Atarot Airport’s future up for debate

Will East Jerusalem’s airport turn into industrial complex?

Atarot Airport in East Jerusalem, reportedly promised to the Palestinian Authority as the site of its future international airport, may instead become an industrial complex belonging to the Jerusalem Municipality, according to a report in Hebrew-language daily Maariv.

The Jerusalem Municipality approved the Israel Airport Authority’s petition to register the plot upon which the airport is built, bordering East Jerusalem, as official state land on Wednesday. The land had never been designated as either state or municipal property, according to the Israel Land Administration.

The designation of the airport’s land within municipal boundaries reportedly flies in the face of the promise that the airport would be transferred to the Palestinian Authority upon the signing of a peace agreement. During the course of secret negotiations in 2008, then-foreign minister Tzipi Livni made that pledge to her Palestinian counterparts, according to the Hebrew-language Jerusalem newspaper Kol Hazman, quoting senior Foreign Ministry officials on the subject.

Atarot Airport has not been used since the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000, though a Tel Aviv aviation firm which maintains and repairs helicopters currently operates from the site.

The Atarot Industrial Area, located next the airport, is currently the largest industrial park in Jerusalem, covering over 150 acres and home to some 180 factories. The proposed expansion, championed by the Jerusalem Development Authority in cooperation with the Jerusalem Municipality, would turn the land on which the airport is built into a new municipal center for light industry.

Opposition to the plan came from Hagit Ofran of Peace Now’s Settlement Watch program, who told Maariv: “This new plan for the industrial area is another plan which is intended to prevent a settlement on Jerusalem, and is likely to eliminate the chance of two states for two people.”


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