While Netanyahu Is Away: Largest Settlement Expansion in East Jerusalem Set for Approval

Jerusalem municipality to discuss expanding Nof Zion settlement in the heart of Jabal Mukkaber, as Netanyahu embarks on diplomatic visit to Latin America and U.S.

The Nof Zion and Jabal Mukkaber neighborhoods in East Jerusalem
The Nof Zion and Jabal Mukkaber neighborhoods in East Jerusalem Wikimedia Comments / Yakov

The Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee will convene on Sunday to discuss granting building permits for 176 housing units for Jews in the heart Jabal Mukkaber neighborhood in East Jerusalem.

The move, first reported by Kan, the newly formed public broadcasting corporation, would constitute a significant expansion of the Nof Zion settlement, which was populated six years ago near Jabal Mukkaber. The settlement today includes 91 apartments, and if the expansion is approved it would become the largest settlement inside the Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem – surpassing Ma'ale Zeitim with its 200 families.

The land for the project was purchased in the 1970s by the contactor Rahamim Levi. The Digal company that built it failed to market the project because of its vicinity to the Palestinian neighborhood. Palestinian-American entrepreneur Basher al-Masri tried to purchase the land, but right-wing activists eventually purchased it with the help of Jewish-Australian businessman Kevin Bermeister, one of the founders of Skype who has been instrumental in assisting right-wing organizations in East Jerusalem.

The request for building permits was made by the Shmini company, owned by a number of foreign companies registered in Australia, the U.S. and the Cayman Islands. Peace Now estimates that Bermeister is behind the company. Israeli businessman Rami Levy owns 15 percent of the company.

Approval of the new units would take place as Netanyahu heads for a ten-day visit to Latin America and the UN General Assembly in New York. He is expected to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the General Assembly to discuss advancing the administration's peace initiative.

Netanyahu's trip led to the postponing of the Civil Administration planning committee, which was supposed to approve planning and construction for thousands of new housing units in West Bank settlements. Per Netanyahu's request, the committee will convene at the end of September or in the beginning of October, when Netanyahu returns from the U.S.