Today, Mayor Barkat presented his plan for the neighborhood of Al-Bustan in Silwan, as if he was a genius mayor of some pastoral town on quiet seashore. The trouble is, that you can’t treat East Jerusalem as if it was a real estate matter. This plan would only cause more tension and deepen the mistrust and frustration of the Palestinians in East Jerusalem. The idea is to demolish some illegal Palestinian homes and to establish a national park instead. The mayor suggest to build for the Palestinians another compound near by.
So, why am I opposing it?
This is a political plan, meant to establish a touristic-settlement in the Palestinian neighborhood.
Furthermore, the chances of building alternative housing for the Palestinians in al-Bustan based on the proposed plan are slim to nonexistent, not to speak of the fact that the residents have not agreed to the plan.
a. Maps prepared by the Antiquities Authority show no archaeological findings in the al-Bustan area, nor is there any archaeological site with the potential of presentation to the public. “Salomon’s Garden” which is planned at Al-Bustan could as well be built in any other place in the city and the king’s life could be reconstructed there. There is no evidence or special findings in this site, except for its proximity to ancient Jerusalem.
b. The architect chosen by the municipality is the settlers’ architect
The architect who drew the plans for the municipality is Arieh Rahamimov, employed by Elad on at least two other plans in Silwan — the plan for the “Aderet compound” (plan no. 12953) for housing and a synagogue in the middle of the Wadi Hilweh neighborhood of Silwan, and the plan for the “Kedem compound” (plan no. 13542) for a tourism center on the Givati parking lot in Wadi Hilweh.
c. The chances of realizing the alternative construction for the Palestinians are slim to nonexistent
The Palestinians in al-Bustan have not expressed their agreement to the plan yet, and apparently not for nothing. Experience shows that in similar cases when a plan was proposed to the settlers simultaneously with a plan proposed to the Palestinians, the plan for the settlers was realized but the plan for the Palestinians never was. Two prominent examples are the plan on the basis of which the Beit Orot compound was established in the Palestinian neighborhood of A-Sawaneh (plan no. 3092), which provided that simultaneous to building the settlement a school would be built for the Palestinian children in the neighborhood. Ultimately, the settlement was built but the school has not been built to this day. The plan to build the neighborhood of Ma’aleh Zeitim in Ras al-Amud was bundled with a plan to build and license 500 housing units for Palestinians, that was approved simultaneously, but since then the neighborhood for the settlers was built but only a very few houses were built for Palestinians.
There are many obstacles to the realization of the plans for Palestinians in East Jerusalem, mainly the fact that most of the land in East Jerusalem is not registered, and according to the rules recently adopted by the Interior Ministry it is impossible to submit an application for a building permit without the long and expensive process of land registration (for details on the difficulties in realizing plans for Palestinians see here)
It seams to me, that Mayor Barkat decided to quit being the Mayor of Jerusalem and to start to be the mayor of the settlers only. He is acting irresponsibly in one of the most sensitive places in Jerusalem. If he really wanted to resolve the building issues in East Jerusalem he could have proposed plans for any other Palestinian neighborhood, where more than 250,000 Palestinians live, and not exactly where the settlers want to make their park.