The Airport and the Two States Solution

The Jerusalem Municipality plans to build an industrial area at the future airport of the Palestinians

The journalist Yossi Eli exposed in the Ma’ariv newspaper that on Wednesday, 22/2/12, the Local Planning Committee of the Jerusalem Municipality approved the registration of the lands of the “Atarot Airport” (AKA the “Qalandya Airport”) as Urban Lands, in order to transfer them from the National Ports Authority to the responsibility of the Jerusalem Municipality. The Minister of Transportation must still approve the transfer of the land, but as soon as his approval is granted the official planning process of an industrial area for Jerusalem may begin.

The Qalandya/Atarot Airport was built during the British Mandate era, on lands between Ramallah and Jerusalem. In 1967, the Israeli Government decided to include the airport in the new borders that were set up for Jerusalem. In order to include the airport,Israel annexed a great amount of land, including the Palestinian neighborhoods of Beit Hanina, Shuafat, Kfar Aqeb and parts of the Qalandya refugee camp. The airport was considered to be of strategic importance for Jerusalem, for both economic and security reasons. Eventually, after years that the airport was used for internal flights, in 1998 the commercial flights stopped for economic reasons, and in 2001, the flights of small airplanes stopped for security reasons due to the second Intifada. Since then the Airport is empty.

The Abandoned Airport

The airport was considered to be the future international airport for Palestine. According to reports, it was even promised officially by the Israeli Foreign Minister Zipi Livni during negotiations with the Palestinians.

The Jerusalem Municipality has been targeting the lands of the airport for many years. Recently the Jerusalem Development Authority (the JDA), which is a governmental company, started to prepare a plan for an industrial area at the airport lands. In order to implement the plan, the National Ports Authority must allow the Municipality to use the lands. After that, the plan must be approved by the highest planning authority which is the National Committee for Planning at the Israeli Ministry of Interior. The approval by the Local Committee this week was the first official step towards the implementation of the plan.

Not only that this plan might severely harm the future Palestinian State, destroying the only airport in the West Bank, but it will also cut between East Jerusalem and Ramallah at the heart of many Palestinian neighborhoods: Shu’afat and Beit Hanina in the South, Bir Nabala, Al Judeira, Al Jib, Rafat and Qalandia in the West, Ar-Ram, Dahiyat al Bareed and Jaba’ from the East, and Qalandia Refugee Camp, Kafr ‘Aqab and Ramallah from the North. It seems that what the Givat Hamatos plan is meant to do in the South of Jerusalem (to cut between Bethlehem and East Jerusalem), this plan will, god forbid, do at the North of it. The goal of this plan is clear: to prevent the possibility of a Palestinian State in the West Bank, and thus to kill the two states solution.

I can understand that Netanyahu and his Government are afraid of a Palestinian State, or do not believe that an agreement with the Palestinian is possible. What I cannot understand is why do they insist to destroy the possibility for a future Palestinian state side by side with Israel? Why destroy with our own hands the potential of any future peace for Israel?

The abandoned airport

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