Shas' Yishai: Allow Building of Jewish Homes in Abu Dis

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert should immediately unfreeze construction in the Kidmat Zion neighborhood in East Jerusalem, Shas chair Eli Yishai told Haaretz yesterday.

A small Jewish neighborhood of 300 housing units is planned for Kidmat Zion, on Jewish-owned land within the part of the Arab village of Abu Dis that is inside the Jerusalem city limits.

"Kidmat Zion is located 1.5 kilometers from the Western Wall. No matter how you look at it, this is Jerusalem. There's no reason to freeze it," said Yishai, who is industry, trade and labor minister in Olmert's government.

"After eight deaths, for every victim, 100 housing units should be built," said Yishai, referring to the eight Mercaz Harav yeshiva students shot and killed last week by a terrorist.

The plan for Kidmat Zion was approved by the local planning authorities when Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem. However, it was not submitted to the district planning committee due to concerns that political considerations would block its approval.

Some 90 percent of the land in Abu Dis falls outside the Jerusalem city limits, and is under Palestinian civil authority but within Israeli security control. Hundreds of dunams of land in that part of Abu Dis are owned by Jews. The approximately 10 percent of Abu Dis within Jerusalem also has a small amount of land owned by Jews. Kidmat Zion is planned for this territory.

When Ehud Barak was prime minister, in 2000, Shas prevented the total transfer of Abu Dis to Palestinian control, along with two other villages on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Then-mayor Olmert supported Shas' stand, enlisting the help of influential spiritual leader Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv against the transfer.

A walled section of the security fence now runs through Abu Dis.

"I am in contact with the interior minister and I will speak to the prime minister, too, so the district commission will approve this plan as soon as possible," Yishai said.