|On July 25, the Jerusalem District Planning Committee discussed plans for two new settlements/neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, known as Givat HaShaked and the Lower Aqueduct, which call for the construction of a total of 1938 housing units. The plans were previously removed from the District Planning Committee’s July 18 discussion agenda due to President Biden’s visit to the region and rescheduled for July 25.
The Lower Aqueduct
The Lower Aqueduct plan, which straddles the Green Line and designated for a strategic strip of land situated between Har Homa, Givat Hamatos and Ramat Rachel, was approved for deposit for objections. Such a step moves the plan one stage closer to full approval. The plans calls for the construction of 1465 housing units on some 186 dunams of land along with an access road to be built on private Palestinian land belonging to residents of the adjacent Palestinian neighborhood of Umm Tuba.
If constructed, this new settlement/neighborhood will serve to create more Israeli territorial contiguity between Givat Hamatos and Har Homa, while further fracturing the Palestinian space and depleting any remaining land reserves for Palestinian development in the area. Such a measure will expand the built-up wedge between the southern edge of East Jerusalem and the Bethlehem area, rendering a two-state framework with two capitals in Jerusalem nonviable. For more a more comprehensive analysis of the plan and its implications, see our previous alert.
A decision on Givat HaShaked, located on the edge of Sharafat -- the northwestern section of Beit Safafa-- is still pending to allow for further discussion on issues pertaining to noise, density and pollution. The subsequent discussion will likely be scheduled in the coming weeks. The current plan calls for the construction of 473 housing units, however according to the discussions, it appears there is intent to add another 200 housing units to the plan.
Israeli intent to build in this area has existed for years. The Rabin government attempted to expropriate some 200 dunams of land in this location in 1995 for the construction of a new Israeli settlement, but was ultimately forced to shelve the plan due, in part, to strong international outcry, including from the US. Expropriation of this land would have constituted the first large land seizure in East Jerusalem since the Oslo Accords, which was perceived at the time as a move derailing the nascent peace process. Nearly three decades later, plans to build on a portion of this area were resurrected and likely aided by the government's settlement of land title process (formal land registration) being conducted on the precise plot of land designated for Givat HaShaked. In lieu of Israel no longer able to carry out expropriation of large swaths of territory in East Jerusalem without sparking international uproar, it has resorted to engineering another mechanism to appropriate more land under the guise of a decision and budget earmarked for Palestinians--the settlement of land title procedures.
Beyond it’s geopolitical significance in constituting another planned settlement for the southern flank of East Jerusalem, Givat HaShaked is also an extreme example of Israel's neglect of Palestinian urban development and housing rights. Despite the plan being slated for land on the northwestern edge of Beit Safafa, it is not designated for the neighborhood’s development needs. Similarly, vacant land on the eastern edge of Beit Safafa was likewise rather allocated for the planned settlement of Givat Hamatos. If constructed, Givat HaShaked will further hedge in and encircle Beit Safafa with an Israeli built-up continuum, completely isolating the neighborhood from the rest of the Palestinian environs in the area.
Rather than utilizing the remaining open spaces in East Jerusalem to rectify the severe housing crisis among the Palestinian population, the Israeli authorities continue to advance new Israeli settlements directly adjacent (or within) Palestinian neighborhoods, which are in dire need of proper residential development. Such inequitable urban planning policy has long served as a lever of Palestinian displacement from Jerusalem in service to Israel's goal of solidifying a Jewish demographic majority and further entrenching Israeli territorial control. This in turn undermines any viability for a just and agreed political resolution.
See our previous alert for full details and analysis of these plans, including an examination of the overlap between the government’s settlement of land title procedures (formal land registration) and Israeli settlement advancements in East Jerusalem.