Israeli Plan for New Jerusalem Neighborhood Raises Palestinian Ire

PLO condemns construction plan for some 15,000 housing units over the Green Line. Municipality: Project involves employment zone, not homes.

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The abandoned Atarot airport, north of Jerusalem, in 2009.
The abandoned Atarot airport, north of Jerusalem, in 2009.Credit: Emil Salman
Jack Khoury
Nir Hasson

An Israeli plan to build a new neighborhood outside Jerusalem, as reported last week, has raised the ire of Palestinian leaders. The land in question is located near the abandoned Atarot airport, north of the city.

Media reports about the scheme triggered a wave of reactions in Palestinian circles, and the subject was also discussed at a meeting of the Palestinian Liberation Organization's Executive Committee on Saturday night in Ramallah.

“The PLO Executive Committee will use any means at its disposal to oppose this plan, and will sue Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat [at the International Criminal Court in the Hague] since the area in question is occupied Palestinian land,” the committee stated, adding that the project would thwart Palestinian plans for developing a landing strip on the spot.

Israel's Walla news website had reported last week that the city of Jerusalem is pushing a plan to build a new neighborhood near the abandoned Atarot airport, not far from the checkpoint near the Qalandiyah refugee camp checkpoint. The plan, supposedly calling for some 15,000 new housing units, was initiated about a decade ago but nothing was ever done about it, the report said.

The Jerusalem Municipality, however, has denied the Walla report.

“The idea of establishing the neighborhood was brought up in the past by various elements, but given the dearth of employment zones in the city, the major of Jerusalem has said that the land be developed to that end: to create jobs,” it said.

Meanwhile, the city noted that it is promoting construction of 85,000 apartments in existing neighborhoods by means of urban renewal programs, in the hope that they will encourage young people to stay in the city.

In response to the item about the project near Qalandiyah, the Waqf, which runs the Temple Mount site in the Old City of Jerusalem, announced Sunday that such a move by Israel could lead to a serious escalation in tensions.

The Waqf also claimed that now, during the holy month of Ramadan, Israel is still allowing Jews to visit the sensitive Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on the mount, but isn’t letting Palestinians in. Moreover, the Waqf said that Israel is detaining and arresting its officials, and is preventing worshippers from bringing into the mosque special foods used for breaking the daily fast during the holiday, to the detriment of thousands of believers.

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