The Israel Nature and Parks Authority is the body that initiated the establishment of the “national park” on the slopes of Mount Scopus. But the authority’s representatives on the regional planning and building committee in Jerusalem were the ones to request that approval of the plan be postponed. The reason was the opposition of Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz, who is in charge of the nature authority. Peretz recently instructed that the plan not be moved ahead because “the area has no particularly sensitive nature.”
But the regional committee insisted on holding an unprecedented marathon meeting, nine hours long, to approve the establishment of the park. Their sense of urgency is understandable, especially in light of what happened a month ago. In Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempts to assuage the right wing, which opposed the release of 26 Palestinian prisoners, he declared, among other things, the approval of that “national park.”
Netanyahu’s use of the establishment of the national park to soothe the right wing reveals the true goal of the park: Not to protect an important area of nature and archaeology, but to prevent the development of the Palestinian neighborhoods of Isawiyah and A-Tur, and to take over the eastern gateway to Jerusalem.
Netanyahu was not the only one to divulge this goal. About a year ago, Haaretz reported that the INPA had dubbed the cleanup and demolition plan for structures belonging to the Palestinians in the area of the park as “They know not, neither do they understand” (from Psalms 82:5). This past Sukkot, a visitor recorded an authority employee at an information booth overlooking the national park while she explained that “the idea is to protect all of these slopes as open space. Especially that the communities not expand into it … it creates a corridor that leaves us the view of the whole ascent to Jerusalem. From a historical point of view, this is the pilgrims’ road.”
Ultimately, this is a simple story. The state insists on establishing a grandiose park of dubious archaeological importance in the only area that can allow people living together in a densely crowded area a more reasonable life. But those people are not Jews, and that is enough for the state to see no reason to take their welfare and quality of life into consideration.
The plan was indeed approved last week by the regional committee, but the “national park to dry up the neighborhoods of Isawiyah and A-Tur” is a project dictated from above - from the government, and particularly its leader. That is why Netanyahu is the one who must stop this injustice, and prevent the establishment of a park that will grow entirely from the seeds of discrimination.
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