While Lapid in Washington, panel advances expropriation of East Jerusalem land

Local planning committee approves area for public structures and other construction in controversial Givat Hamatos

The Givat Hamatos neighborhood, Jerusalem (Joshua Davidovich/Times of Israel)
The Givat Hamatos neighborhood, Jerusalem (Joshua Davidovich/Times of Israel)

A Jerusalem planning committee green-lit the expropriation of 200 dunams (50 acres) of land in a controversial East Jerusalem neighborhood on Wednesday.

The properties in the neighborhood of Givat Hamatos are designated for public structures and other construction.

Construction of the new neighborhood has resulted in separating the Palestinian neighborhoods of Beit Safafa and Sur Baher from the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

According to Hagit Ofran from the left-wing Peace Now settlement watchdog, the land in question had already been allocated for use in Givat Hamatos. She described Wednesday’s approval as a “bureaucratic move.”

“The expropriation is necessary to advance the plan. But the plan as a whole is hurtling forward — it seems to be very much a done deal,” Ofran said.

The action came as Foreign Minister Yair Lapid was in Washington for high-level meetings. Biden administration officials have previously said they will urge both Israel and the Palestinians to refrain from unilateral steps, including settlement construction.

The plan for construction in Givat Hamatos was first advanced in 2012, earning widespread condemnation from the international community. It was postponed repeatedly for nearly eight years.

Some 1,257 housing units in Givat Hamatos were auctioned off in January by the state to private contractors. Israel sees the neighborhood as part of its capital, though it is over the Green Line.

A map showing the controversial Givat HaMatos neighborhood in southern Jerusalem, bordering Gilo and Beit Safafa (Credit: Peace Now)

The international community, including the United Nations and the European Union, considers East Jerusalem Jewish neighborhoods to be illegal under international law.

Israel disputes this claim, arguing that it has complete sovereignty over all of Jerusalem, including neighborhoods captured in the 1967 Six Day War.

The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount and Old City, as the capital of a future state.

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