The new plan for 1,600 housing units in Ramat Shlomo

March 9, 2010

The regional committee for planning and construction approved the depositing of a new plan for some 1,600 housing units in East Jerusalem, at the Jewish neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo.
Initiated by the Israel Land Authority, the plan (no. 11085) allowed origionally the construction of 1,400 housing units, and the committee confirmed adding another 200 small housing units for obtainable housing for the poor – a total of 1,600.
The plan is to expand the build-up area to the south and west.

This is not the final approval of the plan, and it still needs to be deposited for public objections, and then after hearings and modifications to be approved and validated. Only after a long process, which should take at least 2 years, could the bulldozers start the construction.

Prime Minister Netanyahu should be held responsible to the diplomatic crisis that might torpedo the talks. Even if it was true that the approval of the plan accidentally coincided with Vice President Biden’s visit, still, Netanyahu did not take the required actions in order to make sure that the plan is not promoted, especially when it is a plan which is initiated by a governmental organ, the ILA, and not by private initiators. Had Netanyahu truly wanted to promote the talks, he would have prevented any provocation in Jerusalem.
see here.

Making sense of the Latest Settlement Announcements

October 31, 2013

In tandem with this week’s release of Palestinian prisoners (on October 29, 2013), there were many reports and announcements regarding approvals, or anticipated approvals, of new settlement construction. The most official announcement was delivered in the Knesset yesterday (October 30) by Vice Minister Ofir Akunis, who is the liaison-minister to the Knesset:

“The Prime Minister has instructed to issue for construction over 1,500 units in Jerusalem and the Judea and Samaria settlements in Karnei Shomron, Ariel, Givat Zeev, Maale Adumim, Elkana, Beitar Illit and Geva Binyamin-Adam.  I want to note that the Prime Minister and the Interior Minister Gidon Saar agreed to promote construction plans in Jerusalem, as I said, c. 1,500 units in Ramat Shlomo, the establishment of a tourists and archeology center in the City of David and the establishment of a National Park in the Mt. Scopus Slopes. In parallel, the Prime Minister has instructed to promote the planning of over 2,000 housing units in the following places: Shilo, Givat Zeev, Karnei Shomron, Almog, Alei-Zahav, Yakir, Kfar Adumim, Mechola, Talmon, Bracha, Ofra and Beit El. The construction in Judea and Samaria will continue and grow. Thank you.”

From this statement (reported here and here, for example), it can be understood that the Government of Israel intends to:

  • market (i.e., issue tenders for) over 1,500 units in Jerusalem and the West Bank
  • promote plans for another 2,000 units in West Bank settlements
  • promote another 1,500 units in the East Jerusalem settlement of Ramat Shlomo
  • promote two controversial plans related to the public domain in East Jerusalem, specifically, in Silwan and the Mt.Scopus slopes.

In total, the announcement opens the door for the approval/promotion of more than 5,000 units, in addition to the major public domain projects in East Jerusalem.

Notably, the details of exactly what will be approved/promoted have been left ambiguous.  Likewise, the timing for implementation of these announcements is murky.  Plans and tenders could be issued and promoted over the coming days or even weeks.  Going forward, it can be expected that when any settlement-related publications occur, the Government will claim they are part of the 5,000 units declared in the context of this prisoners’ release.

Peace Now’s Best Guess as to What to Expect

Based on our information and our understanding of the announcement above, our best estimate regarding upcoming settlement plans and tenders is as follows:

1. Expected Tenders (over 1,500 units in Jerusalem and the Judea and Samaria settlements”)

A tender is an invitation for bids from contractors to buy the rights to build and sell a construction project. This involves a public process (advertising the tender, assessing bids, and awarding the project, or in some cases, not awarding it, if there are no acceptable bids).  In general, construction may begin several months after the issuing of the tender.

The exact makeup of the 1,500 tenders declared by Vice-Minister Akunis is unknown at this point (indeed, it is possible that the Netanyahu government has announced the number without yet decided where all of the tenders will be – something that has happened in the past).  Bearing this in mind, and based on information we have about the potential construction in the settlements, we estimate the following settlements/projects are the likely targets for tenders:

East Jerusalem
A few hundred residual units, probably in Gilo and/or Ramot.

The West Bank
Givat Zeev – around 100 units
Adam (Geva Binyamin) – around 100 units [East of the barrier]
Elkana – probably 290 units
Beitar Illit – a few hundred units
Ariel – up to hundreds of units [East of the built route of the barrier]
Karnei Shomron – up to hundreds of units [East of the built route of the barrier]
Maale Adumim – dozens of units.

2. Promotion of Plans in Jerusalem (“…agreed to promote construction plans in Jerusalem”)

The latter two plans for the public domain in East Jerusalem generally receive less attention, since they do not relate to new settler housing units.  However, their impact should not be underestimated.  The Givati Parking Lot plan involves a plan to build a huge visitor center at the entrance to Silwan (outside of the Old City, near the Dung Gate).  It would have potentially devastating consequences for the two-state solution and for the currant stability of Jerusalem. The Mt. Scopus Park plan, for its part, seeks to “to link between the inner encirclement of the Old City and its visual basin …and the outer encirclement in Greater Jerusalem, as disclosed by the E-1 plan between Ma’ale Adumim and East Jerusalem. The new national park will be a bridge, creating forging a geographical link between the Old City basin and E-1.” (Quote from Jerusalem expert Danny Seidemann)

3. Promotion of Plans in West Bank Settlements (“instructed to promote the planning of over 2,000 housing units”)

On 10/30, there was the preliminary publication (on the internet, not yet in the newspapers, as required by law) of plans for 611 units, as follows:

  • Shilo – 95 units – preliminary publication for validation [East of the barrier]
  • Givat Zeev – 29 units – preliminary publication for validation
  • Almog – 31 units – preliminary publication of depositing [East of the barrier]
  • Yakir – 160 units – preliminary publication of depositing [East of the built route of the barrier]
  • Beit El – 296 units – preliminary publication of depositing [East of the barrier]

(all of these settlements were mentioned in the Knesset announcement)

In addition, the potential plans that we believe might be promoted (there could be other plans of which we are unaware), based on the settlements listed in the Akunis announcement, are as follows:

  • Kernei Shomron – 22 units – plan to be published for validation [East of the barrier]
  • Alei Zahav – 450 units – plan to be published for depositing [East of the built route of the barrier]
  • Kfar Adumim – there are several plans in the pipeline; the largest plan is for 255 units waiting for depositing [East of the built route of the barrier]
  • Talmon – there are two plans waiting for depositing, one for 314 units and another for 255 units.  [East of the barrier]
  • Bracha – 90 units – plan to be published for depositing [East of the barrier]
  • Ofra – 255 units – plan to be published for depositing [East of the barrier]
  • Mechola – unknown [East of the barrier].

What This All Means

The bottom line is that Netanyahu continues to play a double game.  With his words, he continually says he wants peace and he is serious about negotiations with the Palestinians.  With his actions, he continually undermines the prospects of peace and the two-state solution, and undercuts the chance for the success of negotiations, by creating new facts on the ground in settlements.

A Fast Track to Approve More Plans in East Jerusalem

December 10, 2012

Today, 10/12/12, the Jerusalem Regional Committee for Planning and Construction will nominate a representative for a special committee which is called: “a Committee for Completion of Plans”. The committee is comprised of three members: a representative of the Minister of Interior, a representative of the Regional Committee for Planning and a representative of the Local Committee for Planning.  This committee is only established in rare occasions, and it is meant to promote plans that are “stuck” in the pipeline for too long. Specifically the committee that is being nominated today should discuss several of the most politically disputed plans in East Jerusalem, mainly: the Ramat Shlomo plan (for 1,600 units), Givat Hamatos B, C and D, and Hashalom Forest.

A member of the Jerusalem Regional Committee for Planing told me that it is the first time in at least 8 years that a Committee for Completion of Plans is established in the Jerusalem district. It seems to me that there are forces within the Government that are trying to push forward as many plans as possible in East Jerusalem before the election in Israel in order to set as many facts on the ground before any political change takes place, and are using this rare committee in order to do so.

The plans that will move to the authority of the Committee for Completion of Plans (what i call “the fast track committee”) are:

Plan no. 11085 – for 1,600 units in Ramat Shlomo (the famous plan from the Beiden visit)
Plans no. 5834B, 5834C and 5834Dfor Givat Hamatos
Plan no. 10188 – for Hashalom forest (where the settlers have a visitors center and makes many controversial touristic activities)
Plan No. 11382 – for 57 units in Gilo
and another two small plans in West Jerusalem.

Last Week, the Ha’aretz newspaper published that the “fast track” committee will convene next week to hear the objections to the plan in Ramat Shlomo and to the Givat Hamatos plan. I don’t know whether there is already a date for the hearings of the other plans. However, it seems that there is a strategic effort by the Netanyahu government to set as many facts on ground as possible (such as the promotion of the E1 plan and the declaration on 3000 tenders) before any change in the political atmosphere takes place. Those facts on the ground might be lethal for the two state solution.

The Agenda for the Planning Committee on 10.12.12 – (in Hebrew)

Another announcement on Construction in East Jerusalem

August 11, 2011

I am starting to fear that my blog might become boring…   Eli Yishai, our currant Minister of Interior continues to issue more and more announcements about construction in East Jerusalem, each and every small step in the planning process is announced by Yishai as “news” and as another achievement of his policy. And I find myself, yet again, trying to explain what today’s announcement is all about.

In today’s announcement Yishai prides himself for promoting construction in East Jerusalem as part of a solution to the current housing crisis in Israel. It is of course so cynical. The policy of Yishai is to build in settlements and to make a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem less possible (and to create political crisis by announcing it every day again and again), it has nothing to do with the housing crisis. Most Israelis do not want to live beyond the Green Line, and the construction in settlements is not an option for them.

So, in today’s announcement there are three plans all of which are in lands occupied by Israel in 1967 and annexed to the Jerusalem Municipality, i.e. in East Jerusalem:

1. Pisgat Zeev – plan no. 11647 – for 625 housing units in Pisgat Zeev, was announced and discussed many times in the past. when it was approved to be deposited, when it was deposited, when the objections to the plan were discussed and now again, when the plan is finally ready for the final approval and validation by the Minister’s signature.

2. Ramat Shlomo (Plan No. 11085, also known as the Biden plan, due to its original publication during Biden’s visit) – The plan refers to 1600 units. According to the press release, the Minister claims to have issued final authorization. However the plan was never deposited for public review, and the regional committee is still working on the preparations for the depositing (last hearing was held two weeks ago on July 24th, 2011).

Either the press release is wrong and the Interior Ministry was referring to the depositing stage that might take place soon and announced as if it was finally approved, or if the statement is true that Yishai did sign the validation of the plan (without the depositing stage), then we will appeal to the courts who will cancel the authorization as the plans cannot legally go ahead without passing the depositing stage.

3. Givat Hamatos –  Plan no. 5438A for some 2,000 units – the plan got the final appoval of the reigional committee on 9/9/2008 (under Olmert’s term as Prime Minister). The approval for the plan was granted only under the condition that the parcelation procedures must be completed before the Interior Minister can sign the plan and make it valid. As opposed to other plans in East Jerusalem, this plan is not on land that was confiscated by the state, but on privately owned lands. In order to implement construction, a long process of parcelation of the land between the various owners needs to take place. This procedure is very complicated and takes years, similar to detailed planning procedure. We know that in recent weeks a preliminary parcelation plan was submitted to a to local committee in Jerusalem. The Minister must have used this as the chance to authorize the plan and today’s announcement might indicate the Minister will or have already signed the plan. However until construction is actually seen on the ground the parcelation procedure still faces a long process of approvals.

The New Tenders in East Jerusalem – What it’s all about?

October 15, 2010

The new tenders in East Jerusalem – the details

Yesterday (14/10/10) the Israeli Ministry of Housing announced its plan for the next year. Among the 4,000 housing units that are planned to be marketed in the coming year, there are 238 housing units in East Jerusalem – 80 in Pisgat Ze’ev and 158 in Ramot. The actual tenders themselves haven’t yet been published and no potential buyers can offer their proposals yet; this was only an announcement by the ministry on the intentions, which can still be stopped.

While the tenders have not yet been published, we do have a sense of what they might be. The 158 units in Ramot are probably the implementation of Town Plan No. 5330, in the Ultra Orthodox part of Ramot (the Ramot Polin neighborhood).
[An update from November 5th: The tenders were eventually issued and published on November 4th, 2010].

The 80 units in Pisgat Zeev, are probably some “left overs” from previous tenders which failed. On June 2008 the Ministry of Housing published tenders for 763 units in Pisgat Zeev. These tenders were only partially successful. Out of the 763 only 468 units were sold. In December 2009, Netanyahu allowed for the re-publication of the tenders for those units that were not sold in the original tenders. The 80 units now being announced are as far as we understand part of those that were not sold.

What It Means

It seems likely that the decision to announce these tenders right now, when the world’s attention is focused on Netanyahu’s refusal to renew the settlement moratorium in the West Bank (which did not include East Jerusalem), is more than anything a political statement. At best, it is showing that Israel still doesn’t understand the destructive effect of construction in settlements on the ability to continue negotiations. At worst, it is showing that the government of Israel is deliberately trying to damage the talks.

In addition, it could also be a message from Netanyahu to the Israeli right – part of an effort to ease the pressure on him regarding the continuation of the freeze.

In recent weeks, we have started to hear from right-wing players frustration about the fact that while the focus of the world has been on the West Bank settlement moratorium, the government of Israel has de-facto frozen the construction in East Jerusalem. Although this is not accurate, it does have some basis in fact. Since the Biden visit and the crisis around the promotion of a plan for 1,600 units in Ramat Shlomo in East Jerusalem in March 2010, there have been no new tenders (except from one tender just few days following the Biden visit), nor plan approvals, of new construction in East Jerusalem. However, while the moratorium was announced in November 2009, there were a few tenders in East Jerusalem thereafter: on 31/12/09 tenders for 150 housing units in Pisgat Zeev; on 7/1/10 another 48 units in Pisgat Zeev; and in 10/3/10 another 377 units in Neve Yaacov. So these 238 units announced today may be a message of the government to show that in Jerusalem things are returning to “business are as usual”.

The trick of the government

As I was reading the reports on the new tenders announced by the Ministry of Housing, I had an slight feeling of deja vu. Last December, the housing ministry made similar announcement regarding the plan for marketing in the upcoming year. This plan included 198 units in Pisgat Zeev and 377 units in Neve Yaacov in East Jerusalem. When the press and the world criticized Israel for that, some argued that it was only an announcement, not the actual publication of tenders.

A few months later, in March, the tender of Neve Yaacov was officially issued and published. As we were quoted in the Israeli media criticizing those tenders, I got an angry phone call from the spokesman of the Ministry of Housing. “Why did you tell the media that we published a new tender in Neve Yaacov?”, he asked me. I tried to explain that I have the publication in my hand, but he said: “this is not new, we published it already last December”.

Reading the reports in the media today, I think that it was not by accident. The publication today was somewhat vague. Some of the journalists say that the tenders were announced as part of a yearly plan, and some say they were actually issued.

Politically, the devastating impact of this publication on the peace efforts are quite similar whether it would have been actually issued or if it was only announced. However, I believe that the ambiguity of the announcement is a way of the government of Israel to try to fool the world. Today they can claim: “It’s not issued yet, it’s only an announcement”, and when it will be officially issued and published (god forbid), they will say: “this is not new, don’t make a fuss”.

Either way – it is important to make clear that any construction conducted or even only planned in the settlements is devastating for the peace efforts, and therefore it is devastating for Israel and thus should be stopped.


April 2, 2010

For all of you visual thinkers out there, here are the maps from my posts, collected in one place (click on links to go back to my original posts).  Most recent are first:

In this downloadable presentation you may find many maps and information on the settlements in East Jerusalem:


Ramat Shlomo plans

Plans for new construction in East Jerusalem — Givat HaMatos

Map of Sheikh Jarrah


Plans for Silwan

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.

600 new Pisgat Ze’ev housing units

Trying to Make Sense of the East Jerusalem Numbers…What We Think We Know About New Plans for Construction and Demolition….

March 8, 2010

Last week’s publication about another 600 housing units being approved in Pisgat Zeev in East Jerusalem brought up again the confusion regarding the issue of planning and construction in Jerusalem. Almost every other week do we hear about another approval of plans, and not always can we understand the real political (and practical) meaning of those approvals. So, I thought it could be useful to try to make some sense and order in that matter.   

First and most important, construction planning in Jerusalem is a confusing topic, mainly because there is a mix of many different stages of approval/promotion of plans, publication of tenders (i.e. the beginning of an implementation of plans) and political announcements which in some cases may be only for show or to apply political pressure. (For example, a declaration by the Minister of Housing in December 2009, on the intention to publish tenders in Pisgat Zeev, Har Homa and Neve Ya’acov, turned out to be just an announcement, and almost no tenders have in fact been published.)

1. Tenders
A Tender is one of the last procedures before a construction can get started. The tender, which comes only after the approval and validation of a plan, is actually the governmental publication of a call for proposals to buy the rights to build the project. After the bidding process is completed and the contractor is elected, then he would apply for a construction permit from the municipality and after getting the permit, he can start the works. A tender will only take place in large scale governmentally initiated projects. In cases of private initiators – they can go straight from the validation of the plan to apply for a construction permit and start the works.

Recent tenders in East Jerusalem include:

  • Ramot – published November 22, 2009 – 20 housing units
  • Pisgat Ze’ev – published December 31, 2009 – 150 housing units – previously tendered in June 2008, but no proposal won the bid.

Before these, the last tender in Jerusalem was in August 2008 for 130 housing units for seniors in Har Homa.

Plans are harder to track as there are so many stages of promotion of plans, and so many plans all at the same time.

The main planning stages that can cause public attention are:
1)     Approval at the local municipality committee – after this the plan is sent to the regional committee
2)     Approval for “depositing” – the decision of the regional committee to allow the publication of the plan for public objections. Takes few months until the plan is ready to be published – usually the committee will ask to make some changes before the publication.
3)     Depositing – Publication in the newspapers that the plan is subject to public objections for 60 days.
4)     Discussion of the Objections – the regional committee hears the objections and recommends whether to make changes in the plan or to reject it or not.
5)     Approval for validation – after all the changes are made, the regional committee again discusses the plan to allow its validation.
6)     Publication of validation – a publication of an ad in the newspapers that the plan is valid – only after these publications can the plan be implemented.

In the media discourse almost all of the above stages can be described as: “the plan was approved” – sometimes it’s approved to be deposited, sometimes approved to be validated or approved at the local committee.  Although the practical meaning of each stage is different, the political significance of each stage is the same: the plan is promoted, and that demonstrates an intention to move forward.

Recent Jerusalem Construction Plans

Ramat Shlomo
Plan no. 11085 for some 1,600 housing units was approved for depositing on 9/3/10. See details here.

Givat Hamatos
Check out this map for the new construction plan for the area near Gilo, for a total of some 4,000 Housing units:

The plan, initiated by the Israel Land Authority (ILA), was divided into 4 smaller plans:

  • Plan 5834A – for 2,337 housing units was approved for validation on 9/9/08, this will probably take some time for it to be implemented because of ownership issues.
  • Plan 5834B – for 549 housing units – this plan was deposited (published in ads) on 25/1/10.
  • Plan 5934C – for 813 housing units – the objections for this plan were discussed at the regional committee last Thursday, 25/2/10. We are awaiting the decision.
  • Plan 5934D – for 1,100 hotel rooms – wasn’t yet approved for depositing.

Pisgat Ze’ev North
The plan was approved for depositing on 25/1/10. The plan had previously been approved for depositing by the regional committee on 8/7/08 (for 900 housing units), but since then the initiator, the ILA, decided to change it so that there will be fewer problems of ownership and reduce it to 600 housing units.
The new version was brought to the regional committee and approved to be deposited on 25/1/10.
See details and map here.

Neve Ya’acov
Plan no. 6513A for 393 housing units was published for validation on 30/11/09, few days after the moratorium. It was approved for validation already on 7/8/08. According to the Ministry of Housing, the planned tenders in Neve Ya’acov are to implement this plan.

Plan no. 13157 for some 850 housing units was approved for depositing on 17/11/09

Plan no. 6576 for some 750 housing units was published for validation on 3/7/09.

Bet Hanina
Plan no. 7160b for a few dozens of housing units in Beit Hanina. It was approved by the regional committee for validation on 9/2/09.  
Apparently, the land of the plan, in the middle of the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Hanina, is owned by Jewish initiators, who plan to build some 60 housing units for Israeli settlers.

A New Plan for 625 Units in Pisgat Zeev is Being Deposited

December 2, 2010

A new plan for 625 housing units in Pisgat Zeev was published for public review on the 25th of November (plan no. 11647 “Pisgat Ze’ev North”). The depositing of a plan for public review is part of the planning procedures in which the public is granted 60 days to file objections and reservations to the plan. After the depositing, the regional planning committee should convene to discuss the objections and approve the plan, a procedure that might take a year or two.

Plan No. 11647 “Pisgat Ze’ev North”

The timing of the depositing is not accidental. Since the Beiden visit in March 2010, the government of Israel stopped any promotion of significant plans in East Jerusalem. Since the end of the Settlement Moratorium in September, we have seen a stream of new approvals and provocations in Jerusalem, for example:

  • The depositing of the Har Homa C plan, for 983 units and another 362 in Har Homa B and Ramot,
  • Tenders for the construction of 238 units in Ramot and Pisgat Ze’ev.
  • The establishment of a new settlement in Jabel Mukaber and A-Tur
  • The final validation of the Moghrabi Bridge in the Western Wall Plaza.
  • An expulsion order for 4 months for a Palestinian activist from the Bustan neighborhood in Silwan.
  • House demolitions in Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem (Issawiya and Sheikh Jarrah)

Meanwhile, in the West Bank, the settlers are building in an unprecedented scale, constructing approx. 1600 new housing starts in less than 2 months, thus compensating for the 10 months moratorium.

It seams that Netanyahu created the long debate and discussion over the extension of the renewal of the moratorium (for another 90 days) and is delaying the decision in order to create a window of opportunities to build as many facts on the ground as possible.

The ad of the depositing of the plan in the newspaper of Maariv.