Israel Gives Fast-track Approval for Building in Jerusalem Nature Area

Mitzpeh Naftoach, which is slated for 1,400 apartments, is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, some of which are in danger of extinction.

Zafrir Rinat
Zafrir Rinat
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Mitzpeh Naftoah will now be a priority area for developing 1,400 housing units. Mayor Barkat opposed the move.
Mitzpeh Naftoah will now be a priority area for developing 1,400 housing units. Mayor Barkat opposed the move.Credit: Emil Salman
Zafrir Rinat
Zafrir Rinat

The housing cabinet on Monday declared an important nature site in western Jerusalem as a priority area for the construction of new housing, over the objections of Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat but with support from the environmental protection minister.

Construction plans for Mitzpeh Naftoah and the other sites approved as priority areas on Monday will now be sent to a special planning committee that deals with government-approved priority sites on an accelerated timetable. This committee has the power to override most provisions of approved master plans, and it's virtually impossible to appeal its decisions.

Drafted by the Israel Lands Authority, the plan for Mitzpeh Naftoah calls for the construction of some 1,400 apartments.

Environmental groups object vociferously to construction in Mitzpeh Naftoah, as well as to the fast-track process used to approve it. They were particularly disappointed that the housing cabinet’s decision was backed by Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabbay (Kulanu.)

Gabbay’s office declined to comment on his vote.

Prior to the housing cabinet’s meeting, Barkat asked its chairman, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, to take the Mitzpeh Naftoah plan off the agenda.

“I oppose this move,” Barkat wrote, saying it failed to strike the necessary balance between preserving green areas and other public needs.

Moreover, by declaring Mitzpeh Naftoah a priority area, the housing cabinet was “circumventing the local [planning] committee, which faithfully represents the interests of Jerusalem residents, and also the regional [planning] committee,” he continued.

More new housing has already been approved for Jerusalem than for any other city in Israel, Barkat argued, so “it’s not clear to me why the Israel Lands Authority chose to thumb its nose so crudely at the municipality’s policy.”

Mitzpeh Naftoah also has the largest concentration of gazelles in the Jerusalem hills.

The site is the only green lung for the Ramot neighborhood’s 50,000 residents, who charge that the ILA plan will destroy the landscape. Ramot residents led the battle against construction in the area, but their alternative plan, which called for making Mitzpeh Naftoah a community park, now has no chance of being accepted.

Jerusalem’s northern neighborhood of Ramot.Credit: Daniel Bar-On

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

Subscribe today and save 40%

SUBSCRIBE
Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

An El Al jet sits on the tarmac at John C. Munro International Airport in Hamilton, Thursday, in 2003.

El Al to Stop Flying to Toronto, Warsaw and Brussels

FILE PHOTO: A Star of David hangs from a fence outside the dormant landmark Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood in 2021.

American Judaism Is in Decline. That's Great News for American Jews

Crowds at Israel's Ben-Gurion International Airport, in April.

U.S. Official: West Bank Entry for Palestinian Americans Unrelated to Israeli Visa Waivers

Haaretz spoke with several people who said they had fled Ukraine, arrived in Israel,  and were asked to undergo DNA tests in order to establish paternity.

'My Jewish Grandmother Has a Number on Her Arm, Why Does Israel Greet Me This Way?'

People taking part in the annual "March of the Living" to commemorate the Holocaust, between the former death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland, four years ago.

It’s Not Just the Holocaust. Israel Is Failing to Teach the History of the Jews

 A Jewish cemetery in Warsaw, Poland.

Israel and Poland Fight Over History, Truth - and Israeli Students