On February 24th, the Israeli Land Authority (ILA) published a tender for 1,077 housing units in Givat Hamatos. The original publication designated May 3rd as the date on which the tender will open for bidding. Despite that, the tender's documents were not published today – May 3rd - on the ILA's website and therefore bidding can not begin. However, no announcement was made that the opening of the bid had been postponed to a later date. It is therefore not clear whether the necessary steps for opening the tender for bidding will take place in the coming days or that an unpublished decision was made to postpone the tender.
The ILA had previously announced the postponement of many tenders that were due to open for bidding during the recent weeks in light of the severe economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis. So far, no such announcement has been made regarding Givat Hamatos’ tender.
Israeli right-wing groups are likely to demand that the tender must not be postponed regardless of any economic considerations. For example, Jerusalem right-wing council member Arye King, who works to promote settlements in East Jerusalem, has already posted on Facebook a reminder that the tender is due to open today.
The delay in the opening of Givat Hamatos’ tender follows the decision from last week to take off two plans with a total of 2,200 housing units for Har Homa E from the agenda of the Jerusalem District Committee meeting on April 27th. Har Homa E is in the area adjacent from the east to Givat Hamatos. Here, too, we do not know the reason for the delay nor its expected duration. On the other hand, on April 22nd , the Jerusalem Local Committee recommended depositing two new plans for settler compounds in Beit Hanina. The current relative caution taken with regard to Givat Hamatos and Har Homa may be connected to international attention given to these issues, as recently published by The Times of Israel.
Consequences of Construction of Givat Hamatos and Har Homa E
Construction of these two neighborhoods/settlements has been for many years a primary aim of Netanyahu's governments. If advanced, these new settlements will essentially connect the existing Gilo and Har Homa neighborhoods/settlements and create a contiguous Israeli built-up area along the southern perimeter of East Jerusalem. This will serve to detach Bethlehem and the south of the West Bank from East Jerusalem while isolating the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa. Constituting a long term strategy of Israeli governments, construction of large settlements is employed as a means to fracture the Palestinian space and unilaterally determine the boundaries of Jerusalem to prevent the future establishment of a Palestinian capital in the city.
For a map showing Givat Hamatos and Har Homa E please see here.
For several years, the advancement of these two settlements has been frozen, serving as a source of frustration among right-wing parties. Netanyahu's announcement on the last week of the recent elections' campaign of their advancement constituted a break in longstanding restraint.
The advancement of settlements at this most contentious location should be seen against the backdrop of the formal release of the US Peace Plan and its affirmation of Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem. This has emboldened Netanyahu and his government and essentially given it carte blanche to further carry out unilateral measures of settlement expansion in East Jerusalem. In doing so, Israel advances its long-term territorial and demographic objectives in taking over more land for further Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem, which serves to augment the Israeli population, while curbing the Palestinian demographic and residential development and thwarting any future prospect of a Palestinian capital in the city.