Israel Includes Jerusalem Settlement Project in Affordable Housing Lottery

Announcement of winners will make it impossible to halt construction of homes in Givat Hamatos, a new neighborhood outside of Israel's pre-1967 borders

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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Givat Hamatos in 2020.
Givat Hamatos in 2020.Credit: Emil Salman
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

All of the Jerusalem apartments that are part of a subsidized-housing project are set to be built in a neighborhood beyond Israel’s pre-1967 borders, potentially curtailing the option of halting construction in the controversial area.

The Housing Ministry’s plan to provide 10,000 apartments at steep discounts through a lottery includes 468 to be built in the neighborhood of Givat Hamatos. Once the results of the lottery are announced, it will be impossible to prevent these homes from being built.

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After years of delays due to opposition by the U.S., in 2020 Israel issued requests for proposals to build 1,257 homes in Givat Hamatos.

The Peace Now organization attacked the decision to include apartments planned for the neighborhood in the lottery program. “The government is taking advantage of the housing crisis to make Jerusalemites settlers against their will,” said a spokesperson. “The government’s behavior concerning Givat Hamatos undermines Israel’s interests and harms any chance for peace.” The group called for “supporters of two states who are within the government to stick to their word and halt the plans immediately.”

The government’s 2020 announcement of a bidding process for construction in Givat Hamatos came toward the end of the Trump presidency, with some government critics saying it was intended to create facts on the ground before U.S. President Joe Biden took office. A few days before Biden’s inauguration, the bidding process ended and bulldozers began preliminary work on the ground.

In addition to Givat Hamatos being beyond the pre-1967 borders, construction of the neighborhood is also controversial because geographically, once it is completed it will be more difficult to draw an agreed-upon border in a negotiation between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Generally, applicants for the housing lottery must be Israeli citizens. But four months ago, the government changed its policy to make Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, over 90 percent of whom are not Israeli citizens, eligible for the housing lottery, after residents of East Jerusalem’s Beit Safafa neighborhood filed a legal challenge against construction d of Givat Hamatos, saying that they would face dscrimination if they sought housing there.

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