To see original article published in Haaretz, 28th April 2008, click here
Based on an agreement signed with former police commissioner Moshe Karadi, right-wing settlers will take up residence in a group of buildings in Jerusalem’s predominantly Arab neighborhood Ras al-Amud in the next few days. The building had hitherto served as the Samaria and Judea District Police headquarters.
The buildings are slated to become the nucleus of a new Jewish neighborhood in the so-called Holy Basin area, the fate of which is supposed to be decided in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Police officials said yesterday that work began before Pesach on vacating the place, and that in the coming days they will finish moving the offices to a new facility built in controversial Area E1, which connects Jerusalem with Ma’aleh Adumim.
Concurrently, right-wing settler groups filed a request with the Jerusalem Planning and Construction Committee a few days ago to approve construction of a new neighborhood of 110 housing units on the vacated site.
The request states that the new neighborhood, Ma’aleh David, is intended to link up with the Ma’aleh Zeitim neighborhood, which was built in the heart of Ras al-Amud by tycoon Irving Moskowitz, with the encouragement of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert while he was mayor of Jerusalem.
In all, the neighborhoods of Ma’aleh David and Ma’aleh Zeitim are projected to house around 250 Jewish families in an area with 14,000 Arab residents.
Nadav Shragai, writing in Haaretz on January 8, reported that the right-wing groups active in “redeeming Jerusalem” by buying up Arab land were negotiating with the Bukharan community committee to purchase the land and building that housed the police’s Samaria and Judea District headquarters, which were acquired by the committee during Ottoman rule.
Noga Ben David, one of the leaders of the community, declined yesterday to discuss whether right-wing settler groups are behind the deal, saying he prefers to remain silent until the police vacate the premises.
Under the contract the police signed with the Bukharan community in July 2005, a copy of which was obtained by Haaretz, the community committee undertakes to apply to the Civil Administration and arrange for 14 dunams of land to be allocated in Area E1 for building a replacement building for the police. The committee undertook to plan the replacement building and surrounding development at its own expense.
This barter arrangement allowed the police to finance the new headquarters while bypassing the Budget Law.
The Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, told Haaretz yesterday that allowing right-wing settler groups to move into the old police station in Ras Al-Amud, as the nucleus for a new neighborhood, would undermine the peace talks.
As for the new police station in E1, strong American objections have kept Israeli governments in recent years from implementing the E1 plan, which effectively envisions annexing to Jerusalem a wide swath of land on the eastern side of the Green Line.
The PA has persuaded the Americans that Israeli construction in that area would slice the West Bank in two, making a contiguous Palestinian state impossible. The Americans have made it clear during the current round of peace talks that they are opposed to altering the status quo in Jerusalem.
For this reason, the inauguration of the new police station was postponed at the last minute on the eve of the last visit by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Erekat, who accompanied PA President Mahmoud Abbas on his visit to the United States last weekend, said that President Bush assured them he would object to any attempt to turn the Palestinian state into “Swiss cheese.”
The land on which the police station is located has a convoluted history: It was expropriated for “public purposes” by the Jordanian government, conquered by Israel in the Six-Day War, then legally handed over to the Israel Lands Administration, and finally given to the police – “for public purposes.”
Asked on what authority the police had handed over land it received from the ILA to an entity that designates it for residential construction in a sensitive area, the Public Security Ministry said: “At issue is an agreement that was signed with the Israel Lands Administration, the police and the Bukharan community’s endowment, whose rights to the land in Ras al-Amud were recognized by the court. In a circular agreement, the endowment undertook to build a new building for the district headquarters in return for the old headquarters.”
No response was received from the ILA before press time.