The Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee is set to review and advance this month construction for some 1,800 houses in East Jerusalem.
During meetings set for both this Tuesday and July 16, the Finance Ministry body is slated to approve a stage known as “depositing” for over 1,060 homes in the Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood and 684 units in the Gilo, Neve Ya’akov, and Ramot neighborhoods.
Following the deposit stage is a roughly two-month period during which the public can file objections to the approval. These are typically submitted by anti-settlement watchdogs such as Peace Now or Bimkom, or private Palestinian landowners; though usually with little success.
The proposal is slated to be one of the largest housing projects over the pre-1967 Green Line in recent years, a period when Israel faced significant international pressure led by former US president Barack Obama to halt construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Israel annexed East Jerusalem after the 1967 Six Day War and considers it part of its undivided capital. The government does not regard building in the city as settlement activity and has said it maintains the right to build anywhere within municipal boundaries. The state has worked to solidify its control over the area with a string of moves. This, despite the expectation of Palestinian Authority leaders that East Jerusalem be the capital of their future state.
Among the more controversial of the plans set to be reviewed by the committee on July 16 is the construction of four buildings in place of already existing homes in the middle of mostly Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, even though the Palestinian families are bitterly opposed to the move.
According to the 1950 Absentee Property Law, the Jewish heirs who owned the homes prior to Israel’s establishment in 1948 have the right to reclaim the property, so long as the Palestinian owners are compensated.
Right-wing groups over the past several decades have been working to resettle the Jewish families, but in 1988, the High Court of Justice ruled that the Palestinian families living on the property would be granted the status of “protected tenants,” so long as they continued to pay rent.
While the Jewish owners of the Sheikh Jarrah homes are still in legal battles with the current Palestinian tenants in order to seize the buildings, the law still allows them to now go ahead to raze and rebuild them as long as the “protected tenants” do not lose their right to live in the new structures; thereby allowing for the advancement of the plans by the Jerusalem planning committee.
JTA contributed to this report.