The headlines of today’s Palestinian newspapers are announcing another provocation of Israel – the approval of a plan to build some 1,400 hotel rooms near Jabel Mukaber, with harsh political reactions. Surprisingly, the story wasn’t covered in Israeli or international media. Is this really another provocation of the government of Israel? It’s Hard to tell.
What’s the plan?
The plan that was approved by the regional committee last week, on June 22nd, was initiated already in 1994 by the Israeli Land Authority to build hotels near the promenade from which one can see the Old City. The location is in the “No Man’s Land” that was defined at the borders of the 1949 cease fire agreement between Israel and Jordan (also known as the Green Line). See map:
For most Israelis, this is just another part of Jerusalem, at the edge of the Jewish neighborhood of Talpiyot. Before 1948 there was an educational farm at the place, named after its initiator, Rachel Yanait Ben Zvi, and following 1967 it was held by the Israeli Defense Force. The plan for the hotels was discussed and approved already at year 2003, but due to an appeal by some green groups it was re-opened for discussion and changes. Their main objection was to ensure that the hotels will not block the view of the Old City and the sky line, as well as preservation of some historical structures. The plan was changed accordingly, and last week was brought to the regional committee for approval.
What’s the political meaning of this plan?
In normal days, this plan could have passed without too many protests because it is old, because it doesn’t change dramatically the situation on the ground in terms of the final status agreement and because it is not fully “beyond” the green line but “just” in the no man’s land. However, in a situation where the two sides have so little trust in one another, where Israel continues to develop and build in the settlements and in East Jerusalem while negotiating the future status of the very same places, the Palestinians just cannot count on the Israelis on this. Every brick beyond the green line is like another slam in the face of the moderate Palestinians who are trying to persuade their public that the way to liberate Palestine is by talking and making peace with the Israelis.
The Government of Israel must not allow such plans to be promoted. The situation is so sensitive that even plans that might seam to be okay in the Israeli eyes could cause a real crisis.