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Plans for largest East Jerusalem settlement filed for approval

Nir Hasson | Ha’aretz

22 August 2009

A plan for the building of a new settlement, Ma’aleh David, in the middle of an Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem was filed for approval by the relevant municipal committee at the Jerusalem Municipality. The plan calls for the construction of 104 housing units on the land where the former headquarters of the Judea and Samaria police was housed in the neighborhood of Ras al-Amud.

The new settlement is planned to be connected to an existing Jewish neighborhood, Ma’aleh Zeitim, and together will be occupied by some 200 families, forming the largest Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem.

The plan is being promoted by the right-wing group Elad.

The land on which the new housing is planned was, until 18 months ago, the compound of the Judea and Samaria police headquarters, which has since moved to a new building in Area E-1. Once the police evacuated the area it returned to the control of the Committee of the Bokharan Community, which has held ownership over the property and the structures there since before 1948.

Last week the Committee filed the plans with the local municipal committee for approval.

According to the plan, the former police structure will be razed and replaced by seven structures ranging between four and five stories in height, and incorporating 104 housing units.

The plan involves high-end housing and the complex will include a swimming pool, mini “country club,” community library and parking spaces. A synagogue, kindergartens and a mikveh (Jewish ritual purification bath) are also planned for construction there.

A foot bridge will connect the new settlement with existing ones on the other side of the road. The settlement of Ma’aleh Zeitim across the street currently houses 51 families and in its second phase of development, which is currently being completed, another 66 housing units are being built.

When the two neighborhoods are completed and linked, a Jewish settlement of more than 1,000 people will be situated in the heart of Ras al-Amud, a neighborhood comprised of 14,000 Palestinians.

Officially, the building plans and the request for approval were filed by the Committee of the Bokharan Community, but sources at the Jerusalem Municipality believe settler organizations are behind the project.

The same sources said the plans, as they currently stand, will likely be changed and less units will be built. However, in the long run it will be difficult to prevent the project with the existing statutory measures, since there is no dispute over the ownership of the land, or whether the area is designated for residential construction projects.

Yudith Oppenheimer, the executive director of Ir Amim, a non-governmental group that monitors Jewish settlement activity in East Jerusalem, told Haaretz: “A two-state solution requires provisions for Palestinian building in East Jerusalem. The goal of this plan is to establish facts on the ground on a scale that would thwart such a solution. Advancement of this plan will stoke the flames in Jerusalem and is liable to lead to a Hebronization of the city.”