The local planning committee of Jerusalem's municipality on Wednesday approved a plan to build 150 housing units in the Beit Hanina neighborhood in East Jerusalem.
Half of the housing units will go to Jewish residents.
The committee ignored a letter sent by a Palestinian company that holds ownership of almost half of the land. In the letter, the company demands it not be approved; the committee is not authorized to discuss the plan without consent, the letter said.
The housing plan will cover an area of about 10 dunams (2.5 acres). Fifty-five percent of the land is owned by Jews while 45 percent is owned by a Palestinian philanthropic company, which provides housing assistance to East Jerusalem residents. The company purchased its share more than 10 years ago from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which received it as a gift from a donor.
In recent months, right-wing settler activist and member of the Jerusalem city council Aryeh King began promoting the plan.
If the move succeeds, the area will be considered one of the largest Jewish settlements in Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.
"The plan organizer cannot have a status for submitting a master plan while infringing on the rights of the records," wrote Ahmad Safadi, the attorney of the Palestinian company. "The honorable committee is requested to order the cancellation of the filing and of the case," Safadi said.
But the committee rejected the request, saying it was discussing planning issues, not issues of ownership.
Deputy Jerusalem Mayor and acting Chairman of the Planning and Building Committee Yossi Deitch welcomed the decision, saying "I am happy to announce that we have approved the construction of 150 housing units in Beit Hanina, and that 75 Jewish families can now live there. I hope that the approval will be a signal for more construction next year," said Deitsch, who plans to run for mayor.
King said he had tried to reach an agreement with the Palestinian community, without success. "Our goal is to reach an agreement with them and divide the lot between us," King said.
Hagit Ofran of the organization Peace Now said that "this is not a real estate project but a project of defiance and settlement."
"The fact that Israeli entrepreneurs, who own only half of the land, have prepared a plan without consulting Palestinian owners [of the other half] indicates that they have no intention of coexistence and peace," Ofran added.
The Jerusalem municipality responded: "The issue of ownership was examined as part of the examination of the plan's preconditions, since the plan falls under the district committee's jurisdiction."
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