New Israeli Construction Plan to Cut Off Ramallah From East Jerusalem

The project would add 1,100 housing units to the settlement of Geva Binyamin, between the capital and the separation barrier

A school and houses in Neveh Yaakov, December 11, 2016.
Emil Salman

The Construction and Housing Ministry is planning a major housing project that includes 1,100 units with far-reaching consequences for northeast Jerusalem.

The plan extends the city’s built-up areas eastward, filling in the gap between the settlement of Adam (also known as Geva Binyamin) and the Neveh Yaakov neighborhood. The homes will remain west of the West Bank security fence but will be built outside Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries. If built, the neighborhood would cut between Palestinian built-up areas and make it more difficult to create territorial contiguity between Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and the southern outskirts of Ramallah.

A map showing the area of the proposed construction.

Sources in the settlement and at the Housing Ministry said such a plan had been contemplated in the past, but had been abandoned. It was not pursued in part due to opposition from residents of Adam themselves, who were concerned that it would change the character of the settlement. Over the past year, however, the Housing Ministry resumed work on the plan.

A number of sources confirmed that the project is in its “advanced planning stages.” Officials from the Civil Administration, the Israeli agency responsible for civilian matters in the West Bank on behalf of Israel’s military administration there, confirmed that such a plan had been discussed in 2004. They said that the plan had languished since then, and that the Housing Ministry has yet to submit a new one. “The moment a new plan is accepted in the planning ministries it will be advanced in accordance with the rules,” said one official.

Housing Minister Yoav Galant’s office also confirmed the details of the plan. “We will be everywhere that it is possible to build and to provide solutions to the housing shortage, particularly, as in the case of Adam, in the vicinity of Jerusalem,” the minister’s office said in response to a Haaretz inquiry. “In greater Jerusalem, there is also particular security importance in Israeli [territorial] contiguity from the Gush Etzion Bloc in the south to Atarot in the north, and from Ma’aleh Adumim in the east to Givat Ze’ev in the west.”

Babar Vanunu, the head of the local committee in Adam, confirmed that in recent months residents of the settlement have lifted their opposition to the plan and are now in support of its advancement. “I would very much like them to advance this plan for 1,100 housing units,” he said. Vanunu said he would be pleased to have some socioeconomically weak populations move into a new neighborhood west of the existing settlement, within the separation barrier. The development would strengthen Jerusalem itself, he said.

“Instead of this population leaving Jerusalem and fleeing to Modi’in or Ma’aleh Adumim, I would be pleased for them to remain in Jerusalem and live on this hill,” he said.

The site of the projected neighborhood is currently woodland known as the Mir Forest. It is sparsely forested, and a visit there revealed that it is home to wildlife, including gazelles and hyraxes. There is considerable space between Neveh Yaakov and the separation barrier, so the construction of a new neighborhood there wouldn’t necessarily destroy all of the open space. There are already several building sites on the outskirts of Neveh Yaakov at various stages of construction that would enable the expansion of the neighborhood toward the security fence.