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High Court to government: Prove Old City cable car will boost tourism

In what could be the beginning of the end for a highly controversial plan to string a cable car between West Jerusalem and the Old City, the High Court of Justice orders the government and others to detail the “factual basis” on which they have claimed that the project will boost tourism, within the framework of planning law.

Sunday’s court response touches on what could turn out to be the Achilles heel of the entire initiative: the government’s successful move to have the project dealt with by the National Infrastructure Committee — a fast-track body within the Finance Ministry — rather than the usual planning hierarchy, which must allow for public objections at each stage of consideration. The NIC was set up to handle major infrastructure projects such as gas and railway lines that cross local authority boundaries.

In 2016, the government amended planning and building law to add “tourist infrastructure” projects to the definition of “national infrastructure” plans that can be dealt with by the National Infrastructure Committee, and specifically named tourism transportation systems.

The High Court now wants the government and all the other bodies involved in approving the project to detail the “factual basis” on which the cable car meets the wording of the planning law — whether it really will “serve as a tourist attraction,” and “make a real contribution to tourism in the area.”

The cable car, pushed by the Tourism Ministry, is due to start at the First Station Cultural Center in southern Jerusalem, pass over the historic Hinnom Valley to Mount Zion, then float along, parallel to the Old City walls, before reaching Dung Gate, the closest entrance to the Western Wall.

The plan’s many critics say that it  will turn Jerusalem’s most precious historic vistas into a theme park, and will help neither tourism nor transportation.

Sue Surkes

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