Yesterday the local committee for planning and construction in the Jerusalem municipality approved two plans for housing initiated by settlers in the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
This approval is only the first step in a long process, which can take at least two years or more: the plans need to be approved by the Regional Committee for Planning and Construction (of the Ministry of Interior), be subject to public objections, and be awarded a building permit. However this first approval is an indication of the general policy of the Jerusalem Municipality – to continue encouraging the Jewish settlement in the Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.
The plans are for two new buildings to be constructed instead of the existing houses, which will be demolished – the first of 3 stories and 3 apartments (plan no. 14151), and the second of 5 stories and 10 apartments (plan no. 14029). The families currently living on the grounds will most likely be evicted.
Before 1948, this disputed area of Sheikh Jarrah used to be under Jewish ownership. According to court rulings, the Jewish heirs have the right to now reclaim their former property – thus settler organizations can join them, buy the properties from them or directly from the General Custodian, and settle Jewish families in the heart of the Palestinian neighborhoods. This is an exceedingly problematic policy, as it recognizes the right of return for the Jews, while it is still denied from the Palestinians displaced in 1948.
This new plan is a clear provocation on the part of the Jerusalem municipality, which is encouraging extremist ideological factors in the city. The Jewish settlement increases the tensions in East Jerusalem and threatens to undermine any form of permanent solution in the city, and with it the peace process in its entirety. And if the act should include eviction of Palestinians from their homes, the provocation is even more harsh.