A plan to nearly triple the size of a Jewish neighborhood in the heart of Arab East Jerusalem will reportedly be pushed ahead Sunday by a local planning committee.
The Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee will debate approving 176 new housing units for Nof Zion, which sits within the Arab neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber, Channel 1 reported on Wednesday.
The agenda item was not listed in publicly available filings, though authorities may be seeking to avoid attracting attention to the issue.
Currently, Nof Zion is made up of seven apartment buildings containing a total of 91 residential units. The first residents moved in eight years ago. There are also plans to build a synagogue within the partially gated community.
While Israel considers all building in any part of Jerusalem legitimate, building projects marketed for Jews in the heart of Arab neighborhoods have stirred up tensions and are seen by many Israelis as more controversial than Jewish-majority neighborhoods over the Green Line that are set apart, such as Gilo.
Responding to the Channel 1 report, the Peace Now settlement watchdog said that “the government has opened all the floodgates when it comes to settlement developments within Palestinian neighborhoods,” referring to Israel’s policy of allowing unfettered Jewish construction in East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed in a move not recognized by most of the international community.
While Nof Zion is adjacent to the Green Line, it is considered inside the Arab neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber, south of Jerusalem’s Old City.
Jabel Mukaber has a population of some 14,000, making it one of the larger Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem.
In the early 1990s, Jewish Israelis purchased land in Jabel Mukaber for the construction of Nof Zion and the Planning and Building Committee approved a building plan for the area.
In 2009, a group of American Jews held a cornerstone laying for the second phase of the neighborhood, but it failed to yield buyers and the contractor went bankrupt, selling the project to other developers.
“The previous attempt to build apartments there, as if it were a regular real estate project, failed because there is no market of people who innocently want to live in the heart of a Palestinian neighborhood. Only ideologues,” Peace Now’s Hagit Ofran told Channel 1.
US President Donald Trump hasn’t shown the same willingness to raise hackles over Israeli building in East Jerusalem as his predecessors.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that while he is still working to reach an understanding with the Trump administration on settlement building in the West Bank, the topic of placing restrictions on building in East Jerusalem is off the table.