Ras al-Amud - Emil Salman
The former police compound in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al-Amud. Photo by Emil Salman
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The Jerusalem licensing committee issued a permit yesterday for construction of 14 apartments in a former police compound in East Jerusalem.

The compound, located in the neighborhood of Ras al-Amud, was once the headquarters of the police's Shai (Samaria and Judea ) Division, which is responsible for the West Bank.

Three years ago, however, Shai's headquarters were moved to E-1 (between Jerusalem and the settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim ) and its former home was transferred to a religious trust set up by immigrants from Bukhara, which managed to prove its ownership of the site. The building is now slated to house 14 families.

Ma'aleh Zeitim, the largest of the Jewish enclaves located inside the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, lies just across the road. Set up with help from American Jewish businessman Irving Moskowitz, a long-time patron of Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem, it is currently home to over 100 families.

The Bukharan trust also wants to set up a neighborhood of 104 apartments around the police compound. That plan was submitted to the municipality two and a half years ago, and the trust's attorney, Avner Salem, said it was working its way through the city's planning institutions.

The larger plan also calls for a swimming pool, synagogue, kindergartens, and an overpass linking the compound to Ma'aleh Zeitim across the road. That would essentially create one Jewish enclave of over 200 families in Ras al-Amud.

Opposition city councilman Yosef "Pepe" Alalu (Meretz ) was furious over the decision to approve the first 14 houses.

"Here we finally had a large public building that could have provided an answer to the problems of the eastern part of the city - for instance, as a school. Instead, they're giving another 14 apartments to the settlers in order to Judaize Ras al-Amud," he said.

The Ir Amim organization, which opposes Jewish construction in East Jerusalem, accused the city of "playing with fire in the service of extremist settlers. This decision is just one on a list of dangerous plans the municipality has been advancing, while irresponsibly harming vital public interests."

The Jerusalem municipality said the plan was submitted by private entrepreneurs in December 2009 and had received all the necessary approvals. It was discussed twice by the local planning and building committee, which approved it subject to certain conditions, and no actual building permits will be issued until those conditions are met, the city added.