Peace Now: Construction for Largest East Jerusalem Settlement Has Begun

Plan calls for the construction of 104 housing units on land where the former police headquarters was housed.

Maya Levin

The Israeli anti-settlement group Peace Now said Sunday that renovation work has recently begun for the construction of 14 housing units in an old Israel Police station in East Jerusalem, where plans are in the works for the largest Jewish neighborhood in that part of the city.

Some 50 Jewish families currently live in six buildings in Ras al-Amud, where an American Jewish millionaire has purchased land for Jewish settlement.

The plan calls for the construction of 104 housing units on the land where the former headquarters of the Judea and Samaria police was housed before it was moved to a new building in Area E-1.

The plan for the building of the new settlement, Ma'aleh David, was filed for approval last summer by the relevant municipal committee at the Jerusalem municipality.

But Peace Now said renovations within the former station did not require municipal building permits - official approval that could torpedo the new peace negotiations.

Once the police evacuated the area it returned to the control of the Committee of the Bokharan Community, which has held ownership over the property and the structures there since before 1948.

The municipality has treaded carefully in its approval of new construction plans since tensions rose between Israel and the U.S. after new construction in East Jerusalem was announced during U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's visit in March.

The new settlement is planned to be connected to an existing Jewish neighborhood, Ma'aleh Zeitim, and together will be occupied by some 200 families, forming the largest Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem.

According to the plan, the former police structure will be razed and replaced by seven structures ranging between four and five stories in height.

The plan involves high-end housing and the complex will include a swimming pool, mini "country club," community library and parking spaces. A synagogue, kindergartens and a mikveh (Jewish ritual purification bath) are also planned for construction there.

A foot bridge will connect the new settlement with existing ones on the other side of the road. The settlement of Ma'aleh Zeitim across the street currently houses 51 families and in its second phase of development, which is currently being completed, another 66 housing units are being built.

When the two neighborhoods are completed and linked, a Jewish settlement of more than 1,000 people will be situated in the heart of Ras al-Amud, a neighborhood comprising 14,000 Palestinians.