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Controversial housing plan for E. Jerusalem Atarot site delayed by committee

The terminal at what was once Jerusalem Airport at Atarot, November 2021. (David Horovitz / Times of Israel)
The terminal at what was once Jerusalem Airport at Atarot, November 2021. (David Horovitz / Times of Israel)

The Finance Ministry’s Jerusalem District Planning Committee effectively delays a controversial plan to build 9,000 housing units on the grounds of the disused Atarot airport in East Jerusalem, saying the environmental impact of the site’s placement on potential residents must first be investigated.

The placement of the new neighborhood had sparked concern from the international community, including the United States. The planned neighborhood, intended for ultra-Orthodox Jewish residents, would be built snugly against the West Bank security barrier.

On the other side of the concrete wall lies the lawless East Jerusalem neighborhood of Kafr Aqab and the Qalandiya refugee camp, which is in the West Bank. According to the plan, construction less than 50 meters from the wall will be banned, officials said.

During the hearing, Israeli officials observed that the new neighborhood was close to the Atarot Industrial Zone, whose factories could reduce the quality of life for residents.

Critics of the plan said such a housing project would serve as an obstacle for a two-state solution, as it would seriously impede a contiguous Palestinian swath of neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.

After American pressure last week, Israel indicated it would walk back the plan, but the US was dismayed to see that it nevertheless remained on the docket for today’s meeting of the District Planning Committee.

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