|Following today's discussion on the plan for a massive new settlement in the Qalandia/Atarot area, the Jerusalem District Planning Committee did not approve the plan for deposit. In its statement, the District Planning Committee noted the plan's general viability and adequate use of remaining land reserves, however, chose to withhold approval for deposit, citing the need to first conduct an environmental impact survey after the Ministries of Environment and Health raised serious concerns over the matter.
Despite the stance of the aforementioned ministries, it should be noted that the chairman of the committee could have still technically called a vote on the plan and would have theoretically obtained enough votes in favor to approve it for deposit. External pressure, at least in part, likely contributed to the chairman's decision not to move forward with the vote.
However, although the plan was not advanced today, it does not mean the plan has been shelved indefinitely. Following completion of the environmental survey, the plan can easily be re-submitted for approval. Shortly after conclusion of the discussion, rightwing media sources were already touting that it should take some 45 days to prepare an environmental survey, which indicates that the rightwing will likely ratchet up pressure to further advance the plan over the next few months. Heightened vigilance is therefore vital.
It is worth noting that during the discussions, there were explicit statements calling to solely designate the neighborhood for the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) population, confirming earlier reports of such claims. As noted in previous alerts, beyond its ramifications on the viability of a two-state peace agreement, the Atarot plan also underscores the systematic discrimination implicit in Israeli planning and building policy in Jerusalem. Rather than utilizing the space to meet the severe housing needs of the Palestinian population, the Israeli authorities are instead advancing a massive new settlement for Israelis in East Jerusalem directly adjacent to Palestinian neighborhoods, which are in dire need of proper residential development and planning.
For further details regarding the plan and its implications, see Ir Amim's previous alert.