanna Hamdan and Adalah Attorney, Suhad Bishara, and was made on the behalf of 73 objectors—56 Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem and 17 locally active NGOs.
All of the objectors argue that with this policy plan, Israel continues to engage in intensive planning on the occupied territory, which is not for the benefit of the Palestinian people but designed to maintain a Jewish majority in a “greater and united Jerusalem.”
Besides this, the objectors stress that the extensive highway, road and rail network, which the master plan describes, will restrict the development of Palestinian communities, separate neighborhoods and limit access to Palestinian-owned land. This will also strengthen the existence of the settlement in and around Jerusalem and connect them to each other, as will as to cities in Israel.
The objectors demand that Israel’s National Council for Planning and Building cancel the plan.