|On February 14, the Jerusalem District Planning Committee is scheduled to discuss the "Givat HaShaked" settlement plan for deposit for objections/public review. Two weeks later, on February 28, an outline plan for the eastward expansion of Pisgat Ze'ev will likewise be discussed by the District Planning Committee for deposit for objections. The two plans were recommended for deposit by the Jerusalem Local Planning Committee over the course of the past four months and follow close on the heels of the District Planning Committee's approval for deposit of the "Lower Aqueduct Plan" on January 17.
Beyond their geopolitical implications, these plans are yet another example of the acute housing discrimination facing East Jerusalem Palestinians. Rather than utilizing the limited land reserves in East Jerusalem to rectify the longstanding planning neglect of Palestinian neighborhoods, the Israeli authorities consistently promote more plans for the construction of thousands of housing units for Israelis, while systematically refraining from advancing plans for Palestinians. Due to the lack of zoning plans, building permits are impossible to procure, leading to high rates of demolitions across East Jerusalem. Just over one month since the start of 2022, there have already been 21 home demolitions.
As reported previously, the "Givat HaShaked" plan (TPS 969162) calls for 473 housing units on 38.7 dunams of land located in Sharafat, the northwestern part of the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa (see map below). Although the plan is designated for land adjacent to the built-up area of the Sharafat-Beit Safafa neighborhood and includes land owned by community residents, the Jerusalem Municipality's planning department describes it as detached from existing neighborhoods. Despite its location, the plan is not depicted for the development of Sharafat, but rather for the establishment of a new Israeli settlement replete with allocated spaces for synagogues and mikvehs.
A large portion of the land marked in the plan is managed by the General Custodian under the auspices of the Ministry of Justice, indicating that properties in this area were allegedly owned by Jews prior to 1948. As in the eviction cases in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan, the 1970 Legal and Administrative Matters law, which affords Israeli Jews reclamation rights of pre-1948 assets in East Jerusalem, is essentially being applied here to seize this land for the expansion of Jewish settlement. In a highly unusual and unprecedented move, the General Custodian, who typically administers properties whose claimants are unknown until they or their heirs are located, has gone beyond simple property management to rather initiating an outline plan for a new settlement - "Givat HaShaked."
As Ir Amim recently revealed, the plan is designated for the precise plots of land in Sharafat undergoing formal settlement of land title procedures which are being carried out across East Jerusalem in a first since 1967. It should be underscored that the General Custodian is one of the state institutions formally and integrally involved in the settlement of title process.
These procedures were initiated as part of the 2018 Government Decision No. 3790, a five-year plan, which aims to ostensibly reduce socio-economic disparities and promote economic development in East Jerusalem. Although characterized as a measure to theoretically aid Palestinian residents, there has been acute alarm that the settlement of title procedures would serve as a tool to further confiscate Palestinian properties, leading to the expansion of Israeli settlement and more Palestinian dispossession in the city. Indeed, measures carried out over the past year in the framework of these procedures and in tandem with them confirm such suspicions.
Ir Amim recently uncovered that settlement of land title procedures are underway on plots of land in Umm Tuba situated directly along the boundaries of the "Lower Aqueduct" plan. While the Israeli intent with this land is not yet known to Ir Amim, speculations can easily be drawn based on other examples across East Jerusalem where settlement plans are being advanced in lockstep with such procedures, including in Sharafat-Beit Safafa ("Givat HaShaked"), Atarot, Givat Hamatos and Um Haroun, Sheikh Jarrah. According to Ir Amim's data, contrary to regulations, Umm Tuba residents have not been notified that these procedures are being carried out on their land. At least a portion of the area is apparently managed by the General Custodian.
In parallel to the aforementioned developments, an outline plan (TPS 759894) has been advanced for 470 housing units in Pisgat Ze'ev. Having been recommended for deposit on October 13 by the Local Planning Committee, it will be discussed by the District Planning Committee for deposit on February 28. Although promoted as an urban renewal project for the existing built-up area, in practice, the plan will expand the settlement eastward towards the Separation Barrier and the area of Hizma, depleting the few remaining open land reserves in the area.
These various developments are neither isolated nor independent of one another, but rather part and parcel of a concerted and coordinated attempt to predetermine the endgame of the conflict by undermining conditions necessary for a negotiated political resolution.